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Chamber Views on Economic Transformation

Introductory Comments by Charles Finny, CEO Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce to Hon Trevor Mallard, Tuesday 7 November 2006.

Chamber Views on Economic Transformation

Welcome.

Thank you all for coming, and thank you particularly to AON for your sponsorship of this lunch. It is great also to see large contingents from the Wellington Regional Council and from the Infratil family also. It is also good to see a good media presence in the room.

We are today varying our format a little to ensure that the Minister is not too rushed at the end of proceedings. We are doing the speech and questions first – then we will do the eating.

Minister we are delighted that you are here today to talk about economic transformation. We like Infratil not just because of its involvement in Chamber activities, but because it is a great role model for the transformation in thinking that will need to occur if we are to take our economy to the next level. This is partly about investment in New Zealand infrastructure, it is partly about investing more offshore, and it is partly about ensuring that policies back home are the best ones. And in this context can I note the enormous investment of time and money made by Wellington Airport in fighting what the experts at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are confirming to be a bad idea – for New Zealand and the Wellington economy in particular and even for Australia - the Air New Zealand and Qantas codeshare proposal on trans-Tasman services.

I know that there is a lot of cynicism out there about the Government’s economic transformation agenda. Just before, at a seminar I was attending on transforming the relationship between New Zealand and Latin America someone was commenting on the demise of the once much trumpeted Growth and Innovation Framework and suggesting that the Economic Transformation Agenda is only about building a new stadium on Auckland’s waterfront in time for the rugby world cup. We know this isn’t true, and at the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce we are determined that we do our part to encourage delivery of the Government’s agenda. Those parts we agree with anyway.

We are particularly interested Minister in comments you have made in the past about expanding the role of the State Owned Enterprises. Unlike some other business organisations we have not found fault with this logic. We supported you. Our only criticism would be that you stopped at the SOEs. You didn’t go far enough.

Work that we have been doing to support the Wellington Regional Strategy suggests that there is an easy $500 million a year in export revenue tied up in IP and consultancy expertise in core Government agencies. We want to see this potential exploited and we are in dialogue with MED and the SSC on this. And back onto SOEs – we have an excellent role model up here on the head table in the form of the Metservice. If we can get all the SOEs acting like the Metservice or Airways corporation, and if we can break down the silos that exist between SOEs, the Universities, the Technical Institutes, the wider Government sector, and most importantly the private sector we see opportunities worth literally billions for the region – one of which I think Minister might be in your electorate!!

Minister, you are extremely welcome. We look forward to hearing your views on Economic Transformation – The Way Forward.

ENDS

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