Wairarapa News : January 25th 2012
4 WAIRARAPA NEWS, JANUARY 25, 2012 NEWS Masterton Fire Station 2 Chapel Street, Masterton Ph: 06 370 9557 Mob: 027 289 9609 or 027 411 0405 After hours duty Ph: 027 224 2247 Keep the Wairarapa Safe from Fires As summer gets closer, make sure that you are safe with any fires you may be using. Also, it is a great time to clear brush from around any structures and to mow any roadside grass you may have. This will help keep your property safe when the fire danger increases this season. Remember, if you light a fire, you are responsible for all costs to put that fire out and for any damage caused by that fire so please be careful. The Wairarapa Rural Fire District thanks you for your co-operation. 4184832AG $4.5m a year from rates for debatable economic growth Paul Mersi ' They've all got different agendas and it ends up approaching Monty-Python levels of chaos. ' Wellington City councillor John Morrison WHAT DOES IT COST? Council contributions to Grow Wellington: Wellington $2,051,000 Lower Hutt $866,000 Upper Hutt $327,000 Porirua $348,000 Kapiti Coast $464,000 Masterton $234,000 Carterton $84,000 South Wairarapa $126,000 Total $4,500,000 By JIM CHIPP Five years after Grow Wel- lington was established to galvanise Wellington s economy, regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde has acknowledged that its perform- ance has been unsatisfactory. The capital s economic develop- ment agency costs ratepayers $4.5 million each year and many coun- cillors have said ratepayers had not received value for money. Wellington City councillor John Morrison said he had serious doubts as to Grow Wellington s worth. The major problem is that you have a whole bunch of councils trying to run a business- promotion business. They ve all got different agendas and it ends up approaching Monty Python levels of chaos, Mr Morrison said. Money has to be accounted for and these outfits are anything but transparent. How anyone can con- clude that they achieve what they say they achieve, I don t know. Hutt City councillor Roger Styles agreed. I think the return [from the investment in Grow Wellington] is probably marginal or negative. Probably the money would be better left in ratepayers pockets, Mr Styles said. Economic development activity was notoriously difficult to measure and it was always diffi- cult to discern whether a particu- lar business activity would have happened anyway, without the agency s intervention, he said. The best things councils could do to encourage economic develop- ment were establishing permiss- ive zoning practices, having very efficient and smooth consent processes, holding rates below inflation, establishing well-run infrastructure and carrying out their core tasks well. The whole regional council foray into economic development was meant to be a five-year pro- gramme. I think it has been spectacu- larly unsuccessful and it s time to knock it on the head, in my view, Mr Styles said. Porirua mayor Nicholas Leggett said Grow Wellington was overly focussed on business growth rather than enhancing particular parts of Wellington s economy. I think we haven t had optimal output over the last few years, which is why there is a review of the regional strategy, Mr Leggett said. Having said that, they have done that within the context of a recession. Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy said the agency was set up to grow the Wellington region economy and economic base. That clearly hasn t happened. There is no question that the strategy lost its way, Mr Guppy said. Grow Wellington should be talking to the private sector to find out what things would make the difference when it came to choosing where it would establish business. It should also be talking to businesses that had left the area, such as Griffins from Lower Hutt, and South Pacific Tyres and Foodstuffs distribution centre from Upper Hutt, to find out what would have made the difference and enticed them to stay, he said. The key to being successful is setting [the agenda] and then for politicians to keep their beaks out of it, he said. Masterton mayor Garry Daniell said his council had questioned the value Grow Wellington s services offer, very vigorously. We had an assurance that its focus would include a more Wairarapa focus, he said. We don t think we have been getting a fair share, Mr Daniell said. Ms Wilde said the development agency struggled to find useful ways to measure its effectiveness but the criticisms were partly valid. It is correct that there has not been total satisfaction with the performance of Grow Wellington and last year a new chairman was appointed, together with several new directors, she said. The new chairman is former PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner Paul Mersi. We wanted a hard-arse guy to chair it and Paul Mersi is that, Ms Wilde said. The Wellington regional strat- egy committee also adopted new strategy focus areas in December and Grow Wellington s board is working to adapt its strategy to match. The councils were all looking for more specific reporting and expected it from the new state- ment of intent that Grow Welling- ton was developing, Ms Wilde said. Organisation's achievements found wanting Wairarapa News has made extensive efforts to assess the achievements of Grow Welling- ton but what we found was underwhelming. When we visited Cleantech business centre in Otaki, we found no-one home. An energy-from-plastics recycling research company s laboratory was sparsely equipped. There was no-one at an elec- tric vehicle development com- pany or at a desktop energy- conservation software devel- oper s premises. A joint venture health research facility set up by Capi- tal and Coast District Health Board, and Victoria and Otago universities, has featured in Grow Wellington s regular reports to the Wellington Regional Strategy Committee. When we asked the agency s biomedical centres of excellence manager for a look at it he declined, saying the clinicians were not ready to talk to us. But Capital and Coast Dis- trict Health Board readily agreed to show off the new facility, with one proviso -- Grow Wellington was not to be involved as it had no part in the centre s development. So is the perception that Grow Wellington is ineffectual an accurate one? Partly, said regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde. A new chairman, Paul Mersi, and several new board members had been appointed. Finding useful measures was a struggle for all economic development agencies as a var- iety of inputs contributed to success, Ms Wilde said. You can measure bottom- line profits in a commercial firm; you cannot do that in an economic development agency. That doesn t mean to say that they shouldn t be rigorous but the important thing is that in the end the clients say Yes, we couldn t have done it with- out you , and you do have a growing economy, and your export sector is getting bigger, she said. Grow Wellington chief execu- tive Nigel Kirkpatrick said the rudimentary space at Clean- tech was a just a workshop. It was inevitable that many tenants would not always be there, he said. The aim was that it would be a genuine [business] park, with big businesses, small busi- nesses, start-ups. But right now, it s just start-ups. Desktop energy-saving com- pany Greenkeeper Systems was a good example, he said. It had had more value from being at Cleantech than anyone. Grow Wellington chairman Paul Mersi said spectacular successes such as TradeMe were not the goal. What we are trying to do is create an environment where people will be able to achieve more than they would have been if that environment hadn t existed, Mr Mersi said. If another TradeMe pops out of that environment we won t be able to claim credit for it. It s an entrepreneurial thing but the success is whether we ve improved the outcomes overall that would have other- wise happened absent of our intervention. Wellington on a Plate, which Grow Wellington promotes with Positively Wellington Tourism, does not yet meet Grow Wellin- gton s objectives for it, Mr Mersi said. It seems incredibly success- ful and it is successful in its own terms but we [Grow Wel- lington] have got to work off that and achieve export success for the food producers and food intermediaries. The health research facility at Wellington Hospital was not a Grow Wellington initiative but it saw an opportunity to generate some economic advan- tage from it. But the centre did not take the direction Grow Wellington envisaged and it withdrew, creating some ill-feeling. Grow [Wellington] s interest is not in whether or not health research is done here, said Mr Mersi. Economic growth comes from harnessing those opportunities.
January 18th 2012
February 1st 2012