Bryce Heard, CE, Rotorua Chamber of Commerce 

16 January 2019

Stuff We Should Know About

Lake Rotorua and our beautiful city is at the heart of the important fresh water discussion and as citizens of Rotorua, this is really “Stuff We Should Know About”. Let me explain.

But first, let me be crystal clear, (yes pun intended) we all want crystal clean lakes in and around Rotorua. Clean lake water is pre-requisite to our city’s welfare in so many ways, including tourism, recreation, fishing and water sports that we all enjoy. How we get it, is the issue.

I read with interest a lead story in the January 14th Farmers Weekly, entitled “Caution urged on Overseer use”. The story featured Overseer Chief Executive Caroline Read, trying to tell regional councils and central Government some simple facts of life – facts that they really do not seem to want to hear. (Two similar articles appear in the January edition of Coast and Country).

Overseer is a modelling tool, designed to model (not measure) nitrogen loss from soil. The articles went to pains to establish, from the most impeccable and reputable sources, that Overseer is being misused by regional councils, as a measurement tool to try and ascertain actual nutrient discharges from individual properties – something that the Farmers Weekly article states “can never be known because it cannot be reliably measured”.

Why is this so important to Rotorua?

  • Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) has used Overseer and (Overseer alone) to model individual farm nitrogen discharges, right across the Lake Rotorua catchment.

  • It has extrapolated its models to dictate what stocking rates will now be permitted on every block, including lifestyle blocks.

  • The new allowable stocking rates will be a lot lower than those currently run on the farms.

  • This means that many formerly economic farms will be rendered uneconomic units.

  • These changes have been publicly notified as Plan Change 10.

  • Catchment land values have plunged as an immediate consequence and land owners

    who relied on selling their property as their superannuation fund upon retirement,

    will now be deprived of this income.

  • Farms could be sold off at fire sale

    prices and farmers will be out of work in the medium term.

  • Farming is one of only three primary drivers of the Rotorua economy, yet most farming will not be sustainable under the proposed Plan Change 10, (which is now being challenged in the Environment court, before implementation).

Has anyone actually tried talking with landowners to get their input on how best to achieve the outcomes we all seek? They are the experts here and they too want clear water lakes.

It seems to me (and I have been quite close to the debate) that a series of ultimatums backed up by Rules and trying to enforce those Rules is the position adopted by the regional councils and others on this matter.

Does all the wisdom about farming reside in the regional councils? I think not -especially when the tool being used to write the new Rules (Overseer) has now been exposed by its very owner as not capable of performing this measurement role!

How about a partnership approach to this problem? A simple Accord, agreeing to work together to meet defined targets? There are many ways to skin this cat, apart from enforcing ill-informed de-stocking of farms. BOPRC will say they have been in consultation for years and it is now time to take action. But there is a different kind of consultation that can happen when both parties treat the other as respected equals, seeking common solutions.

So come on BOPRC, there is a chance to show some true leadership here and build some bridges with those who can solve our collective problem – the land owners.

Rotorua’s economy will shrink – not grow – if this becomes reality, when we could work together positively to achieve a good outcome for us all.

 

 

14 January 2019

Minimum Wage Increase in Perspective

The new minimum wage increase can be seen as dangerous - but will be a good thing if we can sustain growth of the economy.

One of the fundamental principles of business is not to allow costs to rise ahead of revenues. All businesses strive constantly to keep costs and revenues in balance. Additional costs that are imposed outside the control of business management, are among the biggest risks of business failure.

Balancing this business imperative against the human imperative of a decent sustainable standard of living for employees, is always going to be an emotional tug of war for all concerned. How much should we put the business at risk, to help the lower paid get a better living standard? If the business fails nobody has a job.

We have seen the minimum wage increase from $12.00 in 2008 to $17.70 in 2019. That is an increase of 47.5% and most would agree that it needed to shift.

However, it is very dangerous for higher costs to be enforced by legislation or decree by those who have no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions – no matter how well-intentioned those decisions may be.

If a business is in a healthy state of growth, it can sustain higher costs, so a growing and healthy economy is the first imperative for higher living standards.

There is always a suspicion that the business owner will pocket the profits from a growing economy and indeed some will do exactly that. However, there is also a market force at play here - if the economy is booming, incomes are growing, more jobs are created, good employees are in short supply, so a business will pay more to retain and recruit their staff (and employees get the chance to pick and choose their employer).

So, in short – a growing economy will allow minimum wages (and all wages) to increase. Let’s be thankful that we have growth in Rotorua!

Then there is the environmental sustainability of a growing economy to consider – yet another imperative. That can be achieved as well, but that is another story and let’s leave something for another time.

 

 

19th December 2018

As the curtain falls on 2018, it is timely to look back at the year and review what we have achieved and where we might go in 2019.

In retrospect it has been quite a year!

Three new staff members began during the year, relieving some of the pressure on Jos and Phil. Linda took on the role of Regional Growth Advisor in June, Bryce became Interim CEO in July and Nikeey was employed as Membership Liaison Officer in October.

The new board took office in July with a fresh perspective of the best way forward for the organisation. Some of the results of this new positioning are now coming through. They include strengthening the business leadership and advocacy role, focussing on and fostering the true drivers of growth in the Rotorua economy, working in the void between business and sustainability and helping fill this knowledge gap to the betterment of both ideals.

In 2019 we are adopting a name change – we will be the Rotorua Business Chamber which reflects our positioning more accurately than the old Chamber of Commerce name.

2019 will see a lot more developments in this space.

In October the annual Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards were run before a near record attendance of over 630 . Record attendance was matched by record equalling entries (47 in all) and a fantastic evening was enjoyed by all. We repositioned the categories this year to better reflect the multi-cultural and primary sector driven nature of our unique Rotorua economy and that was positively reflected in the entry and attendance on the night.

Meanwhile the Rotorua economy has been humming along at levels often ahead of national and Bay of Plenty averages, something we have not experienced for decades in this city. Tourism is enjoying a big upswing and most of the other primary drivers have been steady to strong.

The year has seen a string of announcements about new investment into and funding of, big developments that will keep Rotorua positioned as a leading provincial city and tourism attraction.

Many leading speakers have been hosted, most of these sponsored by Pukeroa Oruawhata.

Space for 2019 bookings is already filling rapidly, including Business Connection Breakfasts, BA5’s, Apps Seminars and Women in Business.

So, to all our sponsors, stakeholders, partners, old and new members and all who want to become members – a big “thank you” for your support during 2018 and a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year - from your staff and the board of the Rotorua Business Chamber.

 

 

 

 

12th December, 2018

Rotorua economy ends the year on a strong note

We have much to be happy about with the local economy as the curtain falls on 2018, says Chamber Chief Executive, Bryce Heard. 
While the fourth quarter stats are not yet to hand, the September quarter illustrates just how far we have come in the past year.

Measure

Rotorua

BOP

New Zealand

GDP

+4.2%

+3.5%

+2.9%

Residential Consents

+8.6%

-19.0%

+5.4%

House Prices

+3.9%

+3.7%

+8.4%

Guest Nights

+5.3%

+1.9%

+2.7%

Retail Trade

+5.0%

+5.7%

+4.8%

Car Registrations

+11.0%

+2.7%

-1.7%

Tourism Expenditure

+6.1%

+5.8%

+8.2%

Unemployment

5.5%

4.8%

4.3%

All the above indicators are showing strong growth and in many cases a lot stronger than the whole of Bay of Plenty and/or New Zealand. “This scenario would have been inconceivable a few short years ago but has become the norm over the more recent past”, says Heard.

In fact, the only negative indicators are house sales (down 9.1%) and non-residential consents (down 11%), but these tend to be lumpy measures in any scenario.

Crystal ball gazing is always fraught with dangers of the unforeseen, as factors beyond our control, can have an impact on our local business. Things such as world commodity prices for farm and forest produce, currency fluctuations and others all have a bearing on us.

However, if we add in the recently announced $27 million of PGF funding to develop the lakefront and Whakarewarewa Forest and the plans under preparation for several other big projects, this trend looks set to continue into the foreseeable future.

I have heard it said that there are more urgent matters to attend such as the restoration of the Museum and the Howard Morrison Centre. This may well be true, but we do not have Central Government fronting up with tens of millions to help fix these and we must seize the opportunities for funding as they come. They seldom come in the order of priority that we may desire!

I have also heard it said that economic growth leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions. This is perhaps true - if we continue to rely on a petrochemical base economy. With our natural advantages including our forests and geothermal resources, Rotorua is well positioned to move away from petrochemicals to other forms of energy and material supply. It behoves us as business people to help by becoming leading-edge users of new technology and innovative business practices.

We can have the best of all worlds. It is up to us!