Forum brainstorms on boosting growth

Business leaders and politicians meet in Parliament today to find ways to lift New Zealand’s economic growth.

The forum, organised by the Government-sponsored Growth and Innovations Advisory Board, follows on from the much-publicised Knowledge Wave Conference on innovation last year.

Board chairman Rick Christie said the gathering of 65 political and business heavyweights came at an appropriate time as there were signs the country’s recent growth spurt could be running out of steam.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has recently floated the idea of a “social compact” between business, unions and the Government to increase the prospects of growth.
Under such tripartite deals in other countries, workers and bosses have agreed to levels of pay increases in exchange for productivity gains and policy directions of the Government.

Dr Cullen, who is attending today’s gathering, refused to comment on his ideas for the forum.

Mr Christie said the board had discussed the potential for a social compact but had no fixed idea about how it might work.

“There is no doubt that is a way forward … whether we could do that here and how inclusive it could be is something we need to think about further. I have no fixed ideas on it … but really there is some form of social compact in things like these [the forum].”

Mr Christie said recent criticism of the Government’s commitment to pro-business policies and the effectiveness of forums was unfair.

At the forum, working groups would talk through themes identifying opportunities to increase innovation, productivity and growth.

NZ Herald

Forum looks at how Christchurch residents can re-establish a connection

The challenge for post-earthquake leaders is working out “how do you get the old heart of Christchurch to beat inside its new skin”, and to help residents and visitors re-establish an emotional connection to the new city, a leaders forum heard on Monday.

The Christchurch City Leaders Forum, the first in a series of invitation-only discussions, has been designed for key city leaders to address how the recovering city maintains its “social and economic momentum” started by the multi-billion dollar rebuild.

A panel that included business leaders and innovators, along with Minister Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration Nicky Wagner and Mayor Lianne Dalziel, discussed whether the city needed a vision or theme for its recovery.

“The leadership challenge here is how do you get the old heart of Christchurch to beat inside its new skin? And until you can do that, people won’t emotionally connect to the city,” Johns said, prompting applause from the audience.

Prominent central city developer Richard Peebles said the central city anchor projects, once completed, will bring the heart back to the quake-decimated city.

“We’re the Garden City, maybe we should be again,” he said.

Christchurch tech entrepreneur Wil McLellan and Lauren Bliss Merritt, “chief awesome officer” of the Ministry of Awesome, both felt there had been missed opportunities during the rebuild, but felt optimistic about the city’s future.

Wagner liked the fact that the city has “turned around” and now faced the Avon River.
She wanted people-friendly spaces from Hagley Park to the sea, and opportunities for people to get out and enjoy green spaces on their doorsteps.

Robyn Wallace, chief executive of He Oranga Pounamu, said having an emotional connection tied people to their land and space.

The inhabitants of a city require an emotional connection to the place where they live, said Malcolm Johns, chief executive of Christchurch International Airport.

NZ Herald

Third group quits Land and Water Forum in protest at Govt’s freshwater policy

Another national group has quit the influential Land and Water Forum in protest at the Government’s freshwater policy.

The Federated Mountain Club withdrew from the think-tank today, with president Peter Wilson saying the organisation would be “pursuing its recreational interests in freshwater in other ways”.

It is the third organisation to abandon the Land and Water Forum (LAWF).

Forest and Bird cut ties earlier this week, saying that the Government’s new freshwater standards had ignored the forum’s recommendations.

Fish and Game quit the forum last year, saying it was being muzzled and could not speak out about declining water quality.

The forum was set up to advise the Government on freshwater issues, and has a diverse membership of scientists, business groups, environmentalists, recreationalists, and iwi.

The Federated Mountain Club’s decision to withdraw could be embarrassing for Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Speaking in Parliament this week, he said important environmental groups like the Mountain Club and others remained members of the forum and did not share the views of Forest and Bird.

Three days later, the Federated Mountain Club informed him that it would be quitting.

It still has 54 members, including several environmental organisations, not including central and local government observers.

Green Party water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty, however, said it had become untenable for environmental groups to remain in the forum.

“It is supposed to represent all those with an interest in water in this country, from industry to environmentalists.

“But the balance is tipped too much in favour of industry,” she said.

Environment Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor – whose organisation is a member – said Forest and Bird’s withdrawal, in particular, would hurt the forum.

“But there’s still more than 60 entities left, all of whom remain staunch on the recommendations around the key issues [on freshwater] that are still controversial.

“So we figure that we’re better off defending the forum’s consensus with that weight behind us than jumping out and trying to be a solo voice.”

NZ Herald

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