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Business and the council

With local body elections nearly upon us, this is a good time to consider what are the issues the council influences or you face when running your business in Gisborne.

Importantly, do decisions made by Gisborne District Council affect your business, and what role do you believe our council should play in support of the local business community? This is your chance to vote for the mayor and councillors you want to make these decisions.

From the chamber’s perspective, it is vital we have a council that is well connected and engaged with our business community, and is committed to supporting business.

Are there actions and service quality the business community expects that are not being delivered by our council? If key performance indicators for the council are around managing core infrastructure, what can they (within budget) additionally afford to do when we have such a small rating base in Tairawhiti? The chamber further notes that central government imposes some requirements on councils which carry costs; these costs are a legitimate driver of increased expenditure which has to be passed on to ratepayers.

It is important that Gisborne District Council constrains its spending. Most would agree that the council is not well placed to provide many of the non-core services it is increasingly being asked to provide. Many of these services are better left to either central government, charitable organisations or the private sector.

Economic and social responsibilities go hand in hand. When the business sector is doing well this has a positive impact that lifts community wellness.

Should there be a debate on the current three-year term? As with central government, there is a case for increasing this to four years so the election cycle has less of an impact on good decision-making and governance.

The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce has joined the Chambers Worldwide collective in support of the “Chambers Climate Coalition”. Climate change is such an important issue for us all and future generations. As one of our chamber executive recently said, “We can’t have a business if we don’t have a planet. Sustainability and the use of resources should always be considered by business owners and companies — it makes economic sense.”

There is now far more understanding and discussion regarding the state of our local and global environment. Consideration of effects on the environment from business and personal decisions is so important . . . and Gisborne/Tairawhiti is no different.

BERL recently provided a survey for the chamber to circulate across our 135 members with regard to the potential of the Government reopening the rail line between Gisborne and Wairoa. All questions asked were supplied by BERL, which is conducting a rail viability study, and the following comment was received afterwards from a BERL representative:

“We received 58 responses (43 percent) which is really good. Obviously there is plenty of engagement with this topic among your members. Seventy-eight percent were in favour of reopening the line. The reasons given were pretty consistent.”

Although this result shows that reinstating the rail line has the support of many of our members, we should be mindful that questions such as a comparison with coastal shipping, for example, were not asked.

We believe that the business case for reopening the line needs to stand on its own two feet compared with all viable options. As a region we need to be 100 percent confident that if the final decision is made to reopen, it will be financially sustainable and in the best interests of Tairawhiti.

Terry Sheldrake MNZM is chief executive of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce.

Terry Sheldrake