Last day to complete Auckland Chamber of Commerce Business Confidence Survey!

Complete our Business Confidence Survey TODAY and go in the draw to win an iPad

We’d appreciate your input to our Business Confidence Survey. We want to know how business is going for you.

Please take the time to complete our latest survey before 5pm today and you’ll automatically go in the draw to win an Apple iPad.

Please click here now to complete the short survey, or copy the following link into your browser: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AucklandChambers_Aug2013

The information we collect is not only useful for our purposes, it can provide you with information about the present market conditions.

Attend our Economic Briefing on 22 August 2013 at the Northern Club to hear the analysis of the results and expert economic commentary from Bernard Hickey.

Make new connections at speed networking

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Speed Networking is a fast-paced and fun way to meet potential customers and business partners in a friendly atmosphere.

You will enjoy one-on-one conversations with up to 50 business professionals. This is a quick and cost-effective way to meet potential customers, showcase your business, expand your support network and generate leads with other businesses.

Places are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Secure your spot now!

Due to the format of this event and to ensure its success, all participants must be at the venue at 5.30pm.

This is a really popular event that usually attracts a waiting list – so get in quick to register your spot for Wednesday 24 July – click here to be redirected to our booking page 

Proudly sponsored by Mercury Energy.

Please note: Chamber members only – limited to two people per company
* Complimentary drink on arrival – cash bar available
.

 

Bernard Hickey: Bet on Gen Y debt

Bernard Hickey

How will the generations born in New Zealand after 1980 afford to buy their first home?

This is the crucial question for the baby-boomers running the country. It is central to the economic challenge facing the Reserve Bank and the Government.

The answer will decide how many of those New Zealanders born here will stay and start families. The answer will also be an epitaph for a generation who benefited from what now looks likely to be a tripling of house prices between 2000 and 2020.

Prime Minister John Key gave his answer loud and clear this week: load them up with debt and hope very fast wages growth and low interest rates allow the young and indebted to dig their way out over the next 20 years.

The spotlight fell on the problem in an interesting way this week. The Reserve Bank reiterated its plans for “speed limits” on the growth of high loan-to-value ratio loans. This is one of its so-called macro-prudential tools to allow the central bank to slow down Auckland’s housing market without putting up interest rates for everyone. Governor Graeme Wheeler said he hadn’t finalised these limits but was clear they would apply to first-home buyers and rental property investors, because first-home buyers make up almost a third of the growth in new home loans.

This issue has Key’s political senses tingling. He knows it’s not a good look to take away some of the rungs from the steep ladder to home ownership for young buyers. This week he said he was pushing the Reserve Bank to give first-home buyers some sort of exemption or special treatment.

This is the crux of the matter: how does one generation get to sell their houses to the next generation at the toppest of top dollars when that new generation can’t leverage up?

Key sees low-interest debt as the solution to an older generation’s desire to keep house prices over-valued. The irony is painful. His Government has staked its reputation on reducing government debt to keep interest rates low, but his solution to over-valued housing is increasing the debt for young home buyers.

Young New Zealanders are often already heavily in student debt and are on low post-tax income. The only way they can afford to buy a first home in the big cities is by gearing up to their eyeballs. Taking away that ability to leverage up breaks the model and exposes the problem much of the developed world faces.

When assets can only be passed from one generation to the next with the help of obscenely high debt, we need to ask: are those assets over-valued? The Reserve Bank certainly thinks so, and that’s why it is bringing in speed limits.

Key’s opposition to applying these consistently betrays his purpose: to protect the wealth of his fellow baby-boomers. He is betting high growth and low interest rates will solve the problem. That’s a big bet, and only one generation will pay the price if it doesn’t come off: the young.

Herald on Sunday, 16 June 2013
By Bernard Hickey

Business groups lay into Unitary Plan

"The Unitary Plan seems a little arrogant"said chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

“The Unitary Plan seems a little arrogant” – chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

Business groups have joined the chorus of complaints over a new planning rulebook for the city – although the Property Council has declared the first draft a pretty good effort.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce and the Employers and Manufacturers Association are highly critical of the Unitary Plan which has got communities rebelling against intensification in the suburbs.

In a submission, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce said the draft Unitary Plan was a complex, badly deficient document with a lot of rough edges that needed to be fixed.

“It seems a little arrogant,” chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said on TV One’s Q & A.

The Chamber’s submission said the draft Unitary Plan appeared to take a blanket “we know what’s best for you” approach.

The Chamber and the Employers and Manufacturers Association urged the council to take more time with the plan. Said the chamber: “The issues are far too critical to allow council to sweep them under the carpet.”

The Property Council urged the council to resist the temptation to water the plan down to appease those resisting change. Chief executive Connal Townsend said it was a pretty good first draft that needed insight into market realities and industry experience.
 
By Bernard Orsman, published by NZ Herald
Wednesday 12 June 2013

Investor morale jumps

 Rising Auckland house prices helped push investor confidence to its highest level in more than two years. Photo / Brett Phibbs

 
Govt asset sale plan, rising sharemarket and Christchurch rebuild driving confidence.
 
Rising Auckland house prices helped push investor confidence to its highest level in more than two years. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Against a backdrop of rising share prices and a booming Auckland housing market, investor confidence reached its highest level in more than two years during the first quarter of 2013, according to research by ASB.

Investor confidence reached a net 18 per cent during the first three months of this year, which was a 5 percentage point increase on the previous quarter and the strongest result since late 2010.

The bank’s Investor Confidence Index – based on 720 online interviews – also found Cantabrians are becoming increasingly bullish, with investor confidence in that part of the country higher than the rest of New Zealand for the first time since 2011.

ASB’s head of wealth advisory, Jonathan Beale, said the Government’s partial privatisation programme for state-owned enterprises, a rising local sharemarket, rising house prices in Auckland and the ramping up of the Christchurch rebuild were all factors driving the increased overall confidence levels.

“Kiwi investors have over the past few years regarded the sharemarket with an air of caution in comparison to some other investment classes such as investment property and term deposits,” Beale said. “However, it appears that public awareness surrounding recent Government SOE share offers has put the sharemarket firmly back on retail investors’ radar this quarter.”

The NZX-50 index has risen more than 13 per cent so far this year.

“We’ve seen a lot of people moving into New Zealand and Australian shares for the yield,” Beale said. “New Zealand shares pay good dividends and at the same time bank deposit [interest] rates have been low.”

Eleven per cent of respondents expected shares to provide the best return on investment, according to the index. That was well behind rental property, with 19 per cent of respondents thinking an investment in bricks and mortar would provide the best return.

The price of the average home in Auckland has risen by around 12 per cent over the past year.

Beale said he didn’t think there was a risk of investors becoming over- confident. “We’re still a way off the dizzy heights of 2009 when confidence got up to [a net] 30 per cent.”

Meanwhile, a survey by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce found confidence among firms in the city continued to rise in the current quarter, with a net 50 per cent of companies believing the New Zealand business environment would improve, up from a net 37 per cent in the last quarter.

The survey also found a net 56 per cent of Auckland business owners thought their own business situation would improve. “There are still challenges, like obtaining finance and finding the right employees, but things are improving,” said the chamber’s chief executive, Michael Barnett.

 

New Zealand Herald 20 May 2013
Article by Christopher Adams 
Photo / Brett Phibbs

A little expansion or a step too far?

Auckland CIty

New reclamation options would extend wharf either 135m or 179m into the harbour.

If Aucklanders decide there is no rush to get Captain Cook Wharf, the port company would reclaim land only when it was needed.

A little expansion or a step too far is the choice facing Aucklanders with the release of the latest plans to reclaim more of the Waitemata Harbour for port operations.

Ports of Auckland has put forward two proposals for feedback after the Auckland Council rejected a bid by senior officers to fast-track the changes into the Unitary Plan for the Super City.

Business leaders, boaties and politicians have been at loggerheads and last year the Herald campaigned against further reclamation of the harbour.

Now it is the turn of Aucklanders to judge the port company’s two options, which chief executive Tony Gibson said balanced the need to cater for growth and a community desire to keep natural assets.

Mr Gibson said the company and experts had come up with a more efficient and compact development plan labelled a “little expansion” in the public material.

Instead of extending Bledisloe Wharf 283m into the harbour for a 22ha reclamation, the options involve extending Bledisloe Wharf 135m or 179m into the harbour for a 5.5ha or 6.6ha reclamation.

The company’s preference is for the 179m expansion, which frees up Captain Cook Wharf for public use.

If Aucklanders decide there is no rush to get Captain Cook Wharf, the port company would reclaim land only when it was needed. That could be years away, particularly if the port becomes more efficient through work practices or technology.

If Aucklanders do want access to Captain Cook Wharf, the port company said it would need to get resource consent and complete reclamation for a new berth on Bledisloe Wharf within five years.

Mr Gibson has encouraged Aucklanders to have their say on the latest redevelopment proposals, saying the port was a strategic asset that facilitated $12.5 billion of trade and 187,000 jobs.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Sweeney, who has spearheaded opposition to expansion plans, was hugely disappointed that the port was hell-bent on expansion into the harbour.

“They had massive expansion plans in 2008 that became a little less in 2011 and less in 2013. This is a moving feast. These guys don’t know what they want. It is shoddy.” He said Heart of the City was preparing a counter position for Aucklanders to consider.

The Westhaven Marina Users Association opposes any narrowing of the harbour, the Committee for Auckland lobby group said any further reclamation is premature and The Warehouse founder, Sir Stephen Tindall, banker Sir Ralph Norris and Mainfreight boss Don Braid want an independent review done to see if there is a better solution.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Employers and Manufacturers Association and New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development have come out in support of the port.

Port options

Option 1

  • Expand Bledisloe Wharf 135m into the harbour for a 5.5ha expansion and keep Captain Cook Wharf for cargo.
  • Demolish some of the old structures on the east of Bledisloe Wharf, creating one long berth to make it more efficient.
  • Remove the piled structure at the end of Marsden Wharf and deepen the berth. This, combined with the 135m extension, gives two berths on the west of Bledisloe Wharf.
  • What the port company says: This is a good, efficient layout, but assumes we keep the use of Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves.

Option 2

  • Expand Bledisloe Wharf 179m into the harbour for a 6.6ha expansion to free up Captain Cook Wharf for public use.
  • Demolish old structures on the east to create two berths each on Bledisloe east and west.
  • What the port company says: This layout is very efficient and the extra 1.1ha of reclamation over option 1 allows the release of 3.1ha for public use. Total port area is smaller than option 1. This is our recommended option.

Have your say
Go to http://www.poal.co.nz for details of the plans and a feedback form. Submissions close on June 9.

Source: Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald 14 May 2013

Yet another Report, but where’s the real action?

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The latest regional economic update report provides a useful summary of how well the regions are performing, but once again it shows how poorly we are at taking ‘game changing’ decisions to get action on the big issues.

With reference to the section on Auckland, Michael Barnett, head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, noted that the report claimed that the government and Auckland Council “are working together” to:

  • Improve infrastructure and urban amenities;
  • Develop education and labour opportunities for Auckland’s youth and migrant populations; and,
  • Help the region become more innovative and export driven.

“Here is yet another report setting out Auckland’s growth agenda, but pulling its punch when it comes to spelling out the urgency of decisions that need to be made on Auckland’s big issues,” said Mr Barnett.

For the Chamber and to give the business community some certainty that we are moving past the global financial crises into a period of sustained growth, there are four big game changing announcements that are needed NOW:

  • A ‘game change’ housing action programme target to identify 30,000 – 40,000 new sites in 2013-14 – to show a real response to the need for 13,000 new homes a year against the fact we are only building about 4000 new units a year;
  • Completed business cases for seeking the funding to build the AMETI-East/West Link (critical to Auckland’s freight sector going forward) and Central Rail Link by 2021 – given both projects are substantially unfunded yet have a ‘highest priority’ ranking in the Auckland Plan.
  • A confirmed agenda to finalise the Unitary Plan in a way that enables accelerated delivery of Auckland’s/Government’s growth plans.
  • A confirmation that the International Convention Centre will be built ASAP – given the case for the Centre was made 10 years ago, and with SkyCity offering the $700 million needed to build, “we have run out of excuses for the lack of action,” said Mr Barnett.

For more information contact Michael Barnett, mobile: 0275 631 150.
Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Chamber of Commerce.