MYOB, the accounting software folks, have released a survey of 1000 business owners in ten regions around New Zealand in which they asked owners what they thought of local/regional authorities.

In a word, businesses say local authorities, well … suck.

Hawke’s Bay tied with Bay of Plenty as the region with the fewest “Satisified” business owners, at 6%. And 45% of surveyed HB business owners said they were “Dissatisfied” with local/regional council support … the third-highest level of dissatisfaction in New Zealand. [BTW, Wellington scored best, with 21% “Satisfied” and 27% “Dissatisfied”.]

Says MYOB general manager Julian Smith:

“With nearly half of the country’s business owners expressing dissatisfaction with their local authority, and frustration growing over the last 12 months, its clear that there is a major disconnect between what councils are achieving and what businesses expect of them … Our local councils seem to be losing sight of the fact that to be successful cities, town and regions, they must also be good places to do business, to sustain local economies, attract employment and encourage private sector investment in events, attractions and entertainment.”

“From the feedback we have had from businesses around the country, council delays, regulation and compliance costs are a frequent source of frustration, with the performance targets councils set themselves simply not meeting the standards of business.”

Clearly Mr Smith and his business mates have not been listening to Mayor Barbara Arnott and her pit bull, Councillor Bill Dalton!

These two insist that the business types have it all wrong — there’s NO connection between local/regional government performance and regional economic development. As they see it, if that connection is worthy to be studied at all, it deserves at best a footnote.

Soon the elected emissaries of local government in Hawke’s Bay will be meeting to negotiate the terms of reference for an independent study of the Bay’s socioeconomic performance and local government structure as it affects that performance … for good or ill.

Having signaled her reluctant agreement to a study broadened to include governance, it will be interesting to see how constructively Mayor Arnott participates in shaping the study brief. Heaps of business people and other civic activists will be watching the process.

Tom Belford

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