Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Mayor plans boost for city economy

The Novotel Auckland Airport is a joint venture between the Tainui tribe, the airport and hotel operator Accor. Photo / APN
The Novotel Auckland Airport is a joint venture between the Tainui tribe, the airport and hotel operator Accor. Photo / APN

Tell us your thoughts on the draft plan: newsdesk@nzherald.co.nz

With the world on the verge of another economic meltdown, Mayor Len Brown has set out to fire up the Auckland economy.

Lifting the region's annual GDP by 5 per cent, boosting exports by 6 per cent and raising productivity lie at the heart of a draft economic development strategy.

If these goals are met, Auckland will jump up 20 places from 69th in the OECD city rankings, GDP will rise to $190 billion by 2031 and exports to $60 billion.

If Auckland trudges along on current form, growth will be 2.1 per cent, GDP will increase from $45 billion to $85 billion by 2031 and exports increase from $10 billion to $17 billion over the same period.

The draft strategy says to achieve the "challenging" GDP and export goals, significant growth across all of Auckland's key sectors is required.

But with Auckland's population growth slowing and constraining domestic demand, the structure of the economy will have to shift from being import led and domestically focused to export driven.

The pressure is on internationally competitive sectors, such as the marine industry, tourism, food and beverage and information technology, to significantly up their game.

Not content with the region's ho-hum economic performance, Mr Brown has set out on a plan he says will give "meaning and action" in conjunction with central government, firms and business, the education sector and community leaders.

The draft strategy sets out to make Auckland more business friendly, an innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific region, internationally connected and export driven, investing in skills and a vibrant, creative world city.

Based on these principles, Mr Brown wants to create a sustainable eco economy, a Maori economic powerhouse, boost the rural and maritime economy and support a diverse ethnic economy.

The strategy says Auckland has significant advantages, such as its natural environment and diverse cultures, but there is scope to promote and build on its sports, creative and cultural experiences - and create a distinctive city brand.

The frayed-A logo used to promote Auckland is being dumped and replaced with a new brand.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett is encouraged by the draft strategy, particularly the mantra of making the council more business friendly.

A council that was easy to do business with was exactly what everyone in business was looking for, he said.

Mr Barnett said that included reducing red tape and adopting a "can do" attitude towards business customers.

"If Auckland Inc is to achieve the ambitious targets set out in the draft, council and business organisations will need to work closely together," he said.

However, Mr Barnett was concerned at the suggestion of an interventionist approach by the council's Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development to invest in education and skills training.

"Auckland needs to develop a skilled and responsive labour force that is capable of helping Auckland businesses and firms achieve global success and the Auckland strategy targets."

But, he warned, this wouldn't happen if the agency set up programmes that competed against existing services.

BIG BENEFITS TIPPED FROM IWI'S HOTEL

A $65 million hotel development at Auckland Airport and an $8 million pilot food-processing factory are case studies in the draft economic development strategy.

The 260-room hotel, a joint venture between Tainui Group Holdings, Auckland Airport and hotel operator Accor, is expected to generate considerable long-term economic growth for Auckland in employment, tourism and trade.

It is also an example of what Mayor Len Brown sees as the growing Maori economic powerhouse - in this case Waikato iwi Tainui is the lead developer and investor in the hotel, which opened in May.

The Food Innovation Centre at Manukau gives food manufacturers somewhere to produce trial commercial runs of products, and has the capacity to double in size.

Auckland's 300 processed food businesses employ about 12,000 people and, with Waikato and Bay of Plenty, account for 50 per cent of the country's food manufacturers.

It is part of the Food Innovation Network, which plans to create a cluster of food and beverage related activities and businesses from research, product development, production and branding to marketing. Many economic benefits are expected from the venture.

Submissions to the Auckland Council close on October 25.

- NZ Herald

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