Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

City on the lookout for cash

Mayor Len Brown has led business missions to China, the Pacific, South Korea and Taiwan. Photo / File
Mayor Len Brown has led business missions to China, the Pacific, South Korea and Taiwan. Photo / File

Len Brown is actively pursuing international investors to fund pet projects like the inner city rail link (CRL). Brown is adamant that Auckland "can't be the economic powerhouse the country wants us to be" unless the CRL project is part of the overall package.

The mayor expects to release a report before Christmas on the project's economic benefits.

He wants to build consensus around alternative funding options in the face of central Government intransigence; among them using the council's balance sheet; issuing infrastructure bonds or forming a public-private sector partnership.

"There is considerable international interest including from China, Australia and America. "At last we are fronting up to the tough decisions about how to build a truly international city to ensure people are moving around and to deal with growth over the next 20-30 years."

The mayor believes it is important he actively fronts trade missions offshore to build business and investment links for the city.

This year he has led business missions to China, the Pacific and recently South Korea and Taiwan.

The missions have a three-fold purpose: Introduce global markets to Auckland businesses, strongly recommit to previous sister-city relationships and open specific doors to specific businesses.

Brown enthuses about the opportunities particularly for food and beverage companies. "Korea only produces 25 per cent of what it consumes each year - that's why we should work so strongly to get an FTA in place to really open up that market."

In April, Brown led a delegation of senior business executives from 28 companies to five key Chinese cities - Guangzhou, Ningbo, Beijing, Qingdao and Shanghai. They were from Auckland's priority sectors - biotechnology; education; film and animation; investment; infrastructure; tourism.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) reports feedback from the film, investment and tourism sectors was extremely positive. Darryn Grant, who is Ateed's manager (international connections and investment) says they were able to leverage the mission for long-term business opportunities and gain increased knowledge of the Chinese market.

All film delegates have since been in negotiation with Chinese companies for partnerships and investments in specific projects. The renewing of an memorandum of understanding between Film Auckland and the Beijing Film Academy - Modern Creative Media College - Qingdao was a key outcome. Pete Rive, an independent producer and Chairman of Film Auckland said he had been involved in three previous missions, but on the latest mission he had noticed some astounding results.

He had since been flat out trying to manage all the opportunities that have resulted from all the hard work that went into the visit.

A Statement of Co-operation with the Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau was signed. There have since been follow-up meetings with a number of Chinese companies in Auckland about how to expand their presence here. Grant says a number of investors have also expressed a strong interest in understanding investment opportunities in Auckland, and Ateed's International Connections and Investment Team will be working with other parts of council, such as Waterfront Auckland, the Auckland business community and NZ Trade and Enterprise, to maximise these potential opportunities.

Grant notes that China is the fastest growing tourism market for Auckland and New Zealand. He believes the mission came at a perfect time to renew and strengthen important relationships with China Southern Airlines and the Chinese travel trade.

The trade mission brought together six senior members of the tourism industry, and provided the group with direct business opportunities as well as strengthening their industry connections.

Highlights of the mission from a tourism industry perspective were: the agreement announced between Ateed and Auckland Airport regarding the premium market promotion fund to support the sustainability of the China Southern Airlines daily flights; the working lunch with the executive management team of China Southern Airlines; the launch of an Auckland tourism travel trade manual; the launch of an Auckland tourism Chinese website; and visiting the sailing sister city of Qingdao's tourism fair.

- NZ Herald

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