Auckland International Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood has defended the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum he co-chairs as more than just an annual talkfest by around 200 business leaders and politicians.
The 11th annual forum was held in Sydney last week where a new bilateral infrastructure pipeline was launched aimed at making it easier for international investors to identify infrastructure projects on both sides of the Tasman they may want to put capital into.
The Australia New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline contains over a hundred large current and future infrastructure projects in both countries and the idea is to boost competition for procurement.
Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said the pipeline gives more transparency on upcoming projects and the objective should be to "grow the pie for construction work for both Australia and New Zealand companies."
Since the Closer Economic Relations agreement was signed between the two countries in 1983, two-way trade has grown to A$24 billion while A$138 billion is invested in each others' countries.
Littlewood said the forum was changed this year with business leaders working together beforehand to identify ideas for discussion on five key sectors considered to be the drivers of new economic value - tourism, infrastructure, health technology, innovation and agri-business.
Suggestions from each work stream are now being refined and will be presented to the two prime ministers before they're due to formally meet early next year, he said. The idea is that the next forum would report back on how many of those proposals had been actioned so progress can be measured, Littlewood said.
Previous forums have focused more on single issues such as the mutual recognition of tax imputation credits. While that issue was still live, it was time to move the discussion on to ensure Australian business leaders remained engaged and that it was more than just a talkfest, he said.
A couple of examples of suggestions being worked on include the health technology stream where discussion centred on having a common standard for patient records online that would make it easier for companies working in this area to operate in both countries.
In the tourism work stream, Littlewood said they talked about rolling out IATA's Fast Travel programme which allows passengers more self-service options in document checks, self-boarding, and baggage check-in.
The start of that was the introduction of SmartGate, the automated border processing system that makes going through customs and immigration checks easier for Kiwi and Australian travellers. Littlewood said extending beyond SmartGate involves more information sharing while still maintaining a secure border.
Mutual recognition of visas in New Zealand and Australia for travellers from other countries was also being considered, he said.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now committed to providing financial support for the forum which would allow the Business Council of Australia to pick up its share of the secretariat support and policy work which has previously been mainly done out of New Zealand, he said.
The forum's Australia co-chair Rod McGeoch stepped down from his role and is being replaced by Carnival Cruises executive chairman Ann Sherry.