An overwhelming 72 per cent of CEO respondents say Labour leader Andrew Little has not achieved cut-through for himself and his party with the business community.
Some CEOs are prepared to give him some leeway. Phil O'Reilly from BusinessNZ says: "Andrew is doing what he does best, bluntly and engagingly talk of people -- the business community likes that". KiwiRail's Peter Reidy says: "He has consolidated a party after a disastrous election result. Labour appears to have more energy and direction under Andrew's leadership."
It's still early days for Little who replaced David Cunliffe late last year after Labour suffered its worst election result since 1922. He is the fourth Labour Party leader since National won the 2008 election.
The Labour Party recently embarked on a charm offensive to woo business leaders with high profile functions at their Parliamentary caucus room in Wellington and an Auckland cocktail party where the party's disclosures on Auckland housing was the prime talking point. The party wants to convince the sector it has nothing to fear from a leader with a background working in unions. That history could work in Little's favour, his experience in negotiations means he has a clear understanding of business needs.
Under Little's stewardship the party has also launched a Commission on the Future of Work which is being led by shadow finance minister Grant Robertson. It has set some bottom lines for joining the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and created headlines when it used leaked sales data from a real estate firm to claim that a disproportionate number of offshore Chinese investors were investing in the booming Auckland residential property market.
Andrew is doing what he does best, bluntly and engagingly talk of people -- the business community likes that.
Last month Little proposed a new flexible tax system for small businesses where they be able to pay as they go, not estimate taxes a year in advance. He also advocates scrapping penalties for late payment of provisional tax and to raise the threshold for the tax from $2500 to $5000.
Looking forward Dr Oliver Hartwich from the NZ Initiative thinks Little's focus on recalibrating Labour is impressive. He says: "It will take time but the party seems willing to give it to him. We can expect a much stronger opposition in the 2017 election than the last time around."
Deloitte's Thomas Pippos says it is too early to tell, "part of the challenge for the principle opposition party is defining their space so far out before an election when National is adept at holding and protecting the centre ground". John Roberts from Global Strategy Services says there doesn't seem to be any traction in the polls to date.
Geoff Hunt from Hawkins gives Little the benefit of the doubt. He says there's no traction yet "but there are possibilities".
The EMA's Kim Campbell says: "He is working hard to connect but is still light on policy," while Mark Cairns from Port of Tauranga says Labour is "certainly more approachable and engaging, but not yet cut-through". Mark Powell from The Warehouse says Little is trying hard, but is not convincing.
There's a more nuanced view from Stephen Selwood at the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development: "Engagement with business is very positive but ideological policies which are anti-private capital need to be put out to pasture. Private capital should be the friend of Labour, not the enemy."
On a more negative note, Greg Lowe from Beca thinks Little doesn't understand how business works or the economic drivers fuelling government revenue.
He says: "So far he is not showing enthusiasm for getting business behind what he wants to achieve for New Zealand. Business wants to be part of building a better New Zealand".