Finance Minister Grant Robertson's fiscal discipline focus against Budget bids by colleagues has resulted in this factor topping the ratings of Coalition key performance indicators by CEO respondents to the 2018 Mood of the Boardroom survey.

But cautioned a media boss, "loading debt into Crown entities undermines the credibility of reported Government fiscal metrics".

Strong focus on regional development — a New Zealand First Initiative — resulted in this factor coming in second place, despite misgivings many CEOs have over the political style of the Minister, Shane Jones.

"Many of the challenges NZ faces like low productivity (despite working long hours) and flat to declining GDP per capita, will take a long time to resolve," says the Auckland-based head of a legal firm.

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"But so far there is not much sign that Labour has a plan or even fresh thinking. At least NZ First and the Greens seem to have a plan and have made some progress with regional development and environmental issues — even if one might not agree with how they are going about it."

The Coalition's pragmatic response to international trade — where they surprised by devising an early fix and signing up to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — was also recognised. "The new TPP was a highlight," said the chair of a major tourism company.

But, said the head of a lobbying firm: "They over-promised and have under-performed in health and housing. They signed TPP which was great, but have ignored China so far.

Their immigration policies have destroyed our export education industry."

"The Government has set worthy aspirations for our country but achieving them takes hard work and pragmatism," said Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Stephen Selwood.

"Tackling key barriers to growth like transport infrastructure and water security need more urgent action. Dialogue with key trading partners seems to be missing, now being commented upon by those partners."

"Much of the drag on NZ comes from Auckland and achieving progress will take courage, capital and decision-making," said Auckland Chamber of Commerce's Michael Barnett.

"Similarly, issues like mental health and better-managed immigration have been present for a long time and will need dramatic action to deliver difference. If NZ didn't have 4.5 million experts on these issues we could probably make decisions and have some wins and losses but achieve some progress without public hangings."

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Others pointed to too many working groups leading to "little hope of implementation in the first term"; infrastructure investment seeming to be "more about vote winners versus where it's needed" — all leading to little of substance being achieved to meet key promises.

Role for Business?

When asked whether there was a role for larger New Zealand businesses to work with the Government to help sustain the economy of provincial New Zealand, 87 per cent agreed, 6 per cent indicated that they don't think this is a role for big business, 7 per cent were unsure.

The CEO of a food distributor said his company has made significant investment in building new distribution centres in regional New Zealand over the past few years — "with precious little support in dealing with red tape, consents, etc".

"The Government needs to work on a long-term model of engagement on policy areas where New Zealand business can contribute," said departing KiwiRail CEO Peter Reidy.

"Language also needs to change — business growth is good for New Zealand, it grows jobs and income to help New Zealand grow."

Adds Vector director Dame Alison Paterson: "I'm sure there is a role as long as there is an incentive, or at least the certainty the effort is not fruitless — remember Shane Jones holds the purse strings to the $1b development fund — what does he think?"

● "Businesses can allocate human and financial capital faster and more effectively than any government apparatus. The Government should say what they want and then tender for the creative consortium outcomes. Sugar rush spending from the Regional fund is going to lead to a sugar hangover." — Energy boss.
● Encouraging growth in the provinces is "easier said than done — as you're fighting against global trends towards big cities" — Spark CEO Simon Moutter.
● "Digitisation means the vast majority of all New Zealanders get access to services 24/7. The stress point in the provinces is not withdrawal of services, but the transition many of them are making to the new economy" — Banking boss.