Well-known Napier businessman and property developer Chris Tremain is the latest "leader" to talk to Hawkes Bay Today and take part in our Question and Answer business feature. Tremain is a former Government cabinet minister and holds a number of high-profile chairmanships including thsoe at HBRIC and Bank of China (NZ).


The (Hawke's Bay) economy is booming at the moment but what are the key things that will ensure that the region does not hit the wall or, worse, lose traction?
The key to a growing economy is momentum.

Right now our region is blessed with a growing economy, falling unemployment, and growing wages. Momentum comes from business confidence to invest in their own future and the future of their province.

Signals by central government are pivotal in this regard. Winding down the Crown Irrigation Scheme, announcing the end of gas and oil exploration, and cancelling investment in regional expressways do not build positive momentum in my opinion. And despite all the fanfare, a $1 billion regional development fund, which has within its mandate the ability to invest in the upgrade of churches, will never replace investment in business and infrastructure.

What case would you make for a unified approach to development contributions across all of Hawke's Bay's councils?
It is clear from the recent debate regarding amalgamation that a majority of our region want decentralised local government (ie the status quo). In saying this, all those who campaigned against unification of our councils were quick to say there were many areas in which our councils could work more closely together.

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There have been some good examples of this, such as the Joint Working Group on Drinking Water. The more that we can work together to set similar/same rules and policies across our region the better. In regards to development contributions this is more complex because each council faces different capital constraints.

My sense is that the only way that development contributions could be unified is with one council, so while the rules could be made more consistent, similar development contributions are off the agenda at this point.

What are the restrictions that stop NZ businesses from being able to raise funds to expand and how would you free up businesses to be able to expand more rapidly?
New Zealand has been the net beneficiary of foreign capital since Maori first arrived in New Zealand. Maori brought new ideas, new technology, and new ways of doing things to our shores. Ever since that day foreign capital (ideas and money) have assisted us to grow our nation.

Welcoming foreign capital to our shores, within a framework, will be critical to our growth. The more rules we add to that framework the more we will close off the tap. The opportunities that present to our wonderful nation going forward are massive and cannot be financed purely from our internal economy.

What was the first thing you learned when you first entered the business world?
The importance of people.

Great leadership depends on bringing one's team along for the ride with a shared vision for the business and sense of purpose. Developing a "growth mindset" culture from the receptionist through to board, which enables a shared vision, is critical to successful long-term businesses.

Are you worried or excited about the effects of disruptive technology like automation and AI on businesses?
I am excited by the opportunity that technology brings. No doubt it will disrupt certain businesses, but it also brings new opportunities and employment in other areas.

When the motor vehicle replaced the horse and carriage many businesses ceased to operate, but our economies and standard of living have continued to grow ever since. In saying this we all need to be prepared to adapt, to learn new skills, to remain relevant.

This can be challenging but it is essential in a world where the rate of change is quicker than ever before.