This week's The Daily Post Newsmaker is McLeod's Booksellers manager Fraser Newman. During the week Mr Newman told us he was dissapointed the Rotorua District Council did not go ahead with a proposed free-parking plan, so we asked him why.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I spent a number of years living in China. First I studied at university there for a year and then after graduation I managed a private English training school in Chengdu. Before this I studied at the University of Waikato. I did a
BA(Hons) in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in International Management.
What does your work at McLeod's entail? Why did you take the job?
Working at McLeod's offered me a unique opportunity to manage one of Rotorua's oldest and most established businesses. I order the stock, do the accounts, plan all the advertising and design strategy. It keeps me busy but there is a great team there with lots of experience. Independent bookshops are a great place to work.
What did you think about the council's decision to drop the free parking trial?
It was a real disappointment. The original plan was flawed but there was opportunity for compromise and development of the idea.
Are parking issues hurting Rotorua retailers? Why?
Yes. These days people go to the mall or as far afield as Tauranga and Whakatane to shop and paid parking can make the difference. The CBD is no longer an isolated shopping space. People take paid parking personally and just don't relax when they know the clock is ticking. It would be great if some of the unused buildings were
bulldozed to make more green space and parking similar to that at the mall. With that said there is merit to some paid parking on the busiest streets. Pukuatua St, for example, is often full already.
Surely it's the recession hurting businesses, not a $2 fee for parking? Or pay and display. What you you say to that?
I guess parking is the issue that retailers feel the most in control of but it is not the only one. The economy is a huge issue. A lot of money comes into Rotorua from government services but these have been cut back and jobs lost. The government seems to have something of a slash and burn approach to economic management. They just hope something will grow back in the economic hole they have created. In places like Rotorua, all we are left with is a hole.
The changing nature of tourism is also a factor. Rotorua's economy relies upon tourism revenue but increasingly the market is being dominated by tour groups from China that don't contribute as much to the local economy. Chinese tour groups are heavily regulated, use mostly Chinese services and don't really enter the CBD except to stop on Amohau Street for a meal. This is in marked contrast to other tourists who tend to wander around and buy stuff.
If it was your decision to make, what compromises would you have made to the free parking trial?
There were some good compromises put forward before the failed vote. The basic issue with the original plan was that it had no time limits on it. Retailers generally wanted a one or two hour time limit on parking to stop people abusing the trial. This faced some practical issues but councillors had their own ideas. These included
limiting the trial to the afternoon or putting it between the hours of 11am and 2pm. I am not dogmatic about which
one I would have wanted. They all seemed straight forward and practical ways to trial this idea.
What other issues do you see Rotorua having to face in the future?
One major issue facing Rotorua is the attraction of skilled workers and the return of our ``best and brightest'' to the city. The Rotorua District Council has done a good job defining the core areas that Rotorua can be competitive in. These are forestry and wood processing, tourism, geothermal and agriculture. There is some good potential here
for high wage, broad based and innovative output. This could help drag the local economy out of its slump.
Tell us three things about yourself that most people would not know.
As well as speaking Chinese I used to study Arabic when I was in high school. I can't speak much _ if any _ anymore but I can still remember the alphabet. It is a really beautiful language.
While growing up we had a lot of foster children come and go through our home. We had about a dozen foster children of different ages stay through the Open Home Foundation. It taught me a lot about life.
I am the founder of Qilin Business Solutions Ltd. We have joined up with Rotorua's very own Stay and Play to represent clients to the Chinese market. We do translation, social media and marketing strategy all in Chinese.