The intersection of State Highway 2 and Ngaumatawa Rd. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

A roundabout at the intersection of State Highway 2 and Ngaumatawa Rd and improvements in rail links and rail passenger services are the priorities for Wairarapa businesses ahead of local body elections.

Nominations for the elections open on July 19 and those who stick their hands up will face a business community less confident about the future than it was, and one that perceives itself to be mired in red tape.

In the latest Business Wairarapa quarterly Confidence Survey, 47.4 per cent of respondents were expecting the New Zealand economy to become moderately worse in 12 months’ time.

With respect to the local economy, 42.11 per cent of respondents felt it will stay the same in 12 months’ time, resulting in a net positive of 11 per cent, down from a net positive of 31 per cent in March.

The increasing cost of compliance and the increases in the minimum wage appear to be major issues of concern for business, with members stating that compliance regulations were causing costly over-reporting, onerous administration, and increasing human resources expenses, including too much compliance uncertainty and too much red tape.

The other main barriers to business for the region appear to be staffing issues, financing, and local government policy, direction, and leadership.

Some of the projects members would like to see prioritised by local government are youth training into primary industries, affordable housing, accommodation for tourists, and sensible plans and sensible spending on the Masterton Town Centre upgrade.

“Wairarapa businesses are generally quite buoyant in their overall outlook, especially when it comes to our region,” Business Wairarapa general manager Catherine Rossiter-Stead said.

“However, there are clearly some important issues that need addressing urgently, in particular transport infrastructure, which remains a serious barrier and is holding back Wairarapa.

Business want a roundabout at the intersection of SH2 and Ngaumutawa Rd but this is controlled by the New Zealand Transport Authority as it is a state highway.

A Business Wairarapa poll of members ahead of the start of local body election campaign did not differentiate between the three councils, but 45.7 per cent said their local council had an average performance, with only 2.86 per cent saying they were outstanding.

On a regional level, 40 per cent of members felt that Greater Wellington Regional Council had performed below average over its current term.

Mayors rated much better, with only 22.7 per cent of respondents believing they were performing below average and 11.43 per cent believing their mayor’s performance had been outstanding.

Business Wairarapa members were also asked whether the government’s Budget had delivered for their business. An overwhelming 70 per cent said no.

Respondents would have liked to have seen more support for small business, further help for entrepreneurs, tax breaks, and a reduction in income tax, as well as a clearer housing strategy, more access to funding for
non-government organisations, and more provision for equity in healthcare.

“It’s vital that we continue to support the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan, and ensure that our regional leaders are making the right decisions for growth in Wairarapa,” Rossiter-Stead said.

“We would urge members over the next quarter to take an interest in the local body elections and exercise their right to vote.”