It's game on in Waikato as our northern-most district council competes to secure big business in its neck of the woods.

At an economic forum at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park yesterday the Waikato District Council mayor made it clear that his council would go the extra mile to secure major investors in the district.

That included setting up council teams to get those investors past red tape, an "open-door" policy for getting access to the "decision makers" and a new website that has the area's vital statistics to hand, which is constantly updated.


It's necessary, said Mayor Allan Sanson, because each district is "competing against neighbouring councils".


"Councils are very good at putting barriers up," he said.


"The trick is to help them [business] get over that barrier or get them to go round the corner posts and still come out the other side."


He said the council's willingness to work with Chinese company Yashili was what secured the $200 million infant formula factory in Pokeno. Yashili was considering the Bay of Plenty as another option at the time. He put Waikato District "way ahead of a lot of councils" when it came to the strategy for getting big business into town.


"A lot of companies are looking for leadership, but they are also looking for people who are sincere and will deliver on what they say."


He said the council was in talks with several other companies "that are equally as large as Yashili" including a South Island exporter that would soon be moving to Pokeno. He said commercial sensitivity meant he was unable to name any of the companies at this stage.


However, he said the strategy Waikato District used was only possibly because of where the district was in its development.


"I can do it because of the size of our council. I couldn't expect the like of Len [Brown, Auckland Mayor] to do that."


Sanson said Waikato District was also competing "against people whowere unwilling to consider the area" as a possible home. "I do know that some businesses have looked pretty hard over here, and have been pulled back by the fact that their staff won't come."


Waikato District has made headlines recently as development has taken off. The almost-finished Yashili infant formula plant, located in an 80-hectare industrial development in Pokeno, has captured the most attention. However, Pokeno Village Estate, a 150-hectare residential development will provide 2000 houses in the next few years. In neighbouring Tuakau, 90 hectares of industrial-zoned land is being scooped up.


narelle.henson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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