Hampton Downs Motorsport Park – a successful business venture that delivers $12 million in value to the Waikato district.

More than 135 decision-makers and investors from around New Zealand gathered at the end of October to discuss global and national investment trends which are fundamentally impacting the Waikato district.

E Tu (which translates to ‘stand up’ or ‘to put your best foot forward’) – a free one-day economic development conference – was co-hosted by the Waikato District Council (WDC) and Waikato-Tainui, and is the latest in a series of economic initiatives from the council which is actively encouraging long-term investment in the district.

Mayor Allan Sanson welcomed everyone to the conference, saying economic development is a key policy for the WDC. “Today will help existing and new investors understand what the Waikato district offers, what help is available, and how businesses can leverage major investments in infrastructure, transport and innovation,” he said. “It will also provide an outstanding opportunity to hear from influential speakers about global and national trends in business investment.”

Doing business in the Waikato

WDC economic development manager Clive Morgan made the first presentation, saying the Waikato district’s location in the ‘golden triangle’ between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, and the development of the Waikato Expressway have put a national investment spotlight firmly on the district.

“The Waikato district is fast becoming recognised as one of the best places in New Zealand to do business,” he told attendees. “Recent growth includes the $200 million Yashili milk powder manufacturing plant at Pokeno, expansion of the Northgate Business Park, and the Pokeno Village Estate residential development. These kinds of investments are fundamentally changing our economic profile by attracting more high-profile and high-value business and residential development.”

Mr Morgan explained how in 2011, the WDC held its first-ever economic summit which helped map out a strategic action plan for improving the district’s economy. “The plan was connected, distinctive, welcoming and built for business, and included projects and activities,” he added. “The message from those who attended was to make this something meaningful, achievable and tangible.”

One of the biggest challenges the WDC faced, Mr Morgan said, was getting on Auckland’s investment radar. “We realised that being noticed by Auckland investors, and helping everyone understand the enormous potential waiting to be tapped here, would require a sustained, multi-level approach,” he explained.

With this in mind, this year the WDC moved its action plan online and established ‘Open Waikato’, a one-stop website for decision-makers who are considering investing, visiting or living in the Waikato. The WDC worked in collaboration with local stakeholders, including Waikato-Tainui, Waikato Tourism and NZ Trade & Enterprise, to develop the site which incorporates YouTube clips, social media, printable factsheets and newsletters that provide a wealth of data on the district.

Successful business venture

Tony Roberts, owner/director of the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park – where E Tu was held – spoke to conference attendees about the challenges of building a home for motor racing in New Zealand and how the Waikato site proved to be ideal. He spoke favourably of the assistance provided by the WDC in terms of fast-tracking the consenting process, and of the challenges posed by neighbour objections and wet winters for construction.

Since opening in January 2010, the facility has become a successful business venture and is used 335 days of the year. It can cater for a wide variety of motor sports, including motorbikes, karting and drifting – “very popular with the younger people,” Mr Roberts noted – and to a number of driving-related activities, such as driver experience days, car manufacturer promotions, and advanced driving schools. Overall, the facility delivers around $12 million in value to the region in terms of facilities, events and tourism.

Hampton Downs has no plans to rest on its laurels, Mr Roberts said, with the intention to extend the track and develop a full business park, motorsport museum, hotel, a university ‘centre of excellence’ for automotive R&D, and a full conference centre.

Attitude and aptitude

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley spoke about foreign direct investment in New Zealand and trends in global economic development. She posed a series of questions to attendees, asking, “Are you really open for business?”

Dame Jenny congratulated the work of the WDC to date, but said the real challenge for the future is to set the conditions under which it will – and will not – do business in the future. She advocated cherishing the mythology of the area and promoting the sense of its place; understanding which stakeholders will need to be brought into a project in order to make a business work; and the importance of people with the attitude and aptitude to make things happen.

“Have you really thought about the emerging markets, and which business partner will work best and offer the most value?” she asked. “Partnerships and alliances work. You need to connect with the consumers of the world – stand in their shoes to understand their needs.”

Dame Jenny emphasised that information is invaluable and commended the Open Waikato site for the rich data available. She said leadership is vital, and that organisations need to be creative, but focused on solutions, and that diversity should be encouraged.

The North Waikato rocks!

EMA (Northern) chief executive Kim Campbell – an energetic and enthusiastic speaker – outlined the mega-trends of global commerce, and also spoke about the Waikato’s business relationship with Auckland and New Zealand. He said businesses should seriously consider relocating to the Waikato as there are no ‘super city’ issues with bureaucracy, there’s no traffic congestion, and the WDC is a ‘can do’ council.

“The North Waikato rocks!” he exclaimed. “There’s over 200 ha of industrial land available right now in wide open spaces, the Waikato Expressway links Auckland and Hamilton with good connections on to Tauranga, the Main Trunk Line runs right through it, Auckland International Airport is just ‘up the road’, and planning for the ‘mega logistics hub’ of Ruakura is underway.”

Other speakers included Waikato-Tainui chief executive Parekawhia McLean and Tainui Group Holdings (TGH) chief investment officer Craig Stephen. They co-presented on Waikato-Tainui’s strategic direction and clarified TGH’s mandate and purpose.

Three workshops provided insight into leveraging the region’s tourism offering, offered tips on accessing funding for research and development, and shared key information around development contribution costs and zoning.

From: www.ftdmag.co.nz/top-stories/waikato-district-open-for-business-by-lynne-richardson


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