The Central Park Henderson Business Association (CPHBA) employed an independent West Auckland copywriter to review the session for WEst magazine…

The move to alert level 2 may well have seen more businesses open their doors and get back to work. However, there’s still a long way to go, and so CPHBA’s recent Facebook live session with Phil Twyford was very timely. 

As well as being the MP for Te Atatu, Twyford is also the Minister for Economic Development, Transport and Urban Development. He has been at the heart of the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and so is in a great position to talk about the economic recovery for West Auckland.

In a first for the association, CPHBA set up the Facebook live session. Chaired by Kelvin Armstrong with the support of Tim Livingstone, the technology allowed us to reach a wide audience online. And members were able to comment with insights and questions in real-time as the discussions progressed.

Twyford started by giving a rundown of the support package the government has put in place to help businesses. Along with the wage subsidy scheme, Twyford mentioned the business finance guarantee scheme, small business cashflow loan scheme as well as a range of tax measures and support for commercial tenants and landlords. In total, some $50 billion worth of initiatives has been announced.

The Minister made it clear the government intends to cushion the economic shock of the pandemic and to provide businesses with a breathing space.

Armstrong advised that the wage subsidy scheme, in particular, has been well-received by members and has made a difference. However, he also pointed out that there is still great uncertainty. Armstrong queried when the finer detail on some of the initiatives would be announced.

Twyford advised that announcements on the $3 billion infrastructure stimulus programme are due shortly. He said that the programme would feature a range of projects designed to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Sectors likely to benefit include housing, transport and water infrastructure. He also clarified that shovel ready projects are those that can start in the next 6-12 months.

In addition, Twyford confirmed there will be an extra 8,000 state and community provided houses. However, when pressed by Armstrong, he was unable to confirm what the numbers might be for West Auckland. The government also intends to reform the Resource Management Act to speed up the development process and make it more responsive.

Livingstone welcomed the emphasis on the stimulus to housing as it has substantial flow-on effects to other sectors and industries.

According to Twyford, training and workforce development will be important to businesses out West. He said reform of vocational training is on the cards with a new national institute to replace ITOs and polyechs. And fee-free training will be available for those looking to get into Covid recovery industries such as construction.

Armstrong’s view was that the new system must deliver what businesses need. And it should have the buy-in of participants which doesn’t always happen when schemes are offered for free.

The government is also looking to introduce an ecommerce initiative said the Minister. A lot of businesses moved online during the lockdown, and the government wants to help more companies develop ecommerce operations.

Livingstone cautioned that careful consideration needs to be given to the delivery mechanism. He suggested keeping it simple with a service voucher system that could be cashed in with an established provider.

When asked if there was anything else in the pipeline for West Auckland, Twyford highlighted the recently announced $300 million of support for Waitemata District Health Board. The funding has largely been earmarked for improved services at Waitakere Hospital. And it’s hoped could be followed up with a future site upgrade.

He also spoke positively about the burgeoning film industry based in Henderson and the interest now coming from Hollywood. However, Twyford had no updated information on the upgrade to the Henderson Justice Precinct.

Transport improvements are still on the agenda for West Auckland said the Minister. Most likely in the shape of a rapid transit option to run alongside state highway 16.

All up, the discussion was lively and varied.

The association was very pleased with the engagement of members who made insightful comments and asked some astute questions. Unfortunately, we were not able to get to all of them in the time available.

It’s fair to say there was some disappointment that the Minister was not able to be more specific about the situation in the West. A lot of the discussion was on the national level, and the association would have liked to have seen more detail on what can be expected locally.

Nevertheless, CPHBA is grateful to Phil for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. And we look forward to hearing more detail as announcements are made over the next few weeks.

Whatever happens, we will continue to advocate for West Auckland businesses to achieve the best possible outcomes.