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Small businesses react to PM’s new business advisory council

Small businesses have little faith in the Government’s new Business Advisory Council as it tries to win the confidence of business.

Bryn Thompson of  Metalcraft Engineering runs a metal fabrication company employing 24 staff in Christchurch.

He said the new business council would do “zero” for business confidence.

“A concern is that it could become a big business advisory council, especially when you put someone like Christopher Luxon in charge.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the council would be chaired by Air New Zealand’s  chief executive Luxon, aiming to build closer relationships between government and business.

Ardern said the council would provide her with “high-level free and frank advice” on key economic issues and harness expertise from the private sector to develop the Government’s economic policies.

Thompson said it was important the council included members from manufacturing and the regions.

“The danger is that it becomes a white collar advisory council, not blue collar manufacturing, which doesn’t then doesn’t really help the work forces that they say they wish to help,” he said.

Ardern said the council would provide a forum for business leaders to advise her and the Government “and join us in taking the lead on some of the important areas of reform the Government is undertaking.”

Whangarei book-keeping business owner Di Crawford-Errington said the business council announcement did little to bolster her confidence.

“In my industry compliance costs have been going through the roof, with new regulations around money laundering. It feels like we’re bombarded by extra regulation and that can really knock your confidence down,” Crawford-Errington said.

“Small businesses are the grass roots of Kiwi business, but we still see chief executives of big companies on councils supposed to help us. No one is really listening to us.”

Crawford-Errington mostly deals with start up companies who had also complained about compliance costs around employee benefits such as extended parental leave and domestic violence leave.

The prime minister’s Business Advisory Council would complement the Small Business Council, which was set up earlier this year.

But Crawford-Errington said there was little information within the small business community about the Small Business Council.

Echelon group in Christchurch specialises in recruiting for SMEs and director Patrick Methven said the prime minister’s speech lacked policy detail on how the Government planned to tackle issues such as industrial relations.

That created uncertainty for the business community.

“There’s this business council and the fact that the bargaining arrangements are only going to apply to one or two sectors.

“We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. Businesses run on detail and we didn’t get it.

“There’s uncertainty around what all these advisory groups and reviews and groups are going to dish up.”

But younger businesses owners felt the Ardern’s announcement brought a broader view to New Zealand than previous governments and would not have a negative impact on their operations.

In Auckland, florist boutique Rose Tinted Flowers owner Rosie Holt said business had its good and bad days, but she was hopeful the new advisory council would bring a positive flow-on effect to small businesses.

“You’re always a little wary when a new Government comes in because small businesses can be so fragile to changes. Changes to the minimum wages has stressed out some businesses but we already pay our staff the living wage so it didn’t really make a difference,” Holt said.

“[The council] probably won’t affect us directly but I’m hopeful it will bring more investment.”

Sarah Stanford owner of retail boutique Stalgic Society in Auckland said there was more support needed for younger business owners.

“I’m not sure how the council will help small businesses, we don’t want to feel ignored or discouraged.”

“It’s scary going out and starting a business. It’s a huge gamble, and I don’t think young people have enough support in the small business space from the Government,” Stanford said.

Ruben Bryant owns fashion store Good as Gold in Wellington. He encourages the Government to to learn from other countries, like those in Scandinavia, that are leading the world in business.

“We are a small isolated country, so lets look at some other places that are cranking and try to mimic some of the things that they do,” Bryant said.