Groups like chambers of commerce and publicly funded economic development agencies are found in most centres throughout the country.
Chambers of commerce
Chambers of commerce were the first business-advocate groups in New Zealand – the earliest were set up in Auckland and Wellington in 1856, and Nelson in 1858. They were established because merchants wanted to ensure that central and provincial governments paid proper attention to commerce and economic development, and that the laws they passed were business-friendly.
The first New Zealand Junior Division of the Chamber of Commerce, commonly known as Jaycee, was started in Auckland in 1932. Other chapters opened throughout the country not long after. Jaycee, open to men and women aged 18–40, provided opportunities for business mentoring, networking, public speaking and community service work. The movement peaked in popularity in the 1970s, when it had the highest per capita membership of any Jaycee group in the world.
Based in towns and cities, chambers were interested in a wide range of issues affecting urban areas and their rural hinterlands, including postal services, transport infrastructure, and importing and exporting processes. Modern chambers of commerce have a similar focus, though those in major centres are less concerned with issues affecting the rural economy.
Economic development agencies
From the mid-1980s deregulation of the economy and removal of protective tariffs led to a decline in the manufacturing industry and increasing unemployment. Regionally focused economic development agencies emerged in response to this. Most were publicly funded, though some received financial support from businesses.
They aimed to promote towns and cities, and boost their economic growth, by providing advice and services to businesses. Similar groups included tourism organisations, such as Positively Wellington Tourism, and business incubators such as Icehouse, run by the University of Auckland’s business school.
Events and economic growth
One-off and regular public events form an important part of many cities’ income streams, and also contribute to less tangible things like sense of identity and community well-being.
In the past, cities held events such as exhibitions that showcased their assets and industries. The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, which opened in Dunedin in 1925, attracted 3.2 million visitors over 24 weeks.
In the 2000s many councils had policies encouraging events, and some cities gained a reputation for events that made significant contributions to the local economy.
- The America’s Cup Regatta contributed $450 million to the Auckland economy in 2003.
- The World Buskers Festival contributed $3.1 million to Christchurch in 2007.
- The V8 Supercar Race contributed $28.3 million to Hamilton in 2008.
- The New Zealand International Arts Festival contributed $33.4 million to Wellington in 2006, and the NZI Sevens rugby tournament was worth $15.6 million in 2008.
Economic costs and benefits of events and facilities often provoke community debate. In 2008 a proposed new multi-purpose stadium for Dunedin drew a range of responses. Some believed it was not a good use of public funds and would not attract lucrative events, while others argued it would revitalise the city.
While particular events contribute significant sums of money to local economies, not all are profitable, and sometimes ratepayers are left to pick up the tab. In 2002 the Wellington City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council agreed in secret to underwrite the cost of bringing sports star Tiger Woods to the New Zealand Golf Open, a private business venture. When large crowds failed to materialise, the money was called in and both councils were forced to reveal the details of the deal and the financial loss suffered by ratepayers.
Sometimes, towns and cities compete to secure events. In 2004 Wellington won the lucrative World of Wearable Art Awards, which had been held in Nelson since 1987.
In the 2000s Wellington laid claim to the title of ‘events capital’ of New Zealand, though places like Auckland were snapping at its heels, and centres throughout the country hosted an increasingly diverse range of events.