Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Local Business Associations Need A Better Partner

Auckland has 47 of what are called Business Investment Districts or BIDS across Auckland. You and I might know them as local business associations, but these Auckland Council structures are special. They mean the majority of the business owners in a special geographic area have agreed (in a poll) to pay an additional rate to fund marketing and promotional activity for their area.

Of course there are many more ‘not so privileged’ business associations who exist alongside BIDS. They have either decided the council process doesn’t add value or they may not meet the ‘council standard.’

For those who do, the sixty page document which outlines the BID rules along with the “partnering agreement” which establishes the BID programme are being reviewed since first established in 2012. But it’s not really a partnering approach that exists.

Auckland Council has never really prioritised local economic development, although a few of us got some better effort in the last term of council. However this year’s Long Term Plan budget process saw a gutting of this area. The BID department was asked to reduce budget without assessing what was really needed. Feedback from BIDs spoke volumes about the extent of the “partnering”. Of the services council provided, the one thing they really valued was the compulsory rate collection!

An average BID has a budget of around $300,000 with fewer than 200 members. Although some BIDs have budgets in the millions (Heart of the City, Newmarket), some are around only $50,000. BIDS are actually supposed to be the responsibility of local boards, with many of us serving on BID boards, but BID policy and support is provided by the organisation with minimal local board involvement.

The Mayor is disinterested in all of this and so that flows to the council organisation. Councillors Arthur Anae and Cameron Brewer who lead council’s Economic Committee are working to draw attention to the lack of support paid to BIDs. But it is another area where Auckland will need new leadership.

As Mayor, I will lead a rewrite of Auckland’s Economic Development Strategy to better focus it on the appropriate support our town centres need, and provide a partnering agreement that actually does that.

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