South Waikato Council has two overarching goals- creating new jobs, and promoting the
District. Of critical importance is the ability to attract new business investment. It is vital to
stand in the shoes of the potential investor to understand what the issues are their point of
view as to whether a decision to invest is positive or negative.
Companies report a key factor in a decision is the consenting process with all of its various
strands from environmental issues, District Plan, building regulations, and many other
South Waikato Council wondered whether it could make it easier for companies to get
through the processes, particularly with big investments, which can deliver significant job
creation. From an investor point of view the cost and complexity of the consenting process
can be a deal breaker. One reason is the complexity, from the company’s point of view, of
having to deal with many different people in council, who each hold the responsibility for
just one part of the whole process. Council noted that it is common commercial practice B
to B (business to business) for a supplier to appoint an account manager for a significant
customer. The advantage for the customer is that there is one person dealing with all
the matters applying to that account, rather than he or she has to deal with managers in
different departments across the supplier company.
Council decided to trial a similar approach for potential investors. It appointed Craig
Hobbs, CEO of the Council, to be Business Case Manager for the largest investor in the
region, namely Fonterra which was considering a possible major investment at its Lichfield
plant, near Tokoroa. The role was to liaise with the company’s management through the
various regulatory processes within Council departments required for an investment to get
consented and thus able to be approved by the Board of Fonterra.
This commitment by council has been a positive factor for the recent decision by Fonterra to commit to build another large milk powder drier at Lichfield in Waikato, creating 50 jobs, (Radio New Zealand -June 21). This plant will be the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.