Opinion 2024: Please Rise

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Opinion by Mark Knoff-Thomas, CEO, Newmarket Business Association

The sand between the toes has gone, putting on socks and long pants again never felt so odd, the Christmas/ New Year break is over and we’re gearing up to get stuck into 2024.

Looking back, it’s fair to say 2023 was turbulent. Inflation, and rising mortgage rates, played a major role in determining what people were able to spend at the eftpos machines in supermarkets, retail stores and in cafes, bars and restaurants around the country. The election (campaigning for which seemed to start in January!) caused decision making paralysis and a feeling of uncertainty – at least until the outcome was known. Unexpected weather events provided some significant challenges –  and subsequently insurance costs have surged.

Thankfully we don’t have an election to contend with this year, so that clears away some uncertainty. However we should expect the unexpected, and the country is facing some head winds, let alone what is happening geo-politically.

The new government has made quick work of acting on their 100-day plan: cancelling Auckland Light Rail; repealing Fair Pay Agreement legislation; reintroducing 90-day trials for all sized businesses, to name a few of the changes.

The reality is though, many New Zealanders are looking to the government to deliver some miracles. According to the IRD website, there are approximately 3.38 million tax payers in this country. Our tax comes from three sources – income tax, company tax and GST. We are a country comparable in size geographically to Japan or the UK. The tax yield from those 3.38 million has to go a hell of a long way. Not only do we need to ensure we maintain what we already have around the country from government services and housing, to roading, rail and other infrastructure, but also anticipate growth (we tend to be pretty average at that side of the equation). I have used the analogy that New Zealand sometimes feels like a villa undergoing a reno and we’re a bit short of cash to complete it.  The new government will have to be smart with how and where they spend, and also look at new innovative ways and partnerships in the private sector to help get things done. And boy oh boy there is a lot to get done. The infrastructure deficit, the housing situation, the health system, inflation/ cost of living, the water, the roads, the rail… and Auckland.  Auckland needs some serious attention with robust and sustainable solutions on the table to allow it to increase productivity and fully flex as the greatest big little city in the world.

Wishing all businesses all the very best this year – lets hope we can leave the roller coaster that was 2020-2023 for the history books.