23 Apr 2020

Pandemic's challenges: Promotion agency faces cost-cutting measures

7:12 am on 23 April 2020

Christchurch's economic development agency is looking at cost cutting measures, at the same time as it grapples with planning the city's economic recovery from Covid-19.

3 January 2019: Christchurch, New Zealand - New Regent Street in the centre of Christchurch, with outdoor cafes and speciality shops, and the tram route running through it.

New Regent Street is usually a shopping and hospitality attraction for residents and visitors. Getting people spending again is one of ChristchurchNZ's priorities. Photo: 123RF

Ratepayer funded agency ChristchurchNZ, led by former editor of The Press newspaper Joanna Norris, has recently come under fire from high profile investor Antony Gough for its handling of the economic response.

Norris said the agency was assessing its options to save money where it can, and to make sure it can operate within its budget.

Under the 2018-2028 Christchurch City Council long-term plan, the agency receives $11.6 million a year in ratepayer funding.

Norris also said ChristchurchNZ are discussing pay cuts for staff, including herself, who is on a reported salary of $325,000 a year.

"I think it's really important to consider the reasons for reducing people's salaries, whether it's my own or others. It's important to understand the motivation behind it and the impact that will have.

"What we are looking at is a range of cost control measures that will make sure that we're able to operate within the budget that we have."

Norris said she will discuss the options with the ChristchurchNZ board.

Joanna Norris from ChristchurchNZ

ChristchurchNZ CEO Joanna Norris says the agency is looking to save money in difficult times while still looking to promote the city's attractions. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Challenging times for city

But looking at the bigger Christchurch-wide picture, Norris said the city was going through challenging times, which her agency was working hard to address.

Earlier this month, ChristchurchNZ announced a business support subsidy which allowed businesses to access professional support services.

Along with the Regional Business Partners Network support, ChristchurchNZ said there have been more than 500 inquiries about the funding.

Norris said more work is being done for further long-term support. She said the plan is falling into three main phases.

"The first is the phase that we're activating right now and that's the phase whilst we're on lockdown supporting businesses survive through this really challenging period.

"And in that phase, that includes a range of measures including the business support subsidy, access to the government services, including wage subsidies and leave subsidies and government backed loans, rates relief for businesses and for people living and residences," Norris said.

"And then [providing] rent relief for businesses in council properties or properties owned by council companies. We're also supporting businesses to do marketing work at the time so that they can keep the brand alive and keep connected with their consumers whilst unable to operate in a physical location," she said.

The second phase will start once the country moves out of lockdown.

"That's the work that we'll be doing to stimulate demand, get people shopping again, get people consuming because there's more money in the economy to help these businesses survive," she said.

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Several bars and restaurants are located in The Terrace beside the Avon River. Photo: Christchurch City Council

The third and final phase is for the long-term.

"It is looking at what are the long-term strategic initiatives that we need to put in place to ensure that our economy really transitions over the long-term. Because we know that short-term stimulus is exactly that - short-term," she said.

"So that's things like understanding which capital projects we can prioritise and bring forward to help bring spending into the economy," Norris said.

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