1493011788757 - Central Christchurch business group battles budget cut

Central Christchurch business group battles budget cut

Central Christchurch businesses and non-profit groups want to hang onto a funding lifeline from ratepayers until the city centre gets back on its feet.

The Christchurch City Council has been making an annual contribution to the Central City Business Association’s costs for the past decade, including promotions, events, marketing and security.

It now wants to cut this back to less than half its original contribution. From $150,000 a year before the earthquakes, the sum has been reduced to $100,000, and this year council has proposed in its draft annual plan to cut that further to $60,000.

This month the association made a submission on the draft plan, asking council to leave the contribution untouched at $100,000, for now. 

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Association chairman Brendan Chase said they had been also spending built-up resources, which were almost exhausted.

“We do intend to become self-funding, but we have to figure out how we are going to do it,” Chase said.

“From this year, hopefully, the central city will be a more financially successful business environment. It’s becoming a going concern but there’s still a lot to do.

“With all the building going on, it’s not a natural business environment and a lot of the public are still reluctant to come into town and spend money.”

The association’s members include retailers, tourism, hospitality and service businesses, property owners, arts and educational and charitable organisations, and others working in the central city. It was formed in 2007 to strengthen the struggling central city and help it compete against growing suburban malls.

Chase said targeted rates for the commercial parts of the central city would be a good funding option. An annual membership fee was another method, but this could be hard to charge fairly so as not to over-burden small operators, and risked allowing others to free load, he said.

The association also intends to apply to the council’s Business Improvement District grant fund, set up by the city council last year, for help to run a poll.

The association has one part-time employee and a voluntary executive. Its membership has built back up from fewer than 20 just after the earthquakes, to around 200 now.

Chase said that with the private sector starting to grow in an environment where the government sector had been in charge, good communication between the was vital.  

“A collective, private sector voice is very important in this rebuild environment,” he said.

“We can’t be effective if we are running on the smell of an oily rag.”

As part of its planning for the year and feedback to council, the association is writing a strategic plan setting out how it works and what it hopes to achieve. 

Its objectives according to its draft plan include advocating for the private sector, developing new events, creating “an enticing urban environment” for business, recreation and culture, helping small businesses and creative groups find affordable premises, building public price in the central city, fixing parking and accessibility problems, celebrating both the old and new aspects of the city, and trying to attract more young and elderly people.

A council spokeswoman said they could not comment on funding for the association while the annual plan process was still under way. The annual plan is due to be adopted in June.

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