Talking business with Anthony Haas


Business Case Presented

Chris Laidlaw, chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), said in May that he was optimistic improvements to Wairarapa train services would be made but he still has to confirm arrangements. He says “Rail is complex and challenging. The regional council (which owns the carriages) together with Kiwirail (which owns the line, signalling, locomotives and other infrastructure) have put a business case to the government for urgently needed upgrades to the infrastructure which has been badly neglected for decades and which has been the dominant cause of all the angst over slow or missing services. I’m pretty hopeful that this investment will be supported by all parties. We have also put a business case separately to the government for the purchase of diesel/electric locomotives which are infinitely more flexible, to replace the aging diesel locos.”

Advocacy Continues
Finance minister Grant Robertson was also optimistic when he spoke in the Wairarapa this May. He also said it was the fault of the last government that necessary improvements had not been made to the road system.

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty is also keeping the pressure on the minister of Finance.

The minister reassuringly said in May that there is no great need to vigorously advocate. However with no concrete plan in place locals may choose not accept that advice.

Innovation is in the wind

GWRC is also looking further ahead. They have prioritised single ticketing and diesel/electric locomotives in the top 10 of their priority list targeted for 2020 – 21.

There are other ideas which may not yet be on anyone’s formal to do list and which may merit an innovators attention. One of these ideas is the expansion of the tunnel under the Remutaka hill. Is it in fact possible that the existing rail tunnel could be expanded so that more goods and passenger services could go through the hill?

Another big idea, know to be discussed in some Wairarapa social circles, is an international airport for the southern Wairarapa, possibly linked to the Wellington international airport by small commuter aircraft.

Tunnel and international airport ideas could be attractive to those who want to get goods to market and tourists to their destinations.

Both ideas could be seen as fanciful and impractical but either idea may help reduce dependence on transport that are challenged by mother nature – as the Manawatu gorge recently illustrated.


Talking business with Anthony Haas

Grant Robertson

Finance minister’s suggestions for Wairarapa

Value added agriculture: Is this what the Wairarapa wants?

Finance minister Grant Robertson thinks the Wairarapa region could sensibly develop market led value added agricultural enterprises.

The Labour minister accentuated agricultural opportunities in the region’s development, during an interview for the Talking business column after his April 2018 pre-budget speech to the Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce.

Robertson volunteered that Wairarapa mayors should work together to present regional development proposals. “What I don’t want is, say, three or four Mayors decide that they are going to come individually to us”. “The critical element, is that we see a wider plan”, the senior Jacinda Ardern government minister said.

“The biggest thing for me is making sure that whatever emerges out of this region is the thing that we can put in front of NZ First minister Shane Jones and the $1 billion Fund and say this is what the region wants. If you do that, you’ll be way ahead.” “From the point of view of this region, Robertson said of the Wairarapa “I think it’s well poised to benefit from this Fund”.


Intersection of technology and agriculture.

“I’m talking about advanced manufacturing, adding technological value to what you already do, making sure that you’re producing the highest value, highest quality food, and finding the new niche markets.”

Robertson said “There’s a company in the Wairarapa called Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats, which is doing an amazing thing working with export firms and exporters working with customer groups in Japan and China finding out what they actually want”.

“Because the Wairarapa produces food so very, very well, it feels to me that the Wairarapa story should be about ‘our region that produces the highest quality, cleanest food in the world’. If I was writing the value proposition for Wairarapa, that’s what it would be. That’s about using technology, it’s about getting better market understanding, all of those things.”

“I know kiwifruit doesn’t work here, but this is what Zespri do very, very well. They get into the medicinal part of the product and ask what Chinese consumers want….the health benefits of kiwifruit and putting that into different forms – chewable tablets or whatever the consumer wants.”

“We had a fascinating meeting, just after we came into Government where we brought in the heads of agricultural and horticultural organisations and one of them said New Zealand will never be able to feed the whole world because we’re just not big enough to do that, but we can feed tens of millions of people, or hundreds of millions of people, really well.”

“And that’s the thing we should be doing, that’s the proposition.”

Take climate change seriously

“And that’s why, as I was saying today, all of those environmental things matter – because they’re part of what we’re selling the world. And so if we can sell to the world on the basis that we’re really are clean and green, that we are taking climate change seriously:  we should do those things anyway because they’re good for our environment – but actually they add to what we’re doing economically.”

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Don’t take no for an answer

Tony drawing

Cartoon by Trace Hodgson first published in New Zealand Financial Review

Shane Jones could be the ally the Wairarapa needs. His advocacy might make a difference in the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s efforts to get reasonable train services between Wellington and Wairarapa. He also could help bring necessary aviation questions on to the agenda – what did happen to the plan to get services between Masterton and Auckland?

What are the implications for the Wairarapa of the challenges issued by regional development minister Shane Jones? He represents an opportunity the Wairarapa should not waste. He has the courage and the skills to fight some of the Wairarapa’s battles.

NZ First Minister Shane Jones was told by Labour Prime Minister Jacinida Ardern, after he challenged the regional development performance of Air New Zealand, his authority did not extend to removing board members on the national airline.

Act Party MP David Seymour said there were alternative tactics the minister could employ – tactics that leaders of the Wairarapa could employ. “If the Government feels there is a genuine public good in the regional routes that have been shut down, it could set up a government subsidy and put those routes out for tender.”

Earlier this year we reported on how some of New Zealand First’s plans could benefit provision of the Wairarapa’s train services. We wait for the evidence that Greater Wellington Regional Council, with ministers, can fix the train services.

Sooner or later it will be necessary to go in to bat for aviation services linking this region with it’s markets. Shane Jones handled properly could be a friend at court. The wit and wisdom of Shane Jones could help fight some of the battles including financing options.

Out to tender

A regional aviation route that could benefit from funding is the link between Masterton and Auckland along with the Wellington Wairarapa train service. There are other public transport services such as replacing the Manawatu Gorge that need public sector financing.

Development finance options

There are various ways to finance public transport that interested parties could explore. The Masterton regional summit, stimulated discussion on Waitangi Day 2017 and is a potential forum. Perhaps Shane could incorporate the Act suggestion into financing the trains and regional airline services. Can Shane Jones be mobilised to put Wairarapa aviation and other public services on the agenda? There are many ways to skin a cat so don’t take no for an answer.

Talking business with Anthony Haas

This Problem Must Not Dog Us


Dog with spiked collar

Dogs are not yet problem in Greytown. Yet they so easily could be. Unaccompanied dogs can be seen in Main Street. Yappy, snappy ones are tied up outside shops. The speed with which dogs can overwhelm a town is revealed in the experience across the Tararua ranges, an experience which we would do well to heed.

Mayor Brett Ambler of Kapiti District Council 20 years ago began the first concerted and official campaign against the now near-overwhelming menace of attack dogs masquerading as household pets.

His crusading work in venturing where local politicians still fear to tread has earned him street recognition from the Kapiti District Council which has named Brett Ambler Way after their no-nonsense mayor.

Mr Ambler was the first public official to recognise and then confront the evidence that these aggression-breed animals represented a deliberate threat to the populace and thus his ratepayers.

The late Mr Ambler on foot personally toured his area and witnessed these dogs, and more significantly still, their owners and came to the following conclusion.

The owners of these dogs took a barely-disguised delight, if disguised at all, at the fear that their animals engendered among the general public.

Mr Ambler was the first official who dared to publicly point out that these animals were the four-legged extensions of their owners’ anti-social and threatening ambitions.

Only now and in the past few weeks when the medical profession formally intervened with its statistics on the frequency and effect of dog attacks on children has Mr Ambler been vindicated.

A local body conviction politician Mr Ambler understood the risk to his career of pointing out the more lethal dog danger beyond the one of pavement fouling where the dog lobby had successfully contained the debate. Until that is just a few weeks ago. Is it time to have a conversation with our elected representatives?

The long-serving Mr Ambler lost his seat at the next local body elections. He died soon after.

He will be remembered as that rare politician who seeing a threat to his people and their security said what had to be said – when it needed to be said.

Talking business with Anthony Haas

New gum forest opportunity for the Wairarapa


The gum tree option

The opportunity has been created to develop a new forest industry in the Wairarapa – gum trees. Much of eastern New Zealand has low rainfall (600 – 1,000 mm per year) rainfall which is likely to become less predictable as the impacts of climate change manifest themselves. The promoters say their select eucalypts provide drylands farmers with an opportunity to grow a valuable, versatile ground-durable timber crop on a relatively short rotation.

These gum trees are an alternative to radiata pine and do not need to be treated with environmentally damaging wood preservatives before being used as, for example cross bars of power poles, vineyard posts, and railway sleepers. They can also be used for laminated veneer lumber (LVL) which is a product already produced by Juken New Zealand in their Masterton processing plant. National and international markets for these eucalypt products have been identified as being diverse, high value and sustainable.

The organisation, New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI), is creating the opportunity by calling for public comment from interested parties, who might range from land owners to wood processors. One public comment may be that there is the possibility of potential fire danger. The opportunity is consistent with the government’s initiative to plant 1 billion trees over the next ten years, led by New Zealand First regional economic development minister Shane Jones. The NZ Government is very keen to encourage and support new forest planting at a national level and this is an opportunity from which the Wairarapa could benefit. Durable eucalypts will confer numerous environmental benefits, including a reduction in the use of CCA-treated timber, provision of nectar and pollen for bees and birds, carbon sequestration, and soil erosion control.

The opportunity not only calls for private sector involvement it also suggests that private/public participation is an option. Wellington regional council is likely to be consulted for feedback on the plans.


Find out more at NZDFI and contact for further information Paul Millen, NZDFI Project Manager 03 574 1001 021 662 147

There are other opportunities for forest industries for the Wairarapa which readers might introduce through Talking Business.

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Ways to cope with sight loss

Tony drawing

Being Palangi: My Pacific Journey A memoir by me, Anthony Haas, was first published in 2014 in print, then in e-book by Amazon and in audio book by the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind.

I have had a number of visual challenges all my life. I was Chairman of the consumer organisation Retina New Zealand and delegate to Retina International Congresses in Toronto and Tokyo.

Retina 2018 New Zealand will present the most up-to-date knowledge in scientific and clinical research, treatment advocacy and access, rehabilitation best practice, blindness-specific technologies and peer support.

It will examine critical issues associated with expediting the development, accessibility and availability of treatments for retinal disorders.

The February 9-12 Retina international continuing education and international congress at Auckland University will include insight into retinal research in genes and gene therapy, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, retina implant technology, novel drug therapy and epidemiology.

The Retina congress sessions offer practical guidance regardless of where delegates are in their careers or stages in coping with a sight loss. For patients and their families, clinicians and rehabilitation professionals, scientists and students alike, the congress will ensure a learning experience of high value.

For people with low vision seeking to retain independence, there are now a plethora of tools and techniques. But what will work for whom? The congress will deal with making the most of remaining vision.

The specialists will advise patients “How Will I Read, How Will I Write, How Will I Communicate?”

The congress is asking some patients about our experience of “Independence, Self-Determination – Are the Barriers Real?”

Sight impaired people like me have been asked to relate success stories and how we have overcome barriers to realisation of our potential. This is aimed to assist family members, colleagues and friends of people with a sight loss.

My self-determination experience

I became bold at boarding school when a new teacher, acting no doubt on the overprotective intent of my parents, said I should sit in the front row. I decided then that if I had to be up front I might as well get the consequential benefits.

When I realised I could never drive a car, I sought inner city jobs, accessible by walking and public transport.

When time came to get a home my mother pushed me to get an inner city house, which lasted 32 years.

 Your information on services and support

Information will be available at the Retina Congress on services and financial support for blind and visually impaired people. Although some of it will be in complex language, it enables consumers to get access to comparable professional level knowledge.

The congress will ask “Where are we at and what Does the Future Hold?” There will be commentary on the multiple avenues of intervention, including correcting the underlying defect, regenerating damaged retinal cells, preventing further retinal deterioration and providing artificial methods of sensing light.

Stem cell excitement

Retina International reports an exciting future for applying stem cell therapy to treating retinal disorders. How does stem cell therapy generate cells that are lost in retinal disease in order to restore lost function? What are the scientific, ethical and political challenges in the use of stem cells?

Likely to be one of the biggest science stories of the next decade, patients and professions can learn why this powerful and cost-effective new gene-editing technology known as CRISPR makes it much easier for researchers to figure out the biological effect of a gene. The focus is on developing therapies that use this revolutionary “gene surgery” technique to treat inherited diseases.

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Wairarapa Regional Development – Follow the MoneyWinston Ron and Shane

Shane Jones – Winston Peters – Ron Mark

After the announcement of the new government’s formation we contacted New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in search of indication of how the Wairarapa might put in its bid for funding improvements to the Wellington Wairarapa train service. Mr Peters led Talking Business to the New Zealand First media team and we passed their comments to Chris Laidlaw, chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Then, in November Shane Jones indicated that cabinet would be involved in progressing bigger projects.

Chris Laidlaw briefed incoming ministers on the case for improved train services on the Wellington Wairarapa line. Laidlaw was aware of the positions of New Zealand First and Labour MP’s and continues to interact with the new government.

Early Days

New Zealand First media spokesperson Chris Toban, said “As you can understand it is early days for the new coalition government although in the first 100 days we are putting in the building blocks for what we plan.

We are firmly committed to make regional economies such as that in Wairarapa, more productive.

In fact the regions are New Zealand First’s primary focus because we believe provincial New Zealand has missed out for too long.

We will work with regions such as the Wairarapa to identify and prioritise how best to utilise our investment approach.

We are establishing a $1 billion per annum regional development fund to fuel provincial growth. It’s a significant investment, and we are proud to have secured that. It will include significant investment in regional rail and other large capital projects.

New Zealand First has also secured the commitment to regionalise some Government services, such as the New Zealand forestry service. We are committed to a new planting programme—a hundred million trees a year, 1 billion over a decade.

It will help regenerate the regions and create vital jobs and new opportunities for any who want to work. Our initiative links directly to the Government’s actions on climate change.

The people of Wairarapa can be assured the government will also support producers and exporters and provide decent jobs for New Zealanders. There will be increased skills training and more research and development to add value to dairy and other products.”

Summitry Still Needed

Wairarapa resident Kieran McAnulty, newly elected Labour list MP, had initiated the Waitangi week 2017 economic summit for the Wairarapa. That initiative could be updated and extended with the support of New Zealand First MP’s such as Winston Peters, Shane Jones and Ron Mark and other local leaders. Local leaders clearly have work to do if they want to realise the opportunity posed by the Labour lead government’s regional development funding round.

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Funds available for local tourism

Alastair ScottWellington Masters Cycling

Tourism infrastructure whose move?

Tourism organisations and voters in the Wairarapa may be pleasantly surprised at New Zealand political parties’ willingness to fund tourism. The 2017 election campaign and budget has several headings that the local tourism leadership might study. For example the government has announced the infrastructure fund has $102 million dollars available for approved projects over four years. Have local authorities had discussions with political parties and government about lining up for funding for projects?

National Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott says the Hawkes’ Bay cycleway shows what can be done. Tourism Minister Paula Bennett said in addition to the new Tourism Infrastructure Fund there is a further $78m for the Department of Conservation to upgrade tourist facilities. Labour Mana MP and spokesperson for tourism Kris Faafoi stated “It’s time for the government to help ensure we deliver a world-class experience to tourists, without unfairly burdening local communities”. Labour released it’s policy and will establish a $75m a year Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund to pay for projects that will improve the experience of visitors to New Zealand and enhance our natural environment, funded by a $25 per visit levy on international visitors.

Which Wairarapa agencies are already targeting such resources, or will be motivated to do so?

Central government is also willing to invest

For example they have been willing to invest in marketing initiatives in Australia such as this

“Australians motivated to pedal their way to a Kiwi adventure”

Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager for Australia, Tony Saunders, says 2017 builds on a successful cycling-led campaign last year to increase awareness of the unique experience a New Zealand cycling holiday offers. Hawke’s Bay trails were funded.

Locals may also find that the headings don’t produce budgets that meet local needs. Is government likely to fund enhanced accommodation? Could this tourism vote help fund better train transport?

Who needs investment?

One of our readers recently visited Stonehenge Aotearoa (see The operation looked as if it could do with some capital, and its owners looked as if they would benefit from more visitors.

Is this an example of a tourism facility calling out for the type of investment government, political parties and local tourism organisations could support more? Are there food enterprises that could benefit from closer links to tourism?


Lawrence Yule with considerable experience at the helm of local government New Zealand, and National party candidate, says infrastructure has been identified by the industry and local government as a major issue to ensure New Zealand remains an excellent destination and communities are not overwhelmed.

Government has shown it is willing to fund medium-sized projects such as toilets and parking, in councils with a low ratepayer base.

Local government New Zealand’s members have identified many projects for which they would like government funds. Have Wairarapa representatives spoken up emphatically enough to be included? Could it be that the tourism budget could help the Wairarapa think big?

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Growing older in Greytown

The now closed Ultimate Care facility in East Street

The retirement industry

The corporate sector is investing in aged care facilities. Those including Somerset and Ryman continue to choose places outside Greytown for their retirement village complexes.

The industry definition of retirement village is an assembly of facilities with some or all of the following; independent self-contained villas, assisted living serviced apartments, rest home, hospital and dementia units.

The majority of large retirement villages are now owned and operated by corporates with smaller community owned complexes, such as Arbor House, run by charitable trusts, church groups and local communities.

Smaller Greytown does not seem to be attractive to operators who provide a full range of facilities. The explanation may be the high capital cost and lack of a resourced population to buy into them. Cost to construct a large facility is much the same in any location in New Zealand. The cost to buy into a village is based on the prevailing property prices in the local area. Consequently Greytown’s small population base may not appeal to retirement industry corporates as having an attractive return. Is there some other option that real estate businesses might enable?

Local growth

The baby boomer population and parallel growth of corporate retirement village business has resulted in a much more sophisticated industry with corresponding regulatory environment, making it much more difficult for smaller operations to be viable. It also creates the opportunity to develop more niche operations.

Recently many smaller aged care facilities operated by local groups, charitable trusts, and private operators have closed, and are still closing due to higher overheads, changes in wage structures and much higher compliance costs.

Ropata Lodge in Lower Hutt illustrates how others dealt with viability challenges. The charitable trust went into liquidation however, a private operator was able to take over the facilities, restructure the operation and convert it to a DHB certified rest home. People involved with Ropata say it shows that to be successful, a rest home would require at least 40 rooms.

Greytown residents who may wish to remain close to friends, relatives and who need essential services, with niche operations perhaps based around the family home, marae, communal living, and community facilities could stay in the area.

Greytown could find ways to expand and operate Arbor House as the hub for services the community says they need. For instance cleaning, nursing, meals, personal care, lawn mowing, laundry, household maintenance and fire wood.

Stakeholders could come together to chart the way ahead. Failure to do this may see closure of places like Arbor House and oblige elderly locals to leave the area. Public meetings of stakeholders, including parliamentarians, councillors, the DHB, residents, families, Arbor House board, community organisations, and interested parties, discussing how to put flesh on these bones could be convened.

Thus, a strategic plan to get Arbor House in a strong financial position with existing plus expanded facilities needs to be developed. The physical constraints of expansion of Arbor House and the financing of any expansion are particular issues to be grappled with.

Now the election is over there is a need to be met. Who will take the initiative?

Talking business with Anthony Haas

Kieran McAnulty’s Labour offers regional funding

Kieran McAnulty


Labour candidate for the Wairarapa electorate Kieran McAnulty says “In some ways, a regular commuter service into the capital city is the envy of other districts. Wairarapa is well positioned to attract new residents and businesses due to our proximity and connection to Wellington. However, it is the success of local councils in promoting Wairarapa as a place to live and work that has lead to the train service no longer being fit for purpose. The three commuter services are oversubscribed, people using these services already exceed 2019 projections.

In the weekends, there are only two return services. This does not help Wairarapa’s potential as a tourism destination.

We need more improved capability for the commuter services and increased services off-peak, including weekends.

The easiest solution is for Central government to identify this as a priority and provide the funding required to complete maintenance of the track and upgrade services.

Andrew Little identified the Wairarapa rail service as an example of a project that could benefit from Labour’s Regional Development Fund.”

What would Labour offer for the Manawatu Gorge?

McAnulty says the news is a real blow. It affects Wairarapa, Tararua, Hawke’s Bay Palmerston North and Woodville, where residents and business owners facing uncertainty are screaming out for answers. They want to know what plans are available and these concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.

When he visited Woodville after the announcement he faced shock and worry from business owners and workers. One business owner thought he was the MP, which he says, speaks volumes about current National mp, Mr Scott’s inactivity over the last 3 years.

While these alternative routes allow traffic to and from Manawatu, the closure of the gorge acts as a disincentive to make this trip. Attractions such as Tui Brewery and Pukaha Mount Bruce see a reduction in visitors when it is closed. This in turn affects businesses right down Wairarapa.

The candidate says he can see no reason why the Government doesn’t offer support to those business directly affected by the closure, as they do in Kaikoura.

A long-term solution for the Manawatu Gorge has been sought for years. Numerous examples of slips have affected the gorge in years gone by. The most notable of those was the 2011 slip which closed the gorge for 14 months. That slip cost $20m to fix, with a further $10m in upgrades or maintenance to alternative roads.

This type of expenditure is unsustainable. While the cost largely comes from NZTA’s emergency works funding, over time the cost of a viable solution would be easily met by the amount spent on fixing and preventing slips in the gorge.

2012 NZTA report highlighted alternatives to the gorge. The longer this is delayed the more expensive the solution while the Saddle Road and Pahiatua Track receive far more traffic than they were designed for. In the case of Saddle Road, the costs of upgrading and maintenance now falls on NZTA. The Pahiatua Track however still falls to the Tararua District Council which places an unfair strain on what is a council with a very small rating base.