…You’ve got to know when to run. The Kilbirnie Business Network started about five years ago as an informal group of Kilbirnie business owners and others with a common interest in the Kilbirnie business environment.
I was a part of the KBN in those earlier days. I enjoyed the meetings, they were a good way to get to know other local business people. The group was a community within the larger Kilbirnie community. We talked about the various challenges we faced and took strength from one another. The group undertook a number of useful projects. My own contribution was creating and hosting this website.
I went along to the meetings for a couple of years but dropped out when the focus of the group shifted to engagement with the City Council which didn’t interest me. When the KBN adopted a formal structure I declined to join the committee or become a signed-up member.
Since then I’ve observed the KBN has shifted it’s centre of gravity yet further towards a focus on council affairs. None of my concern, you could say; if you don’t wish to be a part of it, don’t. The good thing about such groups is you can take them or leave them. Involvement is voluntary.
But this BID is a very different kettle of fish. It’s a creature you can’t escape. If you have a business in Kilbirnie and the KBN is successful in pushing this BID through (with the help of the council) you will not have a choice; you will have to pay for the care and feeding of the Business Association, like it or not.
What is this ? A Business Improvement District is a local-government concept. The idea started overseas. It’s a geographic district within which all private businesses must pay a special-purpose rate. Auckland and Wellington each have only a couple of BIDs at present, it’s not that widespread yet.
The rate is separate from and in addition to all other taxes and levies payable by the business. The Council collects the money from businesses via it’s rates-collection apparatus and pays the money to a Business Association quarterly. If a Kilbirnie BID does come to fruition I imagine the present KBN will be the nucleus of what becomes the Business Association for the Kilbirnie BID.
So what shape does a BIDs’ Business Association take, how does it spend the funds it receives ? The Business Association can spend the money how it likes, subject to council approval. Quoting the Auckland rules: “any activity that supports local economic development” or “…that furthers the objectives of the business association.”
How does this work out in practice ? Here’s a couple of quotes from an overseas BID which is “…ineffective, expensive and a violation of property owners rights.” – Ted Cassell. “Unfairly burdens private businesses by exempting non-profits and government” – Councillor Dan Allie. Adds an “extra layer of bureaucracy” – Councillor Cindy Harris.
Other BIDs overseas have got in deep financial trouble and been dissolved due to accumulated debts. This despite the controls imposed by City Councils, who require the business association to prepare business plans, annual plans, strategic plans and reports. Unfortunately all this compliance paperwork and governance and administration overhead does little to protect from failure.
The horror! The horror! How much would your business pay ? I don’t know if the Wellington City Council has announced the rules that would apply to Kilbirnie. Aucklands’ rules allow the business association to increase levies up to 10% each year. Small businesses pay a flat rate, large businesses pay a proportion of their capital value.
Perhaps your conscience tells you you ought to be a part of something like this, regardless of whether the money will be well spent or not. Nobody wants to be the Grinch. Remember a BID is not the only way you can give something to your community. You can contribute as an individual or as a business. There’s an interesting emerging practice called civic crowdfunding, based on voluntary contribution.
A centre for ants ? I’d be overstating the situation if I said this BID represents a ravaging of the human soul and spirit and the end of civilisation as we know it. Not even slightly. All the same, we shouldn’t dismiss the sight of the KBN attempting to transform itself from a King Log into a King Stork as a trivial spectacle of no account.
Next time you’re gazing at an empty Google search box with time to kill, why not do a little research of your own on the subject of BIDs. I admit it’s a struggle to think of a good reason why you should bother; it’s a dry topic and maybe not the best dinner-party conversation starter, but you’ll be making the world a very slightly better place.