Queenstown project may be Aussie-bound

US-based New Zealander Jason Neal's proposed technology park could be built in Australia -- rather than his home town of Queenstown -- if at all.

US-based New Zealander Jason Neal’s proposed technology park could be built in Australia — rather than his home town of Queenstown — if at all.

The chief executive of San Francisco-based reservation software firm GHS Global says his firm “pulled the plug” on the Queenstown technology park soon after the Knowledge Wave conference last year, but the government’s innovation policies, announced earlier this month, were a further nail in the coffin to the idea.

Neal claims the project, which was to have cost up to $US150 million to implement, would have created up to 700 jobs and incubated up to 15 internet software companies. But he has been demanding tax breaks to make it happen, a policy proposed by last year’s Knowledge Wave conference, the tax review led by Auckland accountant Rob McLeod and some IT business leaders and right-wing politicians.

The global IT downturn was also a factor in the Queenstown project being canned “but our decision reflected a vote of no confidence in the New Zealand government. The risks simply outweighed the benefits.”

Neal says other locations are being considered for the project, including Australia, but it remains “on hold until the US economy stabilises”.

Neal says the government’s failure to support conference recommendations was “very damaging” and highlights its “lack of business acumen and overall strategic direction”.

“Let’s just say the government is yet to establish a policy or ‘department’ that offers New Zealand businesses any fiscal or competitive advantages in terms of entry into global markets,” Neal says.

But even if there is a change in government, significant investment and reputations cannot be gambled on promises alone, he says. “Although a new government may prove more favourable, promises must first be acted upon.”

Neal first suggested the technology park in October 2000. It was to be funded by private US investors, venture capitalists and perhaps a global IT partner.

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