Date posted: 27/02/2017 4 min read

Canterbury thriving following Kaikoura earthquakes

Phillip Roth CA on why New Zealand’s Canterbury is a region with a new heartbeat and new opportunities.

In brief

  • The majority of larger practices are moving back into Christchurh's CBD following the 2010/2011 earthquakes.
  • Businesses in the Canterbury region are increasingly partnering with each other, rather than seeing each other as competitors.
  • Business owners need to make sure that the new and legacy technology systems they use are integrated with each other.

By Beck Eleven.

The middle weekend of November gave Phillip Roth CA, a business advisory partner at BDO, a real shake-up.

It began with absorbing a headful of ideas at the Southern Hemisphere’s first “Singularity University” summit in Christchurch and ended with a midnight jolt from the Kaikoura earthquakes.

Roth went to sleep easily – with the summit confirming everything he believed in about the urgency of understanding and embracing the convergence of technologies – but woke to find State Highway One a broken mess.

“At the summit, we’d heard about technology disruption and just how quickly things are changing – and overnight, once again, they did.”

Roth has clients in forestry, agriculture, fishing, food, retail, manufacturing, engineering, transport and logistics.

"It’s nothing particularly new to say that investing heavily in technology platforms is the future but we’re utilising and partnering with the information technology sectors more than we ever have."
Phillip Roth, business advisory partner, BDO

His role at BDO focuses on encouraging any opportunity that meets the criteria of business development opportunities, including governance, establishment and advisory boards, key advisory roles and everything that cascades from there, to encourage growth on a sustainable basis.

He looks at clients’ sales and marketing strategies, working out KPIs and any other initiatives that will help a business branch out.

“I know it’s nothing particularly new to say that investing heavily in technology platforms is the future but we’re utilising and partnering with the information technology sectors more than we ever have.

“We’ve decided to embrace change, particularly the speed of it and find out the best ways to work with those changes.”

Systems management

Roth, pictured below, estimates a good half of his clients haven’t performed a formal systems review, which is his first suggestion but often this happens by default.

“For example, I’ve just got back from a meeting we’ve done a full review of a client’s system and it’s completely disconnected.

“As businesses diversify, you find they’ve kept old systems, adding on where they’ve needed to, but the problem is that these systems don’t speak to each other.

“Especially in a small-to-medium enterprise where a bank might have asked for certain documents or projections for a funding application or a board is seeking expectations of the management team.

“The client can’t provide these on a timely basis or the quality’s poor, the reconciliations aren’t there.

“That’s a high probability signal. If our client’s business is not fit-for-purpose, how on earth are they serving their customers in a fast-paced environment?”

Not all clients like hearing they might have a cost outlay to implement changes but Roth allays those fears by convincing them it’s part of the ‘investment profile’ and demonstrates how this helps in the long run.


Roth’s father is German, his mother is part Russian and Chinese. He was born in Australia and has been living in New Zealand since he was two.

More than 20% of BDO staff were not born in New Zealand and this ethnic diversity is something the company has sought to cater to its changing clientele. Happily for humanity, systems don’t mean the end of people power.

“You’ve got to get the people thing right,” Roth says of staffing a business.

“We can input data, have lovely presentations and speak to every part of the business quickly, but you don’t want to lose the personal touch. The quality of relationships and engagement are more important than ever.

“We want to see people who have social-based values. We don’t need superstars, we need people who are well integrated socially and community-wise. That works best for us and for our clients.

“We can input data, have lovely presentations and speak to every part of the business quickly, but you don’t want to lose the personal touch."
Phillip Roth, business advisory partner, BDO

“We’re looking for people who have achieved something which is not necessarily work related. It could be in a team sport or just a passion but it demonstrates their ability to adapt and build relationships.”

For his own part, Roth is an advisor for the Grace Vineyard church property team and a trustee for Kidsfirst Kindergartens.

“There’s a very caring attitude here at BDO. We have a healthy social club and no challenge getting staff to engage.”

Just over 100 people work in the Christchurch office, serving clients from the local region, the Chatham Islands and overseas.

Outlook for 2017

“The Christchurch rebuild [from major damage due to quakes in late 2010 and early 2011] gets banged on about a lot but it’s worth stating there’s still a huge volume of business going on in the region post earthquake,” says Roth.

“Residential builds are on the decline but commercial activity is likely to continue for quite a few years yet. You only have to drive around town to see that in action.

“It’s keeping the city buoyant. The number of professional services firms heading into town is reaching high numbers.

“The majority of larger practices are moving back into the CBD, no doubt about it.”

Roth says it’s difficult to project what effect the recent Kaikoura quakes could have on the regional economy.

“But Canterbury and many parts of New Zealand are lending their full support to an efficient and effective recovery of the whole infrastructure for that region.

“Tourism needs that support desperately because it’s such a major contributor to business activity up and down State Highway One. It’s also a route to transport a huge volume of goods up and down the country.

“I’m going to say that 2017 looks reasonably positive as long as we can get the infrastructure into a functional state and the rail link back up.”

Casting his eye rurally, Roth says the lift in dairy payouts means better days ahead.

It’s come just in time for North Canterbury farmers affected by the earthquakes.

“It would be fair to say it’s been pretty tough for the rural sector but they are capable, pragmatic and collegial which means they have mutually supported each other and shown they are adaptable and strong for the coming year.

“The other thing is that we’ve noticed an increasing partnering model-type approach here.

“Rather than seeing everybody as a competitor or partnering with another business on a one-off basis, people are seeing opportunities to sustain them in the long term.

“We’re dealing much more closely with the likes of the Canterbury Development Corporation, Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Callaghan Innovation and our local iwi, Ngai Tahu.

“This region has a new heartbeat and new opportunities. Whether you like it, change is coming and it’s better to embrace it.”

Beck Eleven is a freelance journalist based in Christchurch.

This article was first published in the Feb/Mar 2017 issue of Acuity magazine.