Our growth agenda
We’ve got all the ingredients to be a world-class city
Wellington has the best educated, most creative and tech-savvy people in New Zealand, high quality tertiary institutions, lots of smart businesses, and a great culture.
We also have all the lifestyle requirements natural beauty, compactness, a creative vibe, open attitudes, and a quiet ambition that makes anything possible.
But we are not doing as well as we could
Our economy isn’t as strong as some other cities, which of course means fewer jobs, opportunities and less money to invest. We still rely heavily on the government sector to provide jobs and keep the economy afloat.
When deregulation happened in the nineties and many large corporations drifted north, not enough was done to replace them with new industries and business.
Though Wellington has some amazing businesses, overall our economy is not diverse enough, and unless that changes we’re going to be stuck in a cycle of low growth and poor economic performance compared to other cities.
This is a key issue for the city. There is no real growth potential in our largest economic sector – the government bureaucracy. If we look back to when times were good and the economy was growing, Wellington never achieved the same level of the growth of cities that were more closely linked to the open market.
Our quality of life is high on the back of investments
The Council has made significant investments in assets and programmes that have lifted the city’s quality of life. The following are some examples in recent years:
- over $100 million in sports and recreation: the ASB Sports Centre; artificial sportsfields; Karori Park redevelopment; Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre expansion; Keith Spry Pool and others
- over $200 million in our social housing (in addition to funding from the Government)
- $40 million a year in managing wastewater
- $30 million a year on parks, reserves and walkways
- $20 million a year in providing libraries
- $18 million a year supporting museums, galleries and the arts.
We need to grow our income so we can sustain such investments and take even bigger steps towards our goals
The city has a clear vision that neatly encapsulates its strengths and values, and will position it well for the future – a city that is sustainable, dynamic, connected and people-centred.
But achieving those results will not come without investment. A stronger economy and a growing ratepayer base (ie value of the city) provide the means to invest more so that we can reach those results sooner. The stronger the economy, the faster the ratepayer base grows. The faster the ratepayer base grows, the more we can invest in the city.
A key focus of the coming year will be the development of our Long-term Plan. This gives us the chance to review our programme in full and consider what transformation could be made to propel the city forward.
Stepping up is possible
Obviously the Council doesn’t run the local economy. Our role in economic growth, is in supporting and enabling the city’s entrepreneurs, businesses, investors, researchers and workers.
Our commitment will be to:
Be open for business – we can make Wellington the easiest place in the world to do ethical business by minimising red tape, making sure regulation is clear and sensible and being far more customer-focussed.
Do our core jobs well – we can deliver our services as efficiently and effectively as possible, creating a great environment to do business in.
Bring people together – we can play an enabling role, helping to connect people and organisations in ways that create jobs or market opportunities.
Invest in growth – we can invest in civic infrastructure, attractions and amenities that will make a real difference to the local economy and our people.
We’ve gone ahead and made a start
We’re not just talking about it. The Council has already made a start by taking steps to achieve these things, for example by:
- working with other councils in the region to merge back office information technology services
- working with other councils to establish a ‘one-stop shop’ regional economic development agency
- contributing $1 million to the Airport runway consent application costs
- establishing an Economic Initiatives Development Fund (with funding of $3.7 million in 2014/15) and a $20 million investment in Destination Wellington
- halving development contributions
- developing – and committing to explore – eight investment ideas to move the economy along.
We’ve got the capacity to act
This Annual Plan provides a good platform. The prospective position at the end of this plan (30 June 2015) is strong. We have an AA credit rating with Standard & Poor's – the highest for a public sector entity.
We’ve directed the Chief Executive to institute strict disciplines on our capital investment programme with the aim of reducing carry forwards and reprioritising within the year.
Our rates are not as high as many of our neighbours, and in terms of stacking up against other cities we do pretty well. In short, we have the opportunity and resources to do more if we choose to.
But we must make sure our investments provide a return in the form of growth in the ratepayer base – this will then lead to a cycle of growth releasing more capital to invest back into the city.
Our 8 Big Ideas and more
Our future programme includes a number of projects aimed at growing the local economy. These are in various stages of development but will all be subject to business case tests. They include:
Film museum: Wellington’s film sector thrills, inspires and amazes people here and around the world. A film museum would celebrate this and offer a high-quality international tourist attraction.
International air connections: the region’s prosperity depends on the strength of our connections to the world. Our airport is currently too short for long-haul aircraft. An extended runway would allow planes to fly direct to Asia and raise the prospect of one-stop flights to other destinations.
A tech precinct: connecting with people is critical to success in high-tech industries. A Central Business District tech-precinct would support an environment to share ideas, knowledge, investment and pathways to international markets.
Conference and concert venues: conventions bring people to the city to learn, discuss ideas and make connections. At the moment we have good convention and concert venues but our market share and ability to attract headline acts needs to be considered.
A framework for Miramar: Miramar is New Zealand’s creative hot spot. Set against a backdrop of the coast and green open space, the area presents a number of development opportunities. Setting in place a framework to guide development will ensure the city benefits.
Better transport: providing easy, reliable and safe transport choice is critical for the city. Over the coming years, we will work with NZTA (New Zealand Transport Agency) and Greater Wellington Regional Council to improve those choices in the city.
Open for business: we will take steps to ensure our regulatory and policy settings don’t wrongly impinge on business doing what it does best: investing and creating jobs.
Liveable city: sustaining what makes Wellington a great place to live will be important as we compete with other cities for people and resources.
The Council will also look to support other organisations’ projects that can contribute to the growth agenda. These will be subject to funding being secured from third parties and the consideration of business cases. They include the proposed Ocean Exploration Centre on the south coast and possible expansion of the Museum of Wellington City & Sea.