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Wellington starved of govt love – former PM

Wellington has a battle on its hands for government attention, and is losing out to Auckland and Christchurch.

Labour prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says the capital is going through the same debate Auckland had before to the creation of its super city in 2010.

Sir Geoffrey, who is also Wellington local government review panel chairman, shared his concerns for the future of the region at a chamber of commerce breakfast this week.

A recent city council submission process attracted 1209 responses, with more than two-thirds of submitters wanting change – either in the form of one super city or two or three bigger councils.

Sir Geoffrey says aspects of Wellington’s economy are not looking too good. In the latest BERL regional rankings the city slipped 20 places on the year before, to No 31 on the list, 17 places behind Auckland.

The ranking system looked at factors such as population, employment, GDP figures, business health and the make-up of the region’s industry.

Sir Geoffrey says job growth is down, as is the GDP figure for the region.

But he urged business owners not to get too upset about the figures and instead points to how crucial some form of amalgamation is to regional economic development.

“Since becoming a supercity, Auckland has become the economic powerhouse because it has lost all its inhibitions.”

However, he says there has been a loss of democracy there, with just 21 community boards. He believes this proves the "one size fits all model" will not work for Wellington.

He says what businesses want is pretty simple.

“They need the infrastructure, they don’t want to have money wasted on it, they don’t want to see duplication of various services carried out in separate silos and they want to make sure there isn’t any waste.”

Sir Geoffrey says Wellington is already struggling for attention from a central government keen to work with Auckland’s supercity and the Christchurch rebuild.

He trumpets the so-called Wellington story – the success of the IT and movie-making industry locally, along with research and development. He says Wellington has one scientist for every 250 residents.

But he believes the story is undersold and needs more promotion, especially given the squeeze play between Auckland and Christchurch.

He thinks this is a big threat to the region and it will only get worse if something is not done – without spelling what that "something" is.

It is a view shared by Wellington employers’ chamber of commerce president Richard Stone, who says Auckland is a lot more visible and engaging as a super city.

“One of the things we have said is until the region is able to speak with one voice, we are not going to get the visibility or engagement at central government level we otherwise should.

"The government will be saying, 'until you as a region get your act together, we can’t help resolve the systemic issues you face',” Mr Stone told NBR ONLINE.

Mr Stone believes amalgamation could help a whole range of business sectors, providing the boost they need.

A reduction in compliance costs is one example, while a single council could also improve the region’s approach to science research technology. Major infrastructure projects such as Transmission Gully are also likely to benefit.

He says regular chamber surveys show more than 75% of members support some form of local government reform. He thinks business is frustrated with Wellington local government.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown says what the region needs is what she calls "locals championing local business".

An example of this was when the region’s mayors met with a 180-strong delegation from China’s south-east coast province of Zhejiang, which has a population of 54 million people.

The delegation met to sign a strategic economic partnership to encourage more trade between the two areas.

The Chinese province has a GDP of nearly $US500 million and Ms Wade-Brown is confident the new agreement will encourage multi-million dollar trade with local businesses.

More by Blair Cunningham

Comments and questions
6

About time Wellington had its cumuppance. Dreary hole that without the massive injection of corporate or Govt expense accounts the place would have fallen into the sea long ago. Mind you Auckland is now worried as all eyes young and old turn, business & personal to Aus. Only got to ask any honest immigrant where they are really planning to settle once the passport arrives.

Yeh its a running joke in NZ - the "new" Kiwi's picking up their passport and jumping on the first dam flight to OZ!

The thing is - all the young OZ go-getters find Sydney too small - and long for London, New York.

I've lived in all - and still love Wellington.

When they find oil off the Wairarapa Coast - Welli will boom!

http://www.times-age.co.nz/news/wairarapa-oil-up-for-grabs/1267392/

So agree.

It would just be North Picton if not for the crazy decision to stick Parliament there.

And I was born there and lived there for over 30 years.

The answer to all the problems. Move to Invercargill. Reduce your cost structure and enjoy the best mayor in NZ. No parking or housing problems, easy driving and live amongst NZs most beautiful mountain regions.

NZ can be managed from Sydney. A small country office in Auckland and maybe a satellite office in Welly/Chc.
NZ is just another state of Australia, who gets no share of the W.A. mining wealth..

What Sir Geoffrey Palmer and his associates will tell you next is that their bright ideas to run Wellington according to their Dogma comes at a cost...and guess who is going to pay that cost...you the ratepayer ..you the worker ..you the average family who will struggle, will pay for new infastructure and you the pensioner who will eventually get pushed out of your hard earned property when rates start to skyrocket and charges are split for rubbish collection/water in/waterwater out/ extra roading.....make way for the spin doctors and speculators disguised as your friend.........and guess who is going to reap the rewards and get the huge tax breaks ..NOT YOU..
Ask yourself, by putting another million people into Wellington and surrounding areas.........
IS IT REALLY GOING TO IMPROVE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE ...AND WILL YOU BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO LIVE THERE...

Wellington has always been unique and HAS always been the envy of the Auckland Establishment, Parliament is in Wellington not Auckland.

North Shore..