Supporting our Creative Economy

As Bill Clinton said, “It’s the Economy Stupid!”

There has been very little said during this election campaign about our economy, but without a thriving economy, and increasing productivity, we cannot afford all the other things we want.

My vision is for Wellington to be the best city in the world to live in. A city of opportunity and choice – of where you live, how you get around, recreation, work, and education. A creative city of businesses, arts and culture. An engaged city where Council and community work hand in hand to co-create the future we want.

A city that celebrates its past, is confident in its present, and excited about its future.

The economy does not exist in isolation. I led the newly adopted  Economic Wellbeing Strategy – everything is connected, our economy is an ecosystem. Wellington has a great strength of community including in business, and a lot of love for our amazing city.

Our future is digital, creative and knowledge based – establishing, growing, keeping and attracting businesses relies on that ecosystem. Quality retail, hospitality, entertainment, amenity, availability of skilled staff, housing, infrastructure and more are all important parts.

Let’s start with the directly economic, and then some related wellbeing.

Our Central city is the best in the country. Covid has been massively disruptive globally to central cities, but we are coming back strongly. Working from home is a key issue, and we have to ‘earn the return’ – so people choose to work more often in our Central City, be with other people and all the creativity that creates. Our Central City contributes some 6.5% of national GDP in just 2 square kilometres. Summer will also help bring more, much wanted, tourists back.

A strong Central City residential population is vitally important. Years ago I helped lead the mixed use approach. Not requiring carparking for new residential buildings made so many conversions and developments viable. I continue to advocate for better insurance arrangements and sensible seismic regulations that building owners can rely on.

Central City densification it is integrated into our transport planning, being supported by higher capacity and better wastewater and water services (below) and for the first time ever I’ve included comprehensive funding ($38 million) over the next 30 years for acquisition and development of multiple inner city parks.

I am working on greater use of lighting, virtual reality and screens to enliven city spaces, entertain us, and tell stories as we have tried out on Te Papa during Matariki and the St James during recent ballet season Cinderella. It’s all about making the heart of our city a fantastic place to be.

I’ve backed business with two pandemic packages in 2020 and 2022, including rates deferral, reduced parking charges for several months, eliminated licensing and footpath fees – I’ve received a lot of appreciation for that. We pitched a well thought through proposal to Government to support businesses, especially affected by the Parliamentary protests. This was a $5 million voucher scheme subsidising visits to small and medium retail and hospo, to draw people back to the city as we came out of Covid Red, but after initial enthusiasm disappointingly they declined.

I’ve also backed events, arts and culture really strongly. A co-created Arts, Culture and Creative Strategy – Aho Tini has been approved, integrating with the Economic Wellbeing Strategy.

Takina will open mid next year and we’ve done a deal with Te Papa to run it. There are already 80 multi day conferences booked, and I expect to announce the first exhibitions soon. Takina will drive further investment in our city, including accommodation. The Town Hall is progressing well.

The first phase of Central Library contracts are being let, and a new building on the MFC carpark will house the National School of Music. What a statement for the Arts and Culture Capital! We’re re-opening the Hannah Playhouse, supporting Circa’s redevelopment, and have facilitated the long desired 500 plus seat rehearsal and performance venue at Te Whaea.

I protected the events budget when some councillors wanted to divert it, and we have a fantastic events programme coming up over the next twelve months including: FIFA Women’s World Cup, return of the Phoenix, Hurricanes, Pulse, Saints, Firebirds, Gardens Magic, Matariki, WOW, a fabulous summer of Stadium concerts, Cuba Dupa, Newtown Festival, Homegrown, Diwali, Pasifika, Waitangi Day and so much more! I am particularly excited by the new Lumio Festival (formerly Lantern Festival) where I’ve supported our diverse Embassies to get involved to bring a special international flavour.

I’ve also helped support the establishment of our own Wellington Opera and Capital Theatre Trust who produced Les Miserables. Activity brings economic vitality.

Economic Wellbeing Strategy

My new Economic Wellbeing Strategy includes over 70 actions.

The initial focus is on reducing red tape, on making more of being the capital and improving pathways from education into employment, where there has been considerable disconnect.

There are staff shortages across many sectors – tech, hospo, bus drivers, medical come immediately to mind. One initiative to help address this is bringing together tertiary providers, rangitahi and employers, and enhancing internship programmes to help young people gain experience, earn money and open doors post study. Opening borders will help too!

We are looking at Capital City opportunities, linking together and opening up national institutions. We are the keeper of the nation’s treasures. We’re working on a proposal to Government modelled on our sister city Canberra which draws over 50% of all Australian school pupils, which surely links with teaching New Zealand history and Civics.

There are opportunities to support emerging businesses – creating a collaborative innovation hub and working with angel investors.

There are opportunities to Work with business, research entities and universities on developing creative centres of excellence (e.g.) in film, biotech

I want to promote authentic Wellington craft, food and beverage artisans and markets. This is often the way small homegrown businesses start and grow.

I also want to reduce some of the barriers to coming into the City. We need more people walking, biking and using public transport but we also need transport choice.

I want to see cheaper evening and weekend parking supported by smarter technology so you know where spaces are available, and this includes pursuing off street parking options to offset parking losses caused by transport and urban development projects.

We will continue to work with our Poneke Promise partners to ensure our Central City looks, feels and is safe. When I’m (regularly) in Courtenay Place in the evening it’s got a good happy vibe. The Poneke Promise partnership with Police, Hospitality, City Mission, DCM, Business, and more recently VUW and MSD was established in the wake of changes that occurred during lockdown one. It’s making a difference, better supporting people who need help, improving lighting, CCTV, urban and community spaces. We are also remodelling Te Aro Park, working with mana whenua. I see great potential in the Oaks site and in using the Opera House more creatively to enliven this space.

Doing the Basics

We have to do the basics. I’ve responded at speed to abrupt pipe failures which started almost as soon as I was elected. It is clear now that though our pipes are older on average than most, there was also an abrupt increase following the Kaikoura earthquake in water use which had previously been consistently reducing. We got immediate repairs done to several major breaks, and I required a plan for central city wastewater. You can see that plan now being delivered with a new $24 million pump station and pipe to run up Taranaki Street now under construction, following a similar major pipe completed last year up Bowen and Whitmore Streets. We will have a resilient CBD wastewater network completed over the next three years. My Council also agreed and has built our city’s biggest ever reservoir, Omaroro, which will be operational in November providing a seismically resilient water supply to our CBD and low lying suburbs. My We are now investing $2.7 billion over 10 years in 3 waters infrastructure where under the previous Council it was $1.85 billion.

We are about to undergo transformational transport change, In doing this it is important we take our community with us better and that will be a central focus for me. Next year changes to the Golden Mile will begin, likewise Hutt Road – Thorndon Quay. We’ll get into the detailed planning for mass transit, tunnel and Basin. Design details matter, and there has been a lot of hugely valuable feedback on this, and some real angst notably from business. Delivery is also critical, and I have insisted that business has a seat at the table to ensure disruption is minimised, timeframes are clearly signalled and met, and businesses are supported through change.

Rates is always a key issue raised by business, but it was the Chamber which encouraged lifting rates in the early part of the triennium. The investment needed in core infrastructure is very substantial, and our community has clearly and repeatedly said it needs to be done, and it is. Unlike other Mayoral candidates I am also clear about where we can consider at least some savings.

When the Economic Wellbeing Strategy was developed, the cost and quality of housing was a key economic issue. Of course the housing market has changed dramatically over the last few months, but the issue remains. Our new District Plan provides for at least double the capacity predicted to be needed over the next thirty years. I pitched an active housing delivery entity to the Ministers of Housing and Transport to deliver / facilitate delivery of housing and communities along the mass transit corridor, and they agreed, so we are working on setting this up with Kainga Ora. Integrating and concentrating transport, housing and urban development, and infrastructure along that corridor, from the CBD to the South – now that’s a plan! I’ve also got Government and Council agreement to establishing a community housing provider trust to fix our broken social housing unit, and make building more social housing financially viable. Both of these are things the previous Council leadership did not want to progress.

The other ‘basic’ is Council’s contribution to a liveable city. We are a city people fall in love with. The compact concentration of arts, culture, events, entertainment, food, our diverse, inclusive, supportive community,  the diversity of our recreational opportunities, our access to nature, and being the world leader in environmental restoration. These and more are all things I want to continue to build on.

We are an amazing, globally ranked city. During my term as Mayor, Wellington:

  • Has been rated number one city in the world for Environmentby The Economist
  • Is the only city in Australasia, and one of just 17 in the world recognised as a ‘City of the Future’ by US Tech Giant Cognizant who focused on our quality of life, arts, culture and food, creative industries including film, natural environment
  • Is the only Australasian winnerof the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayoral Challenge – one of 15 cities globally from 630 entries awarded $1 million US each for our ongoing work on our Digital Twin City, which will be a powerful way of all Wellingtonians being able to interact with plans for our city.

We’ve been through the mill but we are coming out strong and we have a great future ahead.