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Cyclone Gabrielle continues to impact the Hawke’s Bay and the effects will be long-lasting.
Critical infrastructure repairs are a top priority, but the damage wrought by the cyclone is not just physical – the mental health and wellbeing of business owners, employees and the broader community cannot be understated.
The Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central (the Chamber) is a business membership association, representing over 3,600 organisations throughout Central New Zealand (Gisborne to Taranaki and down to Nelson). We have represented business in the Wellington Region for over 165 years and work with a range of organisations to help them network, share ideas and experiences, learn and develop, and represent their interests to local and national government. Our service offerings include employment relations support and help with export and growth opportunities.
The Chamber works closely with the Wellington City Council (WCC) to ensure Wellington’s business community is consulted on the changes that impact them and a connection is provided between the Council and business. The Chamber welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on Let’s Get Wellington Moving: Golden Mile Traffic Resolutions.
As we understand them, the current proposals for the Golden Mile will:
The Chamber is concerned that individually, and collectively, these proposals do not work for Wellington and risk significant economic harm if implemented as currently envisaged. We are also concerned that the proposals present various health and safety risks (i.e. the removal of loading zones could force service and delivery vehicles to park on the pavements and cycleways). Furthermore, the resultant loss of parking revenue will have a substantial impact on Council income and the traffic measures proposed risk significant additional congestion.
The Chamber is supportive of the submissions made by our fellow trade associations – Property Council New Zealand (Wellington Branch), Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ. These submissions clearly outline the practical concerns of businesses in the city that will be directly impacted by the proposals for the Golden Mile as currently envisaged.
Wellington is crying out for significant infrastructure investment, of the kind envisaged by the wider LGWM transformative programme, but for too long progress has stalled. The transformative programme would see mass rapid transport and encourage urban density within Wellington city. In comparison, the Golden Mile project tinkers around the edges, seeking to remove private vehicle access, causing the likely flow-on effect of adding congestion to other parts of the city, and reducing access to the Golden Mile, well before a mass rapid transit system is introduced.
In addition, the Chamber is concerned about the lack of information being made available to Councillors, and the public, as they are being asked to make decisions that will have long-term and far-reaching implications for the future of our city.
Given the continued pressure on the Council’s finances and successive increases in annual rates, we are particularly concerned that there is a lack of transparency around the costs of LGWM projects and the proportion that WCC will be expected to contribute. For example, it’s recently been reported that WCC will fund 49% of the Golden Mile project – not the 20% that Councillors originally voted for.
Furthermore, while the proportion WCC is responsible for has risen dramatically, no updated costings for the project have been made public. The Chamber is therefore extremely concerned that plans are being progressed when there is no clear view of how much, and over what time horizon, Wellington rate-payers will be expected to cough up. In light of the Council’s debt position, this is particularly problematic against the current economic backdrop where there is great uncertainty around the cost of borrowing.
Finally, we would like to note our frustration that, despite regular engagement with the LGWM team throughout the consultation process, we have experienced significant delays, and even failure, to provide basic information that would have helped to inform our consultation response and engagement with members. For example, at the outset of the consultation process the LGWM team committed to share a series of case studies that would help to explain the impact on businesses located at key points along the Golden Mile. This information would have aided understanding of the proposals and demonstrated that the LGWM team had thought through the impact on business. However, despite repeatedly promising to share these examples, no such information has been published.
In light of these concerns, the Chamber therefore urges LGWM to:
The Chamber is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this consultation process. Thank you for taking the time to review this response – we would be delighted to discuss our concerns and recommendations in more detail.