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The Wellington Report

The Wellington Report represents the views of over 50 of Wellington’s leading businesses and their leaders. 

It offers a pragmatic and constructive policy platform – drawing directly on the experience of businesses, and outlining the priorities they need to make a thriving Wellington. 

When business does well, Wellington does well. This is a contribution to a better Wellington.

Issue date

Our Recommendations

Recommendation 1 The first 100 days of the Council term should prioritise key infrastructure investment, with restraint shown toward new projects until existing challenges in water, transport and waste management are being remediated. The overwhelming ask of business was investment in getting the basics right. The first 100 days of the next term should be focused on mapping and addressing Wellington’s critical wounds. Once identified, the funding mandate of the Council going forward should be orientated towards prioritisation of these projects above all others. Council spending should be reviewed to ensure delivery of this core infrastructure.


Recommendation 2 From the next rating review forward, Council should signal rates rises which are sustainable for businesses to offer them certainty around cost pressures. There was a resounding understanding from business that the much-needed improvements articulated above will be costly and time intensive. We heard from the business community that they are ready to invest, but they want to see a clear plan from Council with regards to rates rises to give business certainty. Currently business feels the rating increases are out of step with actual Council delivery, while other pressures, such as insurance increases, push up the cost of doing business and function as effective rates increases themselves.


Recommendation 3 Within the next term, Council should move to divest responsibility for transport infrastructure and operations from GWRC to a separate entity, whose mandate is to prioritise the reliability of transport. The existing public transport network is failing to deliver for Wellingtonians. We heard from business that an unreliable public transport network is already contributing to labour challenges. The reduction in CBD parking without a viable alternative to make it into the city has made transport even less reliable. Here, once again, hard choices are required — and reliability should be prioritised. People need to know they can get to work on time, and we should be willing to sacrifice cheap public transport to deliver reliable buses and trains. The transport network is an asset that is being poorly managed with no entity being held to account. It needs to divest this responsibility to an organisation that has tunnel vision for better and more reliable transport outcomes. Auckland Transport is a local example of this done well — and has driven a large uptake in public transport. Let’s Get Wellington Moving, a source of enduring concern for business, is only one part of a tangled dysfunctional strategy that will benefit from the accountability of a single body.


Recommendation 4 Within its first 100 days, Council should outline a plan to prioritise and incentivise rapid CBD densification, in partnership with Central Government and industry. This should include rates rebates, targeted rates on underutilised properties, joint Government funding and the use of innovative funding mechanisms. As rents within Wellington soar to the highest in the country, Council has said much and done little to incentivise denser development in the CBD. Dense developments should be centred around liveable precincts, so people can live where they work. This also draws more people into the city and is good for business. Densification is the foundation of sustainable and affordable cities. What we heard from business was that Council needs to spend less time consulting on heritage zoning, and more time asking developers, “what do you need from us to make this happen?”


Recommendation 5Within its first 100 days, Council should work with business to create a precinct plan for the city — linking the stadium, Lambton Quay, waterfront, and Courtenay Entertainment Precinct. Businesses told us that they want to see a city connected with the clear precincts that we see in world-class Capitals. We have the opportunity to build upon the Laneway Project which enabled iconic Wellington businesses such as Fix and Fog, Wellington Chocolate Factory and Golding’s to make their mark on our city. Businesses say a precinct plan is a step in the right direction and can prevent isolated islands within the city as we see with Wellington Stadium, which lacks the businesses around it to capitalise on its role in the city.


Recommendation 6Council should position Wellington as the national home of Māori and Pasifika business success and cultural celebration through a commitment to hosting events, showcasing performances, and partnering with Māori and Pasifika business groups. Businesses told us that they want New Zealand’s capital city to showcase the best of our diverse nation. Creating a home that showcases the success of Māori and Pasifika business success is core to achieving this vision. We have the opportunity with our waterfront, Te Papa, Te Wharewaka and the upcoming Fale Malae to create a showcase of Aotearoa New Zealand and the many successes that sit in our communities nationwide.


Recommendation 7Council should transition towards the phased amalgamation of public services and Wellington, Porirua, and Hutt Councils over time. Businesses were clear that the time is fast approaching for the amalgamation conversation to restart in our region, especially for the metros of Wellington City, Porirua, Hutt City and Upper Hutt. This process has already begun in many areas behind the scenes and echoes our recommendation for one transport entity across the region. We believe this work needs to pick up pace with the end goal of being one united Wellington Council.


Recommendation 8Council should clarify WellingtonNZ’s mandate by introducing KPIs based on economic growth and business success. Business leaders told us that the role of WellingtonNZ is not as clear as it could be. Its mandate and structure are also perceived to be complex and cumbersome. If our city is going to thrive, it needs an economic development agency that is fit for purpose, has strong ties with the region’s businesses and works in step with others.


Recommendation 9Council should establish a dedicated business representative that acts as the link between Council and business with the position funded directly out of commercial rates. To ensure independence and accountability, the business representative should be appointed by a wider business advisory council, comprised of leading members of the Wellington business community. Business is prepared to pay higher rates if it can see a clear return on investment. We heard that other cities, such as Dublin, have been able to provide this through a funded position for a business liaison manager or similar. They act as the voice for business internally and be a lightning rod for good ideas from the business community. To support such a liaison, Council should establish a business advisory council to offer further input, and ensure the representative remains accountable to the business community.


Recommendation 10Council should report quarterly on the additional value received by business from the higher rates differential. Business leaders are concerned that they do not know what their rates are being spent on that directly benefits them as businesses. Outside of core Council services such as water, waste, roads, parks and recreation, business leaders would like to see what their return on investment is from their higher rates to give them more confidence in their city’s leadership. It is often claimed that businesses are charged higher rates because they use more Council services. A quarterly report on the additional value received by businesses would help show operators what they are paying for and why.


Recommendation 11Council and Central Government should urgently address rampant homelessness and antisocial behaviour in Central Wellington. This should include an increased police presence in the central city, improved protections for CBD businesses and employees, and efforts to find appropriate, long-term accommodation for rough sleepers. Businesses want young people to be safe while enjoying the arts and entertainment. In light of increased crime and violence in the CBD, businesses felt that Central Government has a role to play in ensuring the area encompassing Courtenay Place, Cuba Street and the Michael Fowler Centre is a safe and attractive one. The reputation of Wellington having an unsafe nightlife culture is one that drives away talent and adds to the daily struggle of running a business.


Recommendation 12Council should provide incentives to develop derelict sites and underutilised properties in the CBD. Businesses spoke about the impact of the derelict buildings throughout the CBD and the missed opportunities for development such as Molly Malones. To bring vibrancy into the city these derelict buildings need to be redeveloped — whether it be for accommodation, entertainment, or retail. Council needs to partner with those invested in the rebuilds of some of our major sites through a pragmatic and timely consenting process and targeted incentives.


Recommendation 13Council, in partnership with WellingtonNZ, should engage in a targeted campaign showcasing the wide range of careers that can be started and fostered in Wellington. Businesses expressed concern about the traditional definition of talent and that their industries were being left behind. Industries that are categorised as ‘less skilled’ are not promoted to the same extent as university and graduate jobs. Failure to promote these industries fails to recognise that not every person wants to pursue a professional career and the opportunities that exist to be successful in other industries. The concern for employing young talent exists for both skilled and less skilled industries.


Recommendation 14The Council should produce an independent “State of Business” report annually. This report should outline its progress against these recommendations and the city’s business growth. Those who contributed to this report would welcome the opportunity to meet with Council within a year of publication to follow up on our recommendations. As a significant stakeholder and Council funder, the business community stand ready to hold the incoming Council to account and to help it succeed on behalf of all Wellingtonians. Looking forward, the Council should improve accountability to its business ratepayers, producing an annual report into business in the city, its performance against these recommendations, and examining the barriers to the city’s business growth. To maximise accountability, such a report should be conducted independently.


Wellington Chamber of Commerce
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