7 May 2013

PM back-pedals on 'dying Wellington' comment

5:51 pm on 7 May 2013

The Prime Minister has back-pedalled on comments he made about Wellington being a "dying city".

John Key made the claim at a business conference in Takapuna last week, saying that the capital in the lower North Island is dying because too many corporate offices have moved north to Auckland.

Mr Key had said that Wellington's only business headquarters are Weta Workshop, Victoria University, and the public service.

On Tuesday, he admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully and now says Wellington is under sustained pressure.

"It's gotta be seen in the context of what I was talking about - which was big, corporate head offices, private sector head offices.

"Actually Wellington's an extremely vibrant place, there's lots of things happening here, lots of activity. I'm not suggesting that in the slightest. I should've chosen my words better and said there's sustained pressure."

Mr Key said he unreservedly apologises for any offence to Wellingtonians.

Labour leader David Shearer says the Prime Minister's comments about Wellington are negative and a poor reflection of reality.

Mr Shearer says the capital is a casualty of poor economic conditions nationally and should not be singled out.

"Wellington's not necessarily all that atypical. What we need to be seeing is the provinces growing and creating jobs. Instead of that, we're seeing a lot of flow to Auckland, and particularly to Australia, rather than the growth that we need to see in the provinces."

Mr Shearer says Wellington is a vibrant city with a strong art and cafe culture.

Capital must offer own brand - retailers

The Retailers Association rejects suggestions Wellington needs make itself more attractive to corporate offices to help it grow.

Chief executive John Albertson says Auckland has a brand as a corporate centre, and Wellington needs to reinforce its own identity.

"We don't want to have a mini Auckland sitting down here at the lower end of the North Island. What we want is something different, we want to offer choice. That's what competitive branding is all about."

Porirua mayor favours super-city

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett says competition between Wellington councils is hurting the economy and amalgamating them into a super-city would give the region greater lobbying power with the Government.

A consultation paper by the Wellington City Council, Wellington Regional Council, Kapiti Coast District Council and Porirua City Council suggests the region either become a super-city like Auckland, or adopt a two-tiered system with a large council and local boards.

Mr Leggett says the councils too often get bogged down in debate and important infrastructure projects don't get underway.

He believes amalgamating the councils would give the region greater lobbying power with the government.

Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson agrees that a Wellington super-council would help.