Wellington Scoop

In it together – rethinking the city’s economy

by Diane Calvert
When discussing the city’s economic future with a local iwi business leader, his phrase “he waka eke noa” (we are in this waka together) struck a chord with me. This collegial approach amongst our many business and social leaders existed pre-Covid-19 and it’s our city’s key weapon in coming out the other side of Covid-19, even stronger.

The foundations are already in Wellington – a world-renowned vibrant liveable city, great talent, film and digital tech industries, educational, research and science institutes, the seat of Government and a strong creative culture woven throughout the Capital.

One impact of Covid-19 has been more people working from home. That has its benefits, but what is it doing to the vibrancy and economy of our CBD (the engine room of the region)? Do we sit back and let the CBD crumble away and not intervene?

There is a famous Peter Drucker quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast” meaning the culture of a company always determines success, regardless of how effective their strategy may be. Will the effects of more people working from home slowly erode the culture gains that many organisations have developed and will need to sustain if they are going to continue to grow and innovate?

So in that context, what should we do in Wellington? First up we need to understand how changing work patterns affect the economic viability of the central city.

One early intervention would be pausing the road changes to the Golden Mile. This would give retailers and hospitality a breathing space to focus on getting through the next year uninterrupted by Council’s pre Covid-19 planned roadworks. We can also work with others to find innovative ways to attract people back into the central city for longer periods – such as free weekend public transport along the Golden Mile, cost-effective long-term weekend parking, and supporting more events on our wonderful waterfront with the likes of the Van Gogh Digital nights, night markets and Matariki festival that are accessible to everyone.

For the longer term, the city’s economic strategies are well overdue for a rethink.

Over the past six months I have been working closely with leaders across our business sectors getting a better understanding of their pain points, especially with the Council. I know we have to find better ways of engaging and demonstrating we really are open for business. Investing in reliable infrastructure and offering a choice of housing forms will be important parts of any strategy to ensure we continue to attract great talent.

As we come through the initial emergency response, the Council will soon be bringing together some of our key business leaders for a Hui on the city’s economic future. Already common themes for the city’s future are emerging – focus on core economic strengths such as technology and research, ramp up the creativity, create meaningful partnerships, provide decisive focused city leadership, and think more regionally and internationally.

“He waka eke noa” We are in this waka together.

Diane Calvert is a Wellington City Councillor and holds the Council’s Economic Development portfoli


  1. Conor, 1. September 2020, 15:45

    The worst thing about the CBD is all the cars. But agree that having far more options for housing, say Parisienne style apartments in Khandallah, is well overdue.

  2. Local, 1. September 2020, 17:46

    One of the worst things about Wellington (and the economic portfolio) is WREDA and its various names and sub-entities. Diane are you going to let us know how many millions are wasted there, and what exactly they now do without international tourists.

    By the way I see you want to demolish the Library and have no Central Library for years, while somebody builds a new one. Surely retaining and fixing the existing Library should be your first priority when considering the economic driver that it used to be. It’s your job to provide this essential infrastructure, not hold endless Hui/summits.

  3. TrevorH, 1. September 2020, 19:08

    Dear Diane, the best thing the Council can do is to get out of the way. Another hui/ summit? Another waste of public money. Get back to fixing the footpaths and keeping the city clean.

  4. Northland, 1. September 2020, 20:14

    We don’t need talk, we need action. E.g. action on the Central Library, action on bus lanes, action on cycle lanes. Reducing pollution and making the city more foot friendly will help entice people back in.

    The Council should not be pursuing or spending money on airy fairy ideals such as ‘ramp up creativity’ – this is something that can only come from people who are enabled to live and work in a city that they *love* living and working in. So concentrate on the nuts and bolts – transport, housing and utilities. Please.

  5. Wendy, 1. September 2020, 21:36

    Diane. Your focus may be on the economic future of the city but please do not ignore one of the major stakeholders.
    The inner-city is now the biggest residential ‘suburb’ in Wellington and has its own special needs and considerations, which are not being acknowledged to any degree. This is concerning when you consider that the Wellington Central population is supposedly increasing by 153.8%, and Te Aro 90.1%.

  6. Hel, 1. September 2020, 22:48

    Diane, the best thing the Council can do for the economy is to get its act together, Put aside petty differences and work together for Wellingtonians. The biggest complaints I hear about the Council is how dysfunctional it appears to be, the city needs leadership and confidence. You don’t need a strategy – you need to get your house in order, that’s what businesses want!

  7. bsmith, 2. September 2020, 6:27

    @ Northland, are you seriously suggesting in these trying times that making the city more foot/cycle friendly will entice more people back to the inner city ? Do you honestly believe that foot traffic will improve, from say Porirua or the Hutt suburbs, because people will walk/public transport or pedal to Wellington ?

  8. D'Esterre, 2. September 2020, 15:13

    Conor: “Parisian style apartments in Khandallah.” Having been to Paris, I’m wondering what you mean by this. It is, to be sure, some years since we were there, and it was only the city centre that we frequented, but that part of Paris is generally low- to mid-rise: about 4 floors max for the most part. The inner districts of Vienna are broadly similar. If that’s what you have in mind, most of us wouldn’t object.

    However. My impression is that the Council’s intentions are rather different in respect of max height: it would allow 6-8 floors, and under the terms of the NPS, it could not require the provision of parking. At the Ngaio drop-in, a planner said that the Council couldn’t require developers to provide elevators in multi-storey buildings. Unlike in Auckland, I must point out.

    So it’s not clear who could live in these buildings, if they don’t have either parking or elevators. Not tradespeople and technicians. Nor pretty much any self-employed people who need to have a vehicle in order to provide their service. Not the elderly, either. Nor young families: ever tried to get the groceries, a fractious toddler or baby – and a buggy – up even one flight of stairs? Good luck with that.

    I’d add that – in contrast to both Vienna and Paris – Wellington is vertiginous. From what I’ve seen, Council officers have given no thought at all to that fact.

  9. Groggy, 2. September 2020, 15:57

    “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Is that why the WCC is consistently so woeful in delivering on strategy? They certainly have an awful culture, factionalism at the council table and council officers seeming to have (or believing they have) all the decision making power.

  10. Conor, 2. September 2020, 22:07

    Bonjour D’Esterre – in short, 6 storeys. That’s standard in Paris outside the Marais. Paris is 10 times as dense as Wellington.

    Outside of Johnsonville, the CBD and Tawa, almost none (less than 10%) of Wellington is proposed to be zoned even 4 storeys though. There is a lot of misinformation flying around about this. The requirement for elevators is governed by central not local government. It is therefore out of the council’s hands. It is for all buildings of 4 storeys or more.

  11. Northland, 2. September 2020, 23:15

    @bsmith Yes I would like to see a more cycle and foot friendly city. It would make Wellington a safer, cleaner and greener place to live and work.

    To be honest, I didn’t think this was anything controversial. What would you have? More people driving in to choke up the motorway and park on Lambton Quay?

    My main intent on commenting was to urge Diane to concentrate on the core utility and amenity of the city – what makes Wellington a great place to live.

  12. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 3. September 2020, 19:54

    Three things underpin successful cities: clean water, efficient sanitation and sewerage, and good roads including connections to other towns or cities. Wellington is failing on all three counts. And the Council bears a huge share of the blame.

  13. D'Esterre, 5. September 2020, 17:08

    Conor: “…Outside of Johnsonville, the CBD and Tawa, almost none (less than 10%) of Wellington is proposed to be zoned even 4 storeys though.” Oh Mon Dieu! It appears that you haven’t looked at the maps for the suburban areas. We have. Across the suburbs around the Wellington CBD, where the WCC has designated areas around transport routes for higher-density housing, we estimate between 40-47% has been earmarked for buildings 3 levels and above. We know with certainty – because we’ve watched helplessly as it’s happened -that the higher levels will become the default height. Areas of type 2, for example, will all be 3-storey. Type 3 will all be 4-storey. And so on. Anything designated as “at least”: who knows how high they’ll be?

    The WCC has Form for this sort of – er – flexibility. Some years ago, a townhouse development in Khandallah exceeded the height limits allowed in the district plan and site coverage allowed in the resource consent. Yet the WCC allowed the construction to go ahead. It seriously got up the noses of the locals, such that when in 2015, WCC attempted to foist higher-density housing on this suburb, the reaction was almost uniformly negative. We don’t trust the Council.

    I’d add that, from where we are in Khandallah, our view of Mt Kaukau and the ridge line back towards Crofton Downs would vanish. We’d be staring at “at least” 6-storey buildings around Khandallah railway station and toward the Village. No doubt higher…

    Our street is slated for type 2; the road at the end of our street will be type 3. Et cetera… You may be champing at the bit for this to get started. We are not. And we haven’t even begun to consider the sheer lack of infrastructure capacity. This entire concept has all the hallmarks of a boondoggle.

  14. Kerry, 16. September 2020, 9:01

    Alf. Three waters yes, roads yes, but you have missed three more: walking, cycling and public transport. Short of wiping out the CBD, Wellington doesn’t have enough space for more cars. The solution has to be using existing roads more effectively, and Auckland is already planning this approach. Some impressive proposals have been made in studies for LGWM, especially by MRCagney.

    The secret is capacity. A 3 metre footpath can carry about 8 times more people than a three metre car lane. Equivalent figures for other modes are about 6 times using buses, 8 times using bicycles and 15 times using light rail.

    Other benefits of reducing car use include fewer deaths and injuries, less pollution (more deaths) and much better responses to the imminent climate emergency.

    Bus Rapid Transport also has high capacity but doesn’t work in central Wellington, because it needs extra width at stops. BRT in Manners St would need the street width doubled.


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