Wellington Scoop

A little capital with big ambitions … opportunity to make a difference

by Celia Wade-Brown
Wellington is a little capital with big ambitions. I want to talk about Wellington’s past, present and future.

We inherit a precious heritage – cultural, built and natural. Our economy and transport systems need improvement and Wellington’s not affordable for everyone. We have the opportunity to make a difference.

Our Cultural Heritage is unique. We are Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, the Head of the Fish, the Smart Capital. This is the only capital in the world where te reo Māori is an official language. Arohatia te reo!

Wellington City was settled by Māori hundreds of years ago. We treasure this harbour city’s history. The names Kupe and Tara, Ngake and Whataitai, Waimapihi and Kumutoto, Te Aro and Pipitea resonate today.

Last triennium saw the opening of Te Wharewaka Te Raukura, and the arrival of two new waka. Our commitment to partnership has resulted in the beautiful Orua-iti Reserve near Seatoun and the opening of Ngā Iwi o te Motu Urupā at Mākara Cemetery, as well as co-management of open spaces including Te Ahumairangi and Taputeranga Island. We will continue to work with Māori to raise awareness and participation in this unique culture, partner in managing the city’s natural resources and maximise the long-term economic opportunities treaty settlements bring.

The Wellington Town Board was established in 1840 and we became the capital in 1865, with a population of about five thousand. Now we are over two hundred thousand and have a far more vibrant cultural life than the size of our population would indicate – because we are the capital, because of our isolation from bigger cities and because of the cosmopolitan creative nature of our inhabitants. I acknowledge the important role of over forty diplomatic missions and the intellectual contribution the civil service provides in the capital.

In the 19th Century, British, Indians and Chinese settled in Wellington. Now we have over eighty different ethnicities and diverse cultural festivities from Pacifika to Diwali to Ethiopian New Year, Wellington Batacuda to the City of Wellington Pipe Band. Next year’s New Zealand Festival will be an absolute stand-out series of performances.
Our Natural Heritage is magnificent.

Streets drawn up in London took little notice of our topography but early urban planning resulted in the encircling Town Belt. This year we have reinvigorated its protection and drafted supportive legislation. This month saw the launch of the Biophilic Cities Peer Network, where Wellington connected with other cities, including San Francisco and Singapore, where urban nature is abundant and appreciated. We look forward to realising the promise of Our Capital Spaces and Our Living City. As more and more people live in cities worldwide, daily connection with nature underpins healthy lives.

We have recommitted to take action on Climate Change with our 2013 Plan. We will both reduce emissions and adapt to inevitable sea level rise and storm events. Today, with Genesisi, I launched the Schoolgen solar panel partnership application programme.
Our Built Heritage needs action.

Since the District Plan was notified in 1994, no listed heritage buildings have been demolished. Increased earthquake strengthening requirements and economic challenges mean we need innovative engineering, targeted rates and public good funding for some buildings to have a future as well as a past.

New commercial buildings are predominantly green star rated but the urban design elements of green walls, green roofs, permeable paving and solar panels are still too rare.

Our social housing improvements have deservedly won awards but too many people still ive in damp, cold and crowded conditions. Affordable warm dry housing to rent or buy is a priority for most elected members and we will initiate urban regeneration and increase standards for rental properties.

Our walkability is already the best in Australasia but laneways need more focus. Improved public transport and cycling infrastructure will balance State Highway investment and give Wellingtonians real choices.

Wellington’s economy needs some catalyst projects.

Wellington has some innovative brilliant businesses but the commercial rating base has remained at the same value since 2008. Council can create conditions for employment to flourish.

Our world-class status relies on several things – our liveability, our endemic biodiversity, our transparent public service and also our creative and film industry.
The Hobbit Premiere was a highlight of our last three years, with accompanying artisan market and hi-tech companies showcase. Now we must see Wellington television programme projects join feature films and digital graphics with export potential and local creative employment. In the next three years we will collaborate with the local film industry leaders to attract global notice, attracting visitors, students and expanding job growth.

This term we’ll work more closely with Wellington’s excellent tertiary institutions to increase accommodation, attract students and promote research capability including the essential work of disaster resilience.

We will welcome new businesses and new migrants; reduce unnecessary barriers to existing business growth and support pathways for youth into apprenticeships, training and employment.

Today’s positive comments from the Prime Minister about Wellington’s high-growth companies and his willingness for Central Government to work with the Council were welcome and he acknowledged our constructive relationship at the Chamber’s lunch event.
Regional governance change may lie ahead.

This could be the last Council inauguration in exactly this form. Changes to local government will only happen if the public supports them. Over past years, Wellington has grown to include the boroughs of Melrose, Onslow, Karori, Miramar, Johnsonville and Tawa. We will not be paralysed by proposed changes. Structural questions are important but must add urgency to our agenda, not delay action. We will continue to work constructively with our neighbours. We have successfully made the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office and the Regional Amenities Fund work in the last three years.

Farewell and thank you to previous Councillors Best, Cook, McKinnon, Morrison and Pepperell and I wish you all well in your next roles. Our deepest sympathies are with Leonie Gill and her family at this time.

Welcome back to Councillors Ahipene-Mercer, Coughlan, Eagle, Foster, Lester, Marsh, Pannett and Ritchie. Welcome to new Councillors Free, Lee, Peck, Sparrow, Woolf and Young. All will have a role as Chair, Portfolio Leader or as representatives on our Council organisations as well as their ward roles to connect with Wellington’s diverse communities of interest.

Together we stand for good economic growth, reinvigorated arts and multimodal transport. We want a compact affordable city where our built and natural heritage is enhanced with new efficient and beautiful buildings. Our Council structure – your Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Committee Chairs and all Councillors, together with our Chief Executive, staff and contractors – will work to do our best for Wellington. We are accountable to the people of Wellington. Together, this team will build confidence in your Council and confidence in the Capital’s future.

An edited version of Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s inauguration speech delivered last night in the Michael Fowler Centre.

YouTube: The inauguration ceremony