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Three into one

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One day after praising his “stellar lineup” of WREDA board members, chairman Peter Biggs talked about choosing an inaugural chief executive – but not necessarily one of the three from the organisations which are to be merged into the new super body.

WREDA, for those who haven’t been paying attention, stands for the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency. (Its history is below).

Peter Biggs was effusive about its eight board members when he announced them on Monday – he said they’re not only stellar but also powerful, inspired, healthy, diverse … even talented.

However in Tuesday’s DomPost, he used only one adjective to describe the chief executives of the three organisations that are being replaced by the new entity that he’s driving. “Terrific,” he said.

He hoped they would all apply for the new job. But … “we are going to look more widely because we want to be sure that we’ve got the best people we can get for that role.” The new position will be advertised, and Mr Biggs says it may take till April or longer “to land the right person…”

“That talent [for the new chief executive] will be in an existing job I’m sure … and then there will be notice periods to negotiate.”

The three terrific chief executives whose organisations are being merged into one are Gerard Quinn of Grow Wellington, David Perks of Wellington Tourism, and Glenys Coughlan of Wellington Venues.

Change was first announced in December when the city council decided to merge its tourism and venues organisations. It said the merger would save $500,000, which included board fees of $180,000. But the merger and the savings never happened. Instead within six months the new WREDA was announced, adding Grow Wellington to the mix.

The mega-organisation emerged in June when city councillors voted for it, and the council then announced

WREDA would bring together Positively Wellington Tourism, Wellington City Council Major Events, Destination Wellington, Positively Wellington Venues and Grow Wellington (from the Greater Wellington Regional Council) to form a single organisation tasked with growing the region’s economy….Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says that the formation of WREDA provides a cleaner, clearer system that will make a big difference in promoting the Wellington region.

After the regional council agreed, the two councils said in July, that the merged organisation would

combine the existing economic development, tourism, venues and major event activities carried out by both councils….Combining these organisations means Wellington will be in a stronger position to compete with other regions for tourism, events and investment dollars. Combining funding streams and taking a more coordinated approach means more effective marketing for Wellington, through the Destination Wellington programme, not only as a tourism destination but as a great place to do business.

There’s no longer any talk of savings. And Mr Biggs says it’s too early to consider whether there’ll be job cuts. Announcing last year’s city council plan, the mayor insisted puzzlingly that no jobs would be lost, except for the appointments of board members. The same question applies for WREDA – will two of three chief executives – or three of them – be unemployed when the new mega position has been filled, or will other jobs be found for them? (As happened with Ian Pike after Wellington Waterfront was brought back into the council system.)

While there are no answers yet on these employment questions, there are fervent promises that the new single entity will be more effective than the previous three. And with one terrific chief executive, who’s yet to be found.