WREDA restructure expected to save $500,000 a year

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Chris Whelan says every sent saved in the agency's ...
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Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Chris Whelan says every sent saved in the agency's consolidation should be spent driving Wellington region’s economy.

A restructure of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) is expected to save $500,000 a year.

WREDA was formed in 2015, taking over major events promotion from Wellington City Council as well as subsuming what was Positively Wellington Tourism, Grow Wellington, Positively Wellington Venues and Creative HQ.

When chief executive Chris Whelan took up his role in September 2015 he warned bringing the four organisations together would mean big internal changes.

The aim of amalgamation was not to shrink its overall budget, Whelan said, but to reduce duplication and focus on the 'sharp end'  supporting the economy, he said.

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"By continuing to consolidate systems and premises, we're projecting to recover at least $500,000 a year in operational costs, which will be invested into priority projects."

In the past year the agency has made seven staff members redundant and 28 staff members left "through natural attrition" Whelan said.

In April a new senior leadership team was appointed - made up of three external appointments and four existing staff.

WREDA now employs 142 staff members, which included shift workers in its venue business.

"For me a key part of restructure was to get the collective organisation firing on all cylinders. It's not about reducing numbers," Whelan said.

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WREDA has been operating from four separate offices but in March 2017 most staff will move into one building on Victoria St.

Some venue staff would remain at the Michael Fowler Centre and its subsidiary company, Creative HQ, would remain at its Dixon St premises.

Consolidating into one office would save the agency $60,000 in property rental, Whelan said.

"I've been direct with my senior management team, every cent saved should be spent in the appropriate place. It's not about giving the $60,000 back to shareholders, it's about making sure we use it to drive the economy," Whelan said.

"We've made savings now let's deploy them to drive the economy and that is what we are focused on."

He believed the agency had reduced almost all internal duplication, however there was still more to do.

"One area I still think we can improve on is our back office system."

When the organisations came together they were using different finance systems, which were run by the same external business, in different cycles.

WREDA now had an aligned payroll system, one finance system and one IT system.

An acting chief financial officer has been appointed to the venues business to align its system, he said.

"We get the information we need at the moment but I believe it could be done more seamlessly."

In July 2015 WREDA set out a plan to make Wellington the most prosperous city in Australia and New Zealand within 10 years.

New WREDA data indicated that by 2025 there could be 560,000 people living across the region, Whelan said.

"So I think we still have a lot of work to do."

 - Stuff

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