Funding cut for Grow Wellington

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 13:20 08/02/2012

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The Wellington region's controversial economic development agency Grow Wellington will take a funding cut from this year under a refresh of its mandate.

The agency was set up in 2007 to deliver the Wellington Regional Strategy and has received more than $4 million annually from ratepayers.

The strategy is currently being refreshed, and a draft strategy proposal suggests Grow Wellington's share of the $4.6m collected by the Wellington Regional Council from ratepayers be capped at $4m.

Greater Wellington Regional Council spokeswoman Jane Davis said the remaining $600,000 collected would be allocated to the WRS office, which administers the strategy.

Grow Wellington had received $4.25m from ratepayers for the year ending June 2012, she said.

Grow Wellington chairman Paul Mersi said it would have been surprised if its funding had remained at the same level.

"These are tough times. Our job is to do the best with what we get. There wouldn't be a business around that doesn't want more money."

The revamped strategy, which will determine Grow Wellington's goals and be thrashed out in detail over the next few months, identifies six  focus areas for achieving economic growth in the region.

They are: commercialising innovation, investment mechanisms for growth, building world-class infrastructure, attracting business and investment and talent, education and workforce development and ensuring councils are business-friendly.

Grow Wellington has come under fire from the Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce, which criticised the agency for focusing on helping individual businesses export rather than wider strategic issues, and said it had an "uncertain degree of success".

Mayors in the region have also questioned the value of the agency's work. Regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde told Fairfax last month there had not been "total satisfaction with the performance of Grow Wellington".

Mersi, who joined the board along with several new directors about six months ago, said Grow Wellington's achievements had probably not been fully appreciated and its failings had been misunderstood, but there were areas in which it could definitely improve.

They included broadening its scope so it did not just focus on working with smaller, entrepreneurial businesses, and doing a better job of selling Wellington as a business destination.

The agency will submit a statement of intent for 2012-13 to the WRS committee  - which includes the region's mayors - by March 1. It will have the opportunity to revise it once the strategy is finalised by late June. 

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Related stories:

Grow Wellington tipped for shake-up

Grow Wellington reveals new strategy

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Email: claire.rogers@dompost.co.nz

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