Time for Wellington to stir itself

HUGE POTENTIAL: Wellington city needs to promote nationally and internationally.
HUGE POTENTIAL: Wellington city needs to promote nationally and internationally.

It's been a golden summer for Wellington - brilliant weather, and the place has never looked better.

We've been on show to the world hosting the world premiere of The Hobbit. We have welcomed thousands of passengers from 91 cruise ships.

Visitors have had the unique advantage of experiencing Wellington on a good day - and that's just the views.

Those of us living here have a more lasting, all-round experience. A recent survey found Wellington offers the best quality of life of five New Zealand cities. For some, according to The Dominion Post, it's the best place on Earth.

Has Wellington made it - is nothing left to be done? I don't think so. If we are to reach our potential, we shouldn't stand still.

Now is a critical time - we should be future proofing-Wellington so that it not only continues to offer a great lifestyle but has a vibrant economy to support this. Wellington should be the best place in New Zealand to get a job.

And it could be - but does business believe that and back Wellington?

There is a feeling that Wellington has choked. We have so much to be proud of, but we simply don't seem to want to grow.

We are stunned by the speed and momentum of change in Auckland. And we know that $30 billion of investment in Christchurch post-earthquakes will see that city thrive again.

We will never be the same as Auckland or Christchurch - and we wouldn't want to be - but we do need to be viable as a city.

We must promote Wellington to business both nationally and internationally.

We want to retain and attract more talent and business to this city.

We are a cost-effective and great place to operate and live. We can export professional services to the rest of the world. As Ericsson has discovered we can be a strategic location for servicing the rest of New Zealand and the wider Asia Pacific.

We need to support investment in key infrastructure - roads and broadband. Ratepayers don't have to shoulder the burden of these costs alone. The Government is currently investing massively in broadband upgrades across Wellington to help businesses grow.

The Government is also investing heavily in roading. These projects - notably roading around the Basin Reserve are contentious - but five years of work has gone into considering the best solutions for a roading network for Wellington.

The final result won't suit everyone - but will be in the best interests of the future of Wellington City. We need roads that work and support efficient traffic flow of cars, trucks, public transport and cyclists from north of Wellington and across the city to the port and airport. Delaying decisions and investment - especially at a time when construction projects will help fuel the economy - sends a "won't do", not "can do", message.

Wellington has a great advantage in tertiary and secondary education. We are working to attract 1000 students from China. Long-haul flights are of great value to this market and to Wellington businesses. A longer runway is a good medium-term goal, but in the meantime we need to do everything we can and work with airlines to get at least a direct flight to Wellington from an Asian port. Wellington Airport, Positively Wellington Tourism and carriers meet regularly and last year councillors supported an incentive fund to assist.

Wellington has a great reputation as a conference and convention destination. But we have limited options for shows and concerts.

A new multi-purpose venue - "a cultural centre" - should be a priority to ensure the long-term future of our "events capital status".

Wellington needs more hotels and accommodation. Twice in two weeks I have given a bed to travellers who could not get accommodation in the city. A five-star Sofitel has been announced, as well as a new airport hotel - these are exciting developments.

Sometimes we have to accept that the only thing that stops us from getting anywhere is us.

Wellington has huge potential. But it needs a "can do" not "won't do" attitude.

Jo Coughlan is a Wellington city councillor and the economic portfolio leader.

The Dominion Post