LGNZ Business Friendly Guidelines Launch

25.02.14

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Talofa lava

I’d like to acknowledge Associate Minister for local government Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Mayors, deputies, local government staff of our Metro Sector, LGNZ staff and media.

I’m pleased to speak with you today as Mayor of the Capital, working with the five other largest cities as core cities, developing and supporting these business friendly guidelines.

We work well together and share the view that economic and population growth need to be balanced across the country.

I'll talk about how Wellington City is a Business Friendly place, how we're committed to increasing business and citizen confidence in our economic future and how we support the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) business friendly guidelines.

Wellington City Council is a business friendly council, and especially in this triennium we’re implementing a growth agenda to strengthen our local economy. Some of these are new initiatives and some modest adjustments, such as changes to when we invoice development contributions.

We've just completed the first business survey, which is extraordinary given the history of residents’ surveys. Our two cases studies illuminate areas where we have a direct and active role, in our Film and TV industry and the other in our Local Hosts, which has wide social benefits for keeping an eye on our streets, helping people, making our streets safer, and being a direct link between Council and our retail community.

I’d like to warmly greet the introduction of LGNZ’s guidelines to promote business friendly measures and initiatives.

Creating a favourable environment for job growth and sustainable prosperity is not a simple matter of stripping away all rules and reducing all charges and rates!

The principles have been drawn from research and from case studies.

Councils and local government agencies perform many important functions throughout the community, and we can – and must – create the conditions for the economy to thrive for everyone's benefit.

Part of that is being active in the economy, being a catalyst for growth and encouraging investment. Another part is streamlining our operations and providing quality regulation – allowing businesses to ‘get on with the job’ with minimal fuss, while retaining an essential balance between the interests of the economy, the environment and communities.

These wellbeings are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Successful cities attract talent and successful businesses create good jobs. We want to increase the rates base in the capital, not squeeze more rates out of a static system.

Wellington has a good foundation and the highest educated, most affluent population and excellence in film, IT, education, tourism and government services.

Our environmental, social and cultural indicators are very positive while the economic ones are relatively modest. There is an upturn but we must also invest in our economic future of the city.

With that in mind, we’ve embarked on a Growth Agenda strategy this triennium, spearheaded by elected members agreeing to advance our 8 Big Ideas. These are complemented by a suite of changes to governance, Council activity and our interaction with business.

Our Annual Pan includes proposals to reduce rates for buildings being earthquake strengthened, halve development contributions for green star developments and keep rates overall to local government inflation.

This year, 2014, we’ve been heavily promoting our growth agenda, 8 Big Ideas to transform the economy.

They are projects which build on the city’s strengths and ensure we remain competitive as a Smart Capital.

They enhance Wellington’s quality of life, a key driver to attracting the talent we need to take our economy forward, especially in hi-growth hitech sectors of ICT and Film.

And they are designed to enhance confidence: In our economy, in our Council, in our Capital.

Number 1 for example: Film museum, which will be world-class and interactive, including world-famous props and promote Wellington as the best little film capital. It will be a window on some of the most talented Wellingtonians.

I’m aiming for opening in 2016, and we’ll be launching with visuals and location this year. People love the Weta Workshop and Cave, and I expect this to be 100 times better. This builds beautifully on our practice of being film friendly - starting way back in the 90s - highlighted in the first case study.

The Film and TV sector, like the ICT sector, is an area driven by talented people, creative types who merge the imagination with innovation. Being a liveable city, with diverse culture, good connections, solid education system, great natural environment and recreational opportunities are really important considerations for people who work in these sectors.

The film and TV sector is incredibly valuable for Wellington, both in terms of economic output, and also in the way we define and market ourselves.

In 2012 our film industry was worth $828 million, up from $495 million in 2011. It creates thousands of high-value jobs and attracts talent from all over the world to work and live here.

The announcement that three Avatar films are to be produced in New Zealand underlines our international reputation as an ideal environment for filmmaking. The first Avatar was worth around $100 million for Wellington, and its expected the next instalments will provide around $500 million to the New Zealand economy. With work already underway at Weta, Wellington can expect a good portion of that money. I acknowledge the Government incentives that support film and television production in NZ.

The key to Council’s interaction with this valuable sector is partnerships:  The joint economic agency Grow Wellington and its specialised unit Film Wellington, that began in 90s; Positively Wellington Tourism, which was a lead agency in promoting the Hobbit premiere in 2012; The many production and post-production units in Wellington, such as Weta, Wingnut Films and the Hollywood studios, such as Twentieth Century Fox who are behind the Avatar movies.

Our relationship with, and our activity in the Film Sector can serve as a blueprint about how we can engage with other sectors. It’s also interesting to note how the suburban centre of Miramar is undergoing a transformation, partly private with the delightful Roxy Cinema, and public with Council’s investment in upgrading the Town Centre and working with Government and Iwi on the Miramar Framework.

Engaging with other sectors is a big part of extracting the greatest value from Film.

As is often the case with innovation, the potential for widening the scope and benefits are great and Grow Wellington helps identify where these opportunities can match up.

Film Wellington is our one-stop-shop for free help and advice on filming, location scouting, local industry, and business support in Wellington. They make it as easy as possible for filming to happen in Wellington, which reflects our aim to make doing business as easy as possible.

At a different end of the scale, our Local Hosts initiative is an ongoing success story of how Council can be responsive to community needs, and providing a range of benefits to the wider community.

Walkwise, which started in 2001, did a good job for the city keeping an eye out for what’s happening, talking to local retailers, bar and restaurant staff, as well as giving directions or answering questions about what’s on in the city.

We brought that unit in-house to smarten it up, make it more cost-effective and to give renewed focus on the busy days and nights in the city centre and a more ambassadorial role.

The role remains firmly focused on contributing to Wellington’s much-deserved safe-city status, and provides confidence for our inner-city experiences.

Wellington is the only capital city in the world to have International Safe Community status under the World Health Organisation and was re-accredited in 2012. This is an important consideration for Wellington’s activity in the International (or Export) Education sector and for all our residents and visitors.

Our Local Hosts are the face of our city for visitors, the eyes and ears for our city to keep people safe and a helping hand for those who need it.

First impressions are so important, and if people like what they see they’ll tell their friends and family back home. Should our visitors not get a good first impression, they won’t return to Wellington.

It’s the business outreach that provides really interesting co-benefits for our city: Immediate connection with retailers; Real-time flow of information from businesses to Council, identifying issues and working quickly to resolve them; Knowing how to engage with other service providers, such as social support, police and ambulance and volunteer groups like cruise ship welcome staff, when the need arises; and being able to identify damaged or inoperable infrastructure.

Our Local Hosts are ambassadors for the city, they are the welcoming hands, the friendly ears and the eagle eyes so that we can maximise the CBD experience for our visitors, our communities and our businesses.

These are a couple of success stories but by no means to end of them. I've been inspired by the case studies from around the country.

To wrap up, I'll make a brief comment about each of the six principles.

Partnerships: trust and focus on common ground; Our Chamber of Commerce is co-hosting a business summit with Council.

Context: Wellington and Tauranga have different strengths. Return of Cuba Street festival is an appreciation for a precinct that's unique to our capital.

Clarity: Councils should say "yes" to businesses often, "no" to them less often, but never "maybe". To string businesses along and say, ‘in a bit, in a bit', and then not deliver is not fair when they could be making better informed decisions and investments.

Every interaction counts: Formal consultation doesn’t outweigh license applications, streetlight complaints, lease conditions, mischief from aspiring Councillors.

Be proactive: We’re actively leading discussions around our Film Museum and Museum of Conflict proposals.

Respond rapidly after disruptions: We were clear about Wellington being open for business after a quake, and clear what should be checked or done for buildings. This was ONLY possible because of readiness, and we’re encouraging business readiness too.

And all these need consistent application - most of the case studies show results after significant time.