Covid-19: Meeting considers options to support Wellington economy as pandemic hits

18 March 2020

Wellington City councillors today met with representatives of the local business community to learn more about the impact of Covid-19 on their operations and consider ways the Council might support local businesses to withstand the already-begun downturn and protecting the vibrancy of Wellington.

Panoramic view from harbour to the city.

“This is critical to the short- and medium-term future of our city. We’re not just talking about business sustainability, we’re talking about people’s jobs and their ability to pay their bills and feed their families. So Council needs to do everything it feasibly can to reduce the burden faced by businesses and incentivise people to keep coming into the city,” Mayor Andy Foster says.

“Collaboration and creativity will be key to our success. The accommodation, hospitality, events, tourism and other sectors are already suffering in a big way. We need to work together to put the brakes on that as much as we can and minimise the spread to other parts of our local economy and to our residents.

“We’ve asked the local business community to give us some very specific suggestions for ways we can help to support our city now and in readiness for the eventual upturn,” says Councillor Diane Calvert, who holds the Council’s Economic Development portfolio and who convened today’s meeting.

“We’ll take those suggestions and work collaboratively with our business community to act with urgency, reflecting the seriousness of the situation. The Council will also be looking itself at what other options it might have including leveraging off its balance sheet,” Councillor Calvert adds.

“We are a resilient city. This is an unprecedented situation and one that’ll take us working together to get through. The Council, the business community, local unions, and the residential associations, we’ve all got to pull together,” John Milford, Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive, says.

“This means we need to make some really tough decisions and it won’t be easy. The Council needs to look at all the options. Everything needs to be on the table, including looking to other financing options for its spending to help us all get through this.”

WellingtonNZ CEO Lance Walker says it is important the whole Wellington community pulls together at this time.

“This is an unprecedented situation that will require all parts of the Wellington economy to pull together and agree on tangible actions – both to address the immediate and very real issues facing businesses, and to stimulate the local and visitor economy when the time is right. WellingtonNZ is looking right now at how we redirect our resources to assist with that.”