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Hutt City Is Not A Dog

Hutt City Is Not A Dog

Hutt City Council, at its meeting last night, discussed the necessity of communicating more directly with its audiences about the positive business environment that exists in the city.

"The importance of enhancing our communications effort has been highlighted by the ludicrous situation where one millionaire property investor calls this city a 'dog', and receives extensive media coverage of that comment with little questioning as to why he continues to invest in commercial property in the City," said Mayor Terris.

"There has been no questioning as to why this particular Council critic is now, for example, investing in Wingate - an area where Council is working in partnership with local businesses to make environmental improvements that will make it more attractive to businesses and workers.

"There has been much made of a handful of unnamed businesses who are apparently unhappy with Council's efforts to promote their interests, through rates remissions and other measures, but no acknowledgement of the fact that there are 7000 businesses in this city.

"The claim in the Dominion Post that the Westfield rates remission has 'angered many' in the business community, is dubious when none are named and nor is it made clear how many are in fact occupants of buildings owned by, or associated with, the interests of this lone, wealthy critic.

"No effort has been made it seems, to seek comment from business leaders or business organisations, who support our economic development strategy and helped formulate it.

"The recent criticism of our rates remission policy as 'corporate welfare' that 'pushed up the rates bills of other businesses' is rubbish - no business would face increased rates bills as a result of rates remissions, they would, in fact, pay less once those limited rates remissions lapsed. And rates remissions are only applicable to the capital value of the new works.

"There has been no attempt to examine - if the city is indeed 'a dog' - what benefits rates remissions and similar incentives, have brought about in other places, which might also be gained here.

"There is no mention of other local authorities, who dole out incentives without any awareness on the part of their ratepayers that this is happening. At least this council makes it known what we are doing.

"What such negative reportage does, of course, is give credence to a completely distorted and inaccurate view of this city's economic health and undermines the confidence of business people in their future here. It is, in effect, economic sabotage.

"The negative comments by this single wealthy individual, who doesn't even live here, and the disproportionate publicity given them, has already had serious adverse effects. It has resulted in an organisation that was considering applying for a rates remission deciding to withdraw that application rather than become embroiled in 'cheap political point scoring'," said Mayor Terris.

"This city has faced some significant challenges in recent times, and in the last few years we have developed an Economic Development Strategy that has already started to show positive results."

Other strategies either developed or nearing completion, include a retail strategy and a visitor strategy.

"We have taken control of our future and pursued a very proactive strategy to engage in meaningful partnerships with the business sector. That is what businesses have told us they want.

"As a result of the events of recent days, my Council will, at its next meeting in early March, be considering ways in which the many good things that are happening in our city, can be given the publicity they deserve.

"We are proud of our city and extremely positive about the future. Robust debate about future directions is of course welcomed and encouraged. Cheap political point scoring which gets publicity out of all proportion to its validity and worth, is clearly not," said Mayor Terris.

"The media have a role in scrutinising Council and informing the communities in which they operate. However, they are not serving these communities fairly by focusing on the negative, or paying lip service to 'balance' by giving precedence to almost any criticism someone cares to make and then including alternate views at the end of shoddily researched articles.

"There are a handful of people at most who never hesitate to use any opportunity to criticise Council. They are a tiny minority and yet the media are ever keen to provide them with a ready made soapbox to air their petty grievances.

"This is not a trend restricted to reportage of Hutt City. But if this City, and country, is to thrive and prosper we need to change a mindset that allows whinging and cheap political point scoring to gain priority over coverage of the many positive and innovative things that local authorities are doing to try and improve the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of their cities and towns," said Mayor Terris.

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