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Chamber cautions council to spend wisely

Chamber confident about Wellington’s future but cautions council to spend wisely

Wellington has a huge and dynamic future but to ensure the city reaches its potential it must grasp the many opportunities that are beginning to present themselves, says Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce President John Milford.

He was making the Chamber’s oral submission to the City Council’s Draft Annual Plan.

“Looking ahead to what we can do, the Chamber has some ‘bottom lines’ for future projects and proposals, both those in the draft annual plan and those signalled for future consideration as part of the priority growth agenda’s ‘8 big ideas’,” he told councillors tonight.

“With continued uncertainty about future liabilities such as earthquake strengthening of council buildings, legal action from leaky homes, and as the region awaits the outcome from the Local Government Commission’s reorganisation proposal, it is important that expenditure within the council’s operations is well considered.”

He said the council must continue to operate within financial prudence as the economic recovery begins to be cemented in.

“This is not to say the Chamber is against future investment or consideration of future project expenditure.

“But we should be well informed and thoroughly convinced about adding to the city’s debt – with a plan on how we pay for it.”

He said that for all project proposals, the Chamber would need to see:

An investment strategy, with a robust business case, including a convincing cost benefit analysis and return on investment, with funding in collaboration with commercial partners.
A repayment strategy, with a solid commitment to service and pay down the debt quickly.

“Regardless of the overall balance sheet or the council’s credit rating, servicing our debt and paying it down needs to be made a No 1 priority.

“Given the upcoming amalgamation possibilities, we must also be clear on how each project will benefit the entire region.

“The council needs to ensure the city has what it needs, to generate business activity, to make our city regionally, nationally, and internationally attractive and vibrant.

“The council must be absolutely focused on growth – because it’s business and investment that are going to get the city humming.

“This should not be a single focus about growing the rate base – it’s about being a competitive city again.”

He also repeated the Chamber’s concerns around the council’s decision to adopt the Living Wage.

“The Chamber is very concerned with the method in which the council made this decision.

“Though a living wage is well-intentioned, and we all want everyone to share in the rewards of economic growth, what’s not clear is how this is going to help the city grow so everyone can enjoy higher wages.

“The Living Wage incurs additional operating cost on the city and ratepayers which is not in the council’s mandate. Minimum wage and employee income subsidies are a central government issue for which individuals and business contribute through tax.

“As a business organisation we question whether the adoption of the living wage was a prudent business decision.”

Ends

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