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Wellington’s Recovery Plan Needs To Hit The Ground Running

Wellington’s economic recovery plan for the post-COVID-19 lockdown needs to be actionable as soon as the alert levels reduce, says the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

Later today, Wellington City Council will meet to consider its COVID response package.

"The city needs to ramp up its economic recovery planning to make sure the city up and running once this lockdown ends and people can get back to work," says Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford.

"The Chamber encourages Councillors to carefully consider the impacts of any rates increases and put themselves in the shoes of businesses right now.

"Right now we have businesses who are making tough decisions, businesses trying to do whatever they can to keep their staff employed, while others are forced to close. Wellington businesses pay nearly half the total rate-take and already pay one of the highest proportion of rates in the country. Wellington businesses can’t afford more costs right now.

"While no increase is always preferable, the trade-off that has been proposed means that there will be subsequent and significant increases to rates in future years. Whatever the outcome, Councillors must recognise the reality of the economic recession we are heading into.

"While we wait for more information, we note that Council spending cuts are long overdue. We would strongly encourage councillors to take up the proposals to enact this, as well as rates deferments, limit rates increases, introduce rebates on targeted fees."

"The Chamber also encourages the Council to seek Central Government support for the significant investment Wellington needs. Wellington has been crying out for transport infrastructure investment. What better time than now for Central Government to finally put forward investment into the capital city?

"When it comes to ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’, we’ve been long on the record questioning the 60/40 funding split between Central and Local Government. What is proposed actually shifts more costs unfairly onto Local Government, and onto ratepayers who right now can’t afford any rates increases. This now needs to change.

"Further, now is the time to sort Wellington's water once and for all. Wellington City has some of the oldest water pipes in the country, and the current arrangements don’t allow for the operator to do its job fully. There’s a task force, but we need to move even quicker.

"We’ve also got to fix Civic Square, secure vulnerable buildings, and transport corridors that are gridlocked. There are several other regional projects, such as Petone to Grenada, that should be included on the list as well.

"We need to put the plan in place now so that when we are out of this lockdown, hopefully, in two weeks we can pick up and go.

Addressing comments made in news reports earlier this week, Mr Milford said that these comments had mischaracterised the Chamber’s role in supporting Council in coming up with the response plan.

"The Chamber, alongside many other stakeholders, has had discussions and provided feedback to both officers and Councilors.

"The Chamber would absolutely welcome a wider advisory group including the unions, BIDs, Māori and Pasifika, and the hospitality and retail associations. Just yesterday we participated in a forum organised by Councillor Calvert, that included a wide range of stakeholders. We need a united approach, full stop."

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