The Porirua Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) is a business membership association formed for the purpose of stimulating business vitality and excellence in Porirua City. We thank the Council for the opportunity to give feedback on Tō mātou pūrongo ihirangi Te Māhere Roa 2024 – 34. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our submission further. 

The summary of our commentary on the LTP consultation document is that business interests have been relegated to an afterthought. Thriving businesses, from sole trader hairdressers to large scale developers and everything in between, are fundamental to all of the outcomes you are seeking. However, there is almost no mention of business throughout the LTP, and economic development outcomes of the region have been de-prioritised compared to others. 

To Wero, To Tatou Wero

A reflection on the last 15-20 years in our city has shown Porirua go through extraordinary change and growth. The Chamber, while being a ‘critical friend’ of the LTP, considers that there is extraordinary opportunity for the city and its economic development. 

But opportunity is a passive term that requires action – and the Council should be about creating opportunity. Our Council follows the traditional legal requirements for an LTP, but the development of a plan like this means the business principles, aspirations and interests of the city belong to another realm. It means the workplan for the future is incomplete, like we are walking towards the future with one eye deliberately closed.

It follows that without the commitment to business, the Council and its officers have no impetus to weave business into strategic and operational plans. We consider the LTP system could have far more impact if business was integrated into the approach with far more systems thinking. Why not make our city the first to try to produce a combined strategic document with clear roles for all?

We encourage the City to aspire to:

  • Be co-operative with the other public bodies in our region to achieve agreed long-term goals, but unashamedly competitive in the short term where we see opportunities through the errors of other councils failing to make it easy to do business
  • Build on the reputation we have for a Council that is pragmatic and action focused, and welcomes business
  • Make sure that Council, Business and Economic Development agencies are brought together to create action plans
  • Fiercely voice the city’s rights and interests in transport and advocate for the city and a regional solution that maximised the collective impact of the wider Wellington region to unlock the economic benefits from the Government focus on infrastructure in the wider Wellington region
  • Clearly acknowledge and appreciate some of our biggest ‘anchor’ businesses that are our big employers and commercial ratepayers
  • Create some clear economic goals and investments and some principles for them
  • Lastly, be the first jurisdiction to follow the LGA requirements in its next Long Term Plan but be the first ever to have the plan as a joint one co-designed and supported by mana whenua, and community sector interests

Across all of the feedback in this submission, our main ask is that we believe that Porirua City Council needs to re-engage with business in a more fundamental way and ensure that economic development outcomes are prioritised alongside other outcomes to ensure that Porirua can thrive. 

Porirua businesses are committed to making Porirua succeed, but we believe there is much more that Council can do to make Porirua an attractive place for people and businesses to invest. 

Rates increases

We understand the Council is faced with a complex fiscal situation and the need to invest in infrastructure. We support overdue investment infrastructure as something fundamental to a thriving City, however, we strongly believe that: 

  • alternative approaches beyond rates should be used to fund these upgrades as much 
    as possible. 
  • a more robust process needs to be undertaken to review identify services that could 
    be stopped or reduced. 

The rates increase will have significant adverse impacts on businesses. Due to the business differential of 3.1, any increase in rates is going to be felt more keenly by businesses than residents. Given the acknowledged lack of businesses in Porirua compared to similar sized cities, we would like to see Council take steps are taken to create policy settings that attract businesses. We therefore strongly recommend that this rating differential is removed or at least reduced. 

As a principle, we do not understand the ongoing justification for the rates differentials given that businesses do not receive additional services for that outlay, and there is growing evidence that rates differentials negatively impact on commercial investment and play into decisions on where businesses should be based due to their impact on overall rates bills. We also consider there is an opportunity for the Council to actively promote a low rates differential to Wellington businesses who are labouring under increased rates and a Council that appears to be struggling to set direction. Porirua has a number of benefits compared to Wellington and the Hutt Valley, including access to industrial land. We believe much more could be done to position Porirua as a destination that seeks to work with businesses to attract investment into the area. 

With regards to stopping or reducing services, we haven’t seen evidence of a thorough process to look at how else we could best spend ratepayer funds. We would welcome the opportunity to be part of a process that reviewed current service levels and sought efficiencies. 

Increased need for business representation in Council decisions 

The Chamber and our members are committed to a Porirua City that is vibrant and prosperous, but we cannot do this alone. The Chamber is committed to working alongside Council to realise the potential of our unique area, but we are concern at the lack of emphasis in the LTP on the role of business or the specific benefits we will receive from the rates paid. In particular, there was no mention of business in the vision, communities outcomes or strategic priorities. 

Business has a crucial role to play in the success of Porirua. Your Community Outcomes refers to being ‘Ready for growth – infrastructure, homes and businesses’ and it’s clear how infrastructure is being prioritised, but less so on how to make it attractive for businesses to grow here. In the Economic development section, we welcome your commitment to ‘create lasting wealth that benefits the community’. This aligns well with the goals of the Chamber. However, we have not been presented with a clear vision how the Council will work with business, or even how you see business in this picture. There is scant information on what activities will be undertaken, what the goals are, and how business can support these. This is disappointing and speaks to a general lack of prioritisation for businesses. 

Previously, there had been some acknowledgement that Porirua does not have enough businesses to be sustainable for a city of its size. We believe returning this kind of discussion to the would be beneficial to ensure keep a focus on the need to attract investment into Porirua – both new businesses and expansion of existing businesses who are based here.

The measures for success in Economic development speak to the lack of prioritisation. The measures are wholly insufficient and will not lead to any improvements in economic development in the city. It is difficult to see how “satisfaction with the service received from the Economic Development team among local businesses” and some other measures will have any material impact on your goals to support business growth in Porirua. 

Your infrastructure objectives similarly include business as an afterthought. We support investment in transport options that get people efficiently to, from, and around the City. This is fundamental for workers and businesses to thrive. However, while we support decarbonization efforts, these cannot be the sole focus. Infrastructure is a fundamental enabler of economic development and this should be recognised in the objectives. There is much more that could be done to ensure that business needs are incorporated into decisions on how and what we invest in infrastructure and we would welcome further discussions on this. 

We are disappointed in the low priority/lack of investment in economic development and working to revitalise the Cobham Court CBD area in particular. Economic development is in identified as a core service:

“…The Council provides a wide range of core services to our city that benefit our residents, 
businesses and visitors…” 

It is difficult to see the evidence of the investment in this area. 

Kai Tahi: Ka Pai!

We acknowledge that there is investment happening in Porirua, like the new Kai Tahi project on the waterfront. This is exactly the kind of investment we need more of, and we are anxious to hear how Council intends to maximise this investment through events, marketing, and other initiatives to activate our amazing harbour to be a place that people visit, work and invest in. 

There are a variety of ways that Council could further involve business perspectives in decision-making. We point to the examples of Napier and Christchurch City Councils which work in partnership with business-led associations. Another model would be for the Council to employ a dedicated business representative – this was seen as incredibility successful for central city revitalization in Dublin. We would welcome any further specific opportunities for the business community to contribute to the future success of Porirua.

Clearly current mechanisms to include business perspectives are not working given the omission of business perspectives from the draft LTP. 

We want to emphasise that we have a great relationship with the existing economic development team, but our outside perspective is that the rest of Council does not suitably value their input, meaning the economic development perspectives are an afterthought instead of a driver of Council activity. We would support mechanisms where we worked with economic development to establish mechanisms to ensure business voice is heard in a more strategic way in Council. 

There are a number of Council projects where business would welcome further input including:

  • We understand that the plans for Plimmerton Farms are progressing – it is important to have voices with a commercial perspective in this planning process to ensure that all perspectives are heard. For example, ensuring consideration about whether sufficient land is being zoned as commercial to allow for business to grow up there. 
  • The expenditure on free wifi in the CBD – we believe there may be more effective things that this money could be spent on to support foot traffic and safety in the CBD. 

Concerns over cancelled projects

We understand that the Council has had to make some tough decisions in this Long Term Plan. There is significant need for investment in core infrastructure, uncertainty over government policy direction and increased costs for the Council and for ratepayers. We recognise that this has led to the need for some projects to be delayed or reprioritised, however, we have concerned about some of the projects which are being delayed. 

In particular, we are concerned that there will no longer be intersection upgrades and other safety improvements in the CBD. Safety in the CBD is a crucial priority for Porirua, not just for the business community but for everyone who lives here and chooses to visit our city. 

We would welcome the opportunity to engage with Council on how we can seek to keep these important projects high on the Council’s priority list given the constrained balance sheet. The Council needs to have a clear plan which gives certainty to business about necessary upgrades. 

Rates-funded kerbside rubbish and recycling collection service 

The Chamber strongly recommends that kerbside rubbish and recycling collection is paid for by a targeted rate on residential rate payers who will benefit. We support the introduction of the service, but strongly disagree that businesses should be funding it given that only residential ratepayers will be beneficiaries. We note that Wellington City Council is proposing a similar measure but funding it via a targeted rate. We strongly recommend that this more equitable approach to funding is taken in Porirua as well, as it means that those that benefit from the service will fund it. 

Water meters

The Chamber supports investment in water meters. Water meters have been shown to be a great way to conserve water by making users more aware of the costs of providing that water, which will hopefully reduce the overall costs for providing a smaller volume of water as everyone becomes more aware of the costs, and then has a direct mechanism to reduce their costs by lowering their water use. 

We would welcome discussions about how businesses could partner with you to support this important step. 

Diversified revenue streams 

The Chamber urges the Council to consider ways to diversify its revenue streams beyond the collection of general and targeted rates. Given the needed investment in infrastructure and other projects to revitalise our City, there will be a future need for significant funding injections. Although most Councils are proposing significant rates rises in 2024, many are also looking at other ways to raise funds. For example, Wellington City Council is considering selling its shares in the Wellington Airport and investing in a perpetual investment fund. 

The Chamber suggests further investigation of other types of revenue streams would be beneficial. We would be happy to support the Council in 

  • Considering how development contributions can be used more effectively to cover associated costs such infrastructure and community costs 
  • Exploring whether user charges could be implemented to fund specific services or facilities 
  • Divesting commercial businesses currently owned or operated by the Council 
  • Increasing the use of Special Purpose Vehicles to fund specific infrastructure projects. 
  • Advocate for GST revenue in the region to be returned to the region

Given the proximity of Wellington, Hutt City and Wairarapa there is a real risk that if we do not get rate rises under control, people and businesses will move elsewhere. 

Lastly, while we advocate for much more support and consultation than status quo, we thank the Council for the engagement and support to date, which still means we can have a mature relationship and provide robust thoughts to you in this kind of setting. We also thank you for your availability at Chamber events and acknowledge our extraordinary local MP Barbara Edmonds. 

Moving forward, we believe that a more integrated approach to core Council planning, leveraging Council, mana whenua, and business (including the significant mana whenua business interests) would create momentum to get real change underway in the region. 

When we envisage a more prosperous city, it is inexorable that prosperity is because of economic development that is created by a vital and growing business community. There is no alternative to true, sustainable growth that adds value to our ratepayers.