As we embark into 2018, we have an opportunity to take stock of our community, our city and our country. 2016 and 2017 has seen significant change in the world. While our change of Government pales into insignificance in comparison to Brexit or the election of Donald Trump as US President, all of these changes are reflective of a world that is slightly unsure of its direction and unhappy with status quo. All of these events will impact on the New Zealand economy and business in the Wellington region over the coming year.
A recent post election survey of regional businesses showed a net 16 per cent of business respondents expect the Wellington economy to improve over the next 12 months – a significant drop from the net positive 55 per cent in the previous survey in June.
Businesses’ confidence in their own situation has also taken a big hit, with a net 43 per cent saying they expect to see an improvement over the next 12 months, compared to 63 per cent in June and 61 per cent in March.
Earnings expectations are also well down, with a net 41 per cent of businesses expecting an increase, compared to 61 per cent in June and 57 per cent in March. Of all respondents, 55 per cent expect an improvement while 14 per cent expect earnings to decline. Expectations and perceptions tend to lead to reality.
In comparison, Porirua finds itself in quite a buoyant position. There are excellent signals for growth in our city as construction and housing development continue to be positive for our local economy. The announcement of the new Adventure Park gives us hope for ongoing economic activity, as does the movement of almost 400 MBIE Office jobs to the city centre. There is a strong rumour that our local campaign to bring Cobb N Co back to Porirua at the former McDonald's site Cobham Court in has been successful, with an announcement tipped for early this year. The city is crying out for a new family restaurant and we are hopeful this could be the start of trend of attracting higher quality eating and drinking establishments here.
A local and recent Porirua Chamber of Commerce survey shows that local businesses are happy with their location within the Wellington region, the feel very positive about Transmission Gully as an economic driver and that their horizon is generally positive.
Porirua City continues to be ‘knocked around’ in the media as the New Zealand centre for all social ills. The latest example is a rambling report from The Salvation Army, charting our city’s problems after interviewing around 100 local residents. According to the report, young people are running wild, there is begging everywhere and the local economy has real problems. The same report also tells us that the Hutt Valley suburb of Belmont is part of Porirua, which demonstrates their interest in accuracy.
The Chamber’s issue with this kind of focus is not because we deny there are significant social issues here. We just don’t think they are the defining aspect of our diverse and interesting city. Drawing attention to social problems, hinting at a high crime rate (it isn’t high!) and generally making people feel bad about the place negatively impacts internal and external perception and makes it much harder to sell the city as a place to invest or do business. If there was a genuine interest in increasing the number of jobs in Porirua for people who need them, these kind of social agencies would spend their resources and media space talking Porirua up and telling the real story of what goes on here, not talking it down.
Porirua has the third highest per capita household income of any council area in New Zealand. Our local GDP grew by more than the region and the country in 2016. We have a young population and a central location within the Wellington region. As the former Mayor, I could go on. However, all I want to do is signal that there is confidence locally and we should focus on the good news.
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