What are we up to in Wellington?
WCC is rightly focused on implementing a hyper-local strategy – the 15min city – as we move to a cycle and pedestrian friendly environment. This simple move has the ability to radically improve our urban streets. But what about beyond the infrastructure, what is going on?
There are numerous inner city sites unrented, boarded up or sitting empty. With much of the public sector workforce still working from home, are we losing our soul? The canary in the coal mines was the closing of David Jones, followed by Hurricane Jeans, Gubbs Shoes and now Wishbone. Then there were others; Glass Wine Bar, Roti Chenai, Astoria, Espressoholic, Red Mount, Tulsi, Birdcage, The George, Ripe, and even Burger King…the list is long.
Public and private ventures feed off each other, investing simultaneously, ensuring a cycle of renewal. Think what you will of the Shelly Bay proposal but council’s $10m contribution to the infrastructure would have provided more public value to all Wellingtonians than the estimated $180m that has been spent so far on the Old Town Hall strengthening.
With consecutive council’s resting on the civic developments of the 80s and 90s we have fallen into a retrenching spiral where we are now struggling to maintain what we have.
There have been many projects over the last decade that have fizzled out through lack of dynamism from our leadership. Thankfully Tākina emerged from its shaky beginnings. We will just have to wait for the next local body elections to see if we can energise the city with a dynamic vision from the top.
In the meantime what we can do immediately is recognise, like Canbarra, we are a capital town and exist for one purpose only. As such the public sector must operate from “within it” for the urban environment to be successful. Local and central governments must mandate a work from the office policy AND council needs to incentivise building owners to convert offices to apartments in a bureaucracy free environment, creating a revitalised vibrant central living district (CLD). Otherwise we risk an ever dwindling urban population. These are small steps but important ones that must be actioned before we lose more hospitality and retail!