1491794290348 - Chris Whelan: Having our cake and eating it

Chris Whelan: Having our cake and eating it

OPINION: When Ghost in the Shell actor Scarlett Johansson had a hankering for chocolate cake, she would drive 35 minutes to the Zany Zeus cafe in Lower Hutt’s Moera.

Johansson’s passion was just one example of the things that make living in the Wellington region so rewarding. There are hidden gems tucked away in all sorts of unexpected places.

The beauty of our region is that it has a lot to offer: mountains and beaches, inner city living and rural lifestyle blocks, vineyards and craft beer bars, night markets and farmers’ markets, stock cars and cycle trails.

This diversity has an important economic benefit. Jobs will grow in regions that offer a great place to live, that’s connected to the world, is home to dynamic businesses and offers the chance to work with talented people.

If we get these factors right in our region then economic activity will spring up, often in unexpected ways. One example of how this has happened locally is the growth in number of people working in professional, scientific and technical services sector in South Wairarapa.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 22 per cent increase in employment in that sector in South Wairarapa. This was the largest contributor to employment growth in South Wairarapa for the year. The sector is the second largest employer in South Wairarapa behind accommodation and food services.

This significant growth is the result of a number of factors, including:

What the increase in jobs points to is that Wairarapa, Wellington City, Porirua, Kapiti, and Hutt Valley are interdependent. What affects one, affects all. Success in one area, is good for all. 

So, while there are eight local authorities in the Wellington region there’s one regional economy.

Like Scarlett Johansson, we don’t allow ourselves to be limited by local authority borders. We travel across the region, from a home in one city or district to a job in another. On the weekend, we’ll head to a third to play or watch sport, and maybe a fourth to eat and shop.

It’s human nature to identify with our district, town or suburb. This association provides us with a sense of community, a place we can call home. The recent super-city discussions showed that politically there is currently only lukewarm support for local body amalgamation throughout the region.

However, from an economic point of view, if we want to increase the prosperity of where we live, we need to take a broader regional view. The strengths of each of the constituent parts of the Wellington region make more things possible across the entire region. And by creating a more vibrant and dynamic region we help each part of the region prosper.

Chris Whelan is chief executive of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency.

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