New Wellington City Council snubs multi-billion local ICT industry

ripIn one for the WTF files, the new Wellington City Council has dropped the “Information and communications technology” portfolio that was held last term by Celia Wade-Brown, despite a lot of campaigning on the merits of the smart city supported by smart technology and smart ICT companies. A local industry that is up there with film, and government, estimated value at over $3B in turnover.

Instead we have four new “committees” and a host of sub portfolios, none of which include ICT. In brief:

  • Economy and Arts:

Chair Jo Coughlan, Deputy Simon Marsh
Portfolio Leader, Arts: Ray Ahipene-Mercer
Portfolio Leader, Small Medium Enterprise and Tertiary Liaison: Simon Marsh
Members: Paul Eagle, Justin Lester, Mark Peck, Nicola Young

  • Community, Sport and Recreation:

Chair: Paul Eagle
Portfolio Leader, Community Resilience: Malcolm Sparrow
Members: Sarah Free, Simon Marsh, Mark Peck, Helene Ritchie, Simon Woolf

  • Environment:

Chair: Iona Pannett
Portfolio Leader, Natural Environment: Helene Ritchie
Portfolio Leader, Climate Change: David Lee
Members: Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Andy Foster, Sarah Free, Malcolm Sparrow

  • Transport and Urban Development:

Chair: Andy Foster
Portfolio Leader, Buildings: Iona Pannett
Portfolio Leader, Central City Projects: Nicola Young
Members: Jo Coughlan, David Lee, Justin Lester, Simon Woolf


Now let’s be really clear about how this structure is decided and laid out, the key point you need to remember is that the councillors have nothing to do with it. They can lobby for a role in the area they want to, but they have no say over the structure, composition of portfolios, or who ends up in them.

So who does? The Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, her deputy, Justin Lester, and I understand the CEO of the Council.

So Celia Wade-Brown and Justin Lester seems to have missed the following facts:

  • The turnover for the local ICT industry is in excess of $3 billion. Government alone spends $1.9B per annum on ICT, Telecom (granted HQ is in AKL) turns over $4.7B annually a large proportion of which is delivered by Gen-i (Plus $1B). Chorus does over $600m. Datacom over a $100m. Out of a total ICT turnover nationally of plus $8B and five percent of GDP Wellington has a conservative plus $3B.
  • ICT powers the Smart City, something that the Europeans have figured out, in fact most of the world has figured out, Christchurch certainly has with it’s “Sensing City” model and incredible focus on ICT locally there to drive them forward.
  • ICT is increasingly a green industry. With the advent of Cloud based services, that significantly reduce (+85% est.) greenhouse emissions its a clean, modern industry that is unlocking a lot of very smart thinking that can contribute to better resource management.
  • The concept of Wired Wellington, created by Nicola Young, was apparently missed by the Mayor. Proof that the local industry was interested in working with the Council, and central government, that was prepared to get engaged, and had a passion for staying in Wellington.
  • That other cities around New Zealand, including Christchurch, are heavily investing and supporting ICT companies in an effort to get them to move to those locations. It’s competitive.
  • That there are in excess of 4,000 full time jobs in Wellington (estimated) who are involved in the industry.
  • That we have dozens of startup companies from less than five to more than two hundred who consistently innovate and achieve great success with smart technology.

ICT should be front and centre as a portfolio of its own. It should never have been dropped and relegated as a by line to some portfolio. It should be one of the highest priorities for Council to grow. ICT companies here should get hold of their local Councillors and ask them what is going on and ask for it to be reinstated. Further, that portfolio should be given to Nicola Young who has displayed a clear interest to do something with it.

If they don’t, then the industry would be well to steer clear of the Council itself and make its own way forward. Because there is a very clear message that it is not important.

I gotta say, this is not a great start.


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