Wellington mayor Tory Whanau to meet with Prime Minister over public service job cuts

Wellington's mayor is concerned the impact the job slashing at government agencies will have on the capital.
Wellington's mayor is concerned the impact the job slashing at government agencies will have on the capital. Photo credit: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

By Nick James for RNZ

Wellington's mayor will meet the prime minister next month, with the axe falling on public sector jobs set to take a heavy toll on the capital.

Government departments are carrying out the coalition government's demands to identify saving options of either 6.5 or 7.5 percent.

The slashing of jobs at government agencies has made headlines in recent weeks, with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Health Ministry planning to cut more than 400 jobs.

In a cost cutting effort, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is calling out to its staff to apply for voluntary redundancy.

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau told RNZ she was concerned about the knock-on effects for the capital and will be raising those fears in a meeting with the prime minister, finance minister and local government minister next month.

"This will be something on the agenda absolutely, like what can the council and government do together to help weather this situation.

"I do not know what that looks like at this early stage, but it's certainly on my agenda to raise at that meeting."

She said it would influence the local economy.

"With hundreds of people losing their jobs, they won't really be able to go out, be amongst the city, spending money, that sort of thing."

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub believed the cuts to the public sector would be much deeper than the last time the National Party entered government.

"The Key administration delivered around a 7.5 percent reduction in Wellington central government administration, and it's likely that we'll see a much bigger drop if the departments are to find 7.5 percent savings in costs."

He said there was one large issue for Wellington with the government reductions.

"The private sector in Wellington is smaller and grows less strongly than other places like Auckland or Canterbury, so when the government pulls back it really exposes that."

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said some people affected would likely consider leaving the capital.

"These are people with highly transferrable skills and they're people who have the ability to command good salaries, so they will be thinking about their options there's no doubt about that."

Public Sector Association assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said the cuts will not just be felt in Wellington.

"It's heartbreaking for the individuals who are facing possible job loss, and many of those are in Wellington, but the consequences will be felt by people all over New Zealand."