Prime Minister John Key has admitted he could have chosen his words a "bit better" when he described Wellington as a "dying city".
Mr Key's comments, made in front of a group of Takapuna business leaders last week, were reported in the Dominion Post this morning.
"The reality is even Wellington is dying and we don't know how to turn it around," the paper reported him saying. "All you have there is government, Victoria University and Weta Workshop."
A report on the region's economy put its struggling performance down to a "poor relationship" with the Beehive.
Appearing on Firstline this morning, Mr Key backtracked a little, but said he was specifically talking about corporate head offices.
"The city's very vibrant actually, but in terms of the corporate head office… I was really simply reflecting on if you look over the last 30 years, you've seen the big corporate head offices migrating to Auckland for the most part, and that's put a lot of pressure on the infrastructure in Auckland.
"We need to continue to work and make sure that the proposition is for them to stay here in Wellington and other parts of the country. I think I could have chosen my words a bit better – I should have said 'under sustained pressure', which would have been better terminology."
Mr Key says there were "obviously" big businesses in Wellington other than Weta Workshop and Victoria University, but said they were the "core, component" parts left after many others vacated in favour of Auckland.
"The banks have migrated, the Dairy Board used to be here, Fonterra's migrated. That's been a pattern of those corporate head offices."
He points to Transmission Gully as an example of how the Government is committed to growing Wellington.
"All of those kind of infrastructure developments in Wellington are important, as they are around the rest of the country, to make sure that corporate head offices don't all migrate.
"My main point was really there's a lot of sustained pressure on Auckland. They're going to have potentially a million more people over the course of the next whatever it is, 30, 40, 50 years – that'll put more pressure on that infrastructure.
"But we've got to make sure that we also have a sustained build-up of economic activity around the rest of the country, not just Auckland."
Mr Key's comments met with opposition from Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and the Public Service Association.
Ms Wade-Brown said if Mr Key was "out of the Beehive more often he would see it's all alive and well".
Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said she was "disturbed" that Mr Key "seems to want to write off Wellington, and there is no plan to fix it".
"I don't think you can be around in Wellington at the moment and not get a sense that the mood is low and people are feeling pretty pessimistic," says Ms Pilott.
source: newshub archive