Hamilton – the capital of New Zealand?

By Don Good, Waikato Chamber CEO

Media opinion writers are debating Hamilton’s promotion to being our capital city. 

Why Wellington should no longer be the capital of New Zealand
What Wellington needs to do if it wants to be a credible capital

Christmas and January is traditionally a slow news month so we can’t let this debate slide past without notice.

Flattered as we are by the depth of logic in the first Stuff article, we do not want the beltway to shift to Hamilton. A government’s conservative, constrained and bureaucratic culture would ruin the exciting, action orientated, youthful and low-key ethos that are Waikato hallmarks.

However, we feel Peter Dunne’s article, in reply to the original suggestion, needs correcting, albeit tongue in cheek.

Geographic centralisation, which is central to Peter’s argument to keep Wellington as New Zealand’s capital does not occur in other parts of the world. That theory would see the capital of the USA somewhere near the northern Kansas/Colorado/Nebraska borders, Canberra would have to move into the Simpson Desert or close to Alice Springs (many in Australia would applaud that move), the French would need to shift Paris and the Eiffel Tower to Clermont-Ferrand, England would exit London after a long tortuous debate and several referenda with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. After having a Brexit what would they call a shift of the capital city to either Birmingham or Leicester? 

Centralisation as a business strategy is good for back room tasks and often rightly favoured in times of crisis but is a disaster if you have quality people and opportunity as it severely curtails their ability to innovate and secure new solutions. Centralisation is usually the hallmark of an untrusting, dictatorial or nanny state leader and invariably chokes innovation and represses people. Look at Russia.

When Dunne dredged up “a city that relishes in the bogan appellation of the ‘Tron’,” from a 2011 article, you immediately knew he was out of touch. A decade ago, Hamilton shed this tag, and embarked on a growth trajectory that has the potential for it to become New Zealand’s second largest city. Let’s face it – the Tron is gone.

Dunne’s article is typical of what we observe of Wellington politicians who don’t get out of the beltway. If he’d come up here regularly, he would have seen the growth in Hamilton and the wider Waikato, which has accelerated especially along the Expressway.

We have room to grow, there is no need to squeeze people in. We have a young population profile which makes for a vibrant and growing city. There is plenty of new housing, industry that is expanding, and a growing prosperity in towns such as Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Huntly, Ngaruawahia, Morrinsville, Te Kauwhata, Raglan, Tirau, Thames, Coromandel, Tokoroa and Otorohanga. Aucklanders already understand this and are moving to the region. The Waikato Expressway makes it easier to live in a regional town and work in Hamilton.

Businesses are moving here already. It is great to welcome Rabobank and ACC who have seen the light in moving from Wellington, but we should ask firmly, “please leave the politicians behind”.


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