I recently visited the New Zealand city of Wellington which was labelled by popular travel publication Lonely Planet as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’. I don’t think my hosts were surprised to hear this title is something I’d like to take from them for our cool capital.
There are many similarities between the two cities. Wellington has a population of almost 450,000. It is an educated, culturally diverse city with a vibrant arts and culture scene, with great access to the natural environment. Just like Canberrans, Wellingtonians love living there. We both promote ourselves as world-class, costeffective places to do business and exciting places to visit.
I believe there are many opportunities for our ‘cool’ capitals to market our business, investment and tourism opportunities to a global market that is increasingly looking south for investment opportunities.
At the moment, one difference between us is that Wellington has direct international flights. I want to change this. The ACT Government is working hard to support the push for direct flights between Canberra and both Singapore and New Zealand.
Achieving this will have significant benefits for our city. New Zealand is the top ranked country of origin for visitors, but for Canberra, they are ranked fifth. There’s an obvious opportunity here and direct flights across the Tasman from Canberra will help push them up the rankings. Flights from New Zealand to Canberra would be worth an estimated $50 million a year to our economy.
Canberra is a natural destination for New Zealand tourists. We share the ANZAC legend and I would like the Australian War Memorial to become a must-visit destination for New Zealanders as it already is for Australians. Our museums, our art, our culture, our food, our wine and the natural beauty of our surrounds are something I look forward to sharing with more New Zealanders.
Despite my admiration for Wellington, I know Canberra has the potential to be even better. We are lucky to have world class health and education facilities, a highly diverse and multicultural community with a wonderful array of national attractions. Don’t forget that the OECD recently declared Canberra as the ‘world’s most liveable city’ and Time Magazine and the New York Times have given our city rave reviews.
What we need to do is capture this potential and give our citizens a reason to be even more proud of our city. Building pride in being a Canberran will go a long way to ensuring we can become the world’s coolest city. In the lead up to next week’s Canberra Day celebrations – an event we have reframed to focus on local, Canberra talent – new ‘We are CBR’ signage has been released. These are free images that we hope local business and citizens will embrace and utilise as a badge of honour.
While I was in New Zealand, I met with the key players behind the successful Grow Wellington initiative to discuss how we can join forces to promote the unique features of our capital cities internationally and effectively grow the market for international visitation, business and investment.
This government’s focus on urban renewal, transport reform and social inclusion and equality will go a long way to nabbing Wellington’s title. Successful urban renewal in Braddon and New Acton has already got the travel writers talking. By building the right infrastructure our city needs, renewing our urban precincts and facilitating a socially inclusive community, we are well on our way to shifting Canberra’s place on the global map from a cool capital, to the coolest little capital city in the world. I just hope our friends in Wellington will forgive us.
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)