Great vision, but what about today?

It looks and sounds wonderful, and if it ever happens no doubt it will be great, but how will we get there? No, this is not the game plan for a sports team to be the best in the world. I am talking about the City Council's latest exercise in creativity.

If you haven't noticed the city has released its 2040 Strategy, and it's wonderful;  a smart green city, people centred, connected, an eco city with a dynamic central core, linked by bike lanes, walking paths, bridges, and with more shops and cafes than it is possible to imagine. (Sitting in shadow in Opera House Lane supping a long black - I don't think so).

The strategy says all the right things and uses positive, empowering words like world class, creativity, innovation, drive, openness and accessibility. But really it's fantasy akin to Dorothy walking down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the rainbow.

The idea of having open access to the city centre is contradicted by the present day reality of the council's plan to charge 25% more for parking in the CBD, and to charge after 6pm when it is currently free. How either of those moves will encourage people to come into the city is unclear, but no doubt by 2040 the planners will have that sorted. Teleporting perhaps?

The principal flaw is that the strategy is silent about some other positive words which are also important. These words are growth, prosperity, attraction to business, rates and charges, and affordability. This is not a naysayer's complaint about where is the money coming from. Rather it is a reasonable question about what the city will do to foster economic growth, and how does that fit with the "green culture" that the strategy exudes?

At present Wellington is doing only about as well (or slightly worse) than the rest of the country. That would be ok if the country was doing well. It's not.

So where are the plans to attract more businesses, particularly ones that have office workers, and families? Where will the new buildings go? There's plenty of words about new parks - and yes they are needed - but rather less about new office and retail developments, and even less about the development of the suburbs.

Most Wellingtonians live in suburbs and commute to the city to work, shop, recreate and to seek entertainment.

A vision for a city cannot be just about those who live in the inner city, even though their needs are important and even though the facilities provided will be available to all.

Visions can be wonderful and and are often empowering and uplifting. But as business interests like the Employers' Chamber of Commerce have pointed out, the needs of today are important too. And right now the vision of the future cannot divert us from dealing with the problems of the present - like empty space, low growth, a sluggish economy, a council that cannot control its own spending, and without a plan for pulling the city out of the economic mire.