At a specially called press conference this morning, Prime Minister John Key announced that Invercargill was to become New Zealand's new capital. The news was unexpected as there had been no awareness that moving the capital was even being considered.
Key explained the need for secrecy was necessary until the final decision was made because the Government realized that a more public process would have led to parochialism and potential friction between provinces.
"The decision needed to be based around the facts, important security considerations and future proofing the seat of government," Key stated.
A detailed press release was distributed and the following is a summary of the information provided:
Recent seismic research had led scientists to believe that a substantial earthquake on the Wairarapa Fault (at the level of 1855 quake) was imminent and the existing parliament buildings were at risk.
The Beehive building has proved problematic for some time and constructing something new had been planned under the previous Labour Government.
Building a totally new capital on a new site (Canberra) was briefly considered but deemed expensive and problematic. All New Zealand cities with populations over 50,000 were considered.
The city that met the majority of the criteria determined as vital for our future capital was Invercargill:
- a low earthquake risk.
- an international capable airport that was the closest to Australia.
- Climate change would mean that Invercargill is more likely to retain a moderate climate for longer.
- Antarctica was seen as an area for likely future development (as populations shift due to climate change) and Invercargill was the closest city.
- Invercargill had the greatest potential for development and expansion with its wide streets and surrounding flat ground.
- a major port was nearby (Bluff).
- is the centre of an economic hub (the province earns 12% of the nation's export income).
- proximity to Queenstown, New Zealand's premier tourist destination, was considered useful when entertaining visiting VIPs.
- largely intact Victorian architecture provided the city a with sense of history and permanence in keeping with a seat of government.
- has international recognition through movies such as The Worlds Fastest Indian and as a popular tourist destination.
After fielding a flood of questions Key announced that the proposed timeline for the shift would not be available until after midday April 1.