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The Prime Minister made the comments about Wellington to Takapuna business leaders last week after a gloomy report on the region's economy, TV3's Firstline reported.
"The reality is even Wellington is dying and we don't know how to turn it around. All you have there is government, Victoria University and Weta Workshop," he reportedly said.
Today, he said calling it a dying city was extreme, and he should have chosen his words more carefully.
"The city is very vibrant, actually. I think I could have chosen my words better," he said.
The issue was changes at head office level where corporates have been moving from Wellington to Auckland over the past 30 years, which was putting pressure on Auckland's infrastructure, he told Firstline.
Cities outside of Auckland needed to be seen as attractive options for the establishment and operation of businesses, he said.
"My main point was really there's a lot of sustained pressure on Auckland. We've got to make sure that we have sustained build up of economic activity around the rest of the country, not just Auckland."