I’m going into a special workshop this afternoon with councillors and senior management to discuss our Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan.
Our management team and staff have been working very hard to put this package together, working closely with myself and Deputy Mayor Sarah Free.
This is about how we do our bit to try to soften the impacts on our business and residential community now, and how we support economic, social and cultural recovery post-lockdown.
We’re also looking at the impact of the pandemic on the Council itself. I won’t beat about the bush – the numbers that the workshop will be looking at this afternoon are, to put it mildly, very challenging, and they will force us into some tough decision-making.
We are proposing allowing deferral of payment of the next rates bill for the commercial sector and for residents who can show they have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are proposing parking remain free until at least June, and that weekend parking be free for a period post the end of the lockdown to attract people back into town.
There are a range of proposed fee refunds and fee freezes, which are all detailed in papers which we are now making public today. They include consents, liquor fees, pool and gym fees.
We will ensure we speed up payment to suppliers to improve their cash flow at this critical time.
We will continue to support a range of arts and social sector organisations which rely for their existence on Council support. Collectively they are essential to our community’s wellbeing. We will obviously work through what they can save – for example many organisations will not be running events over the next few months until mass gatherings can resume.
We will continue to enhance our support for those in greatest need, particularly the homeless. I had a good conversation with the Housing Minister and her officials in that respect this morning. I want again to thank our Community Services team and the community agencies that are doing such great work for these vulnerable people.
Working with WellingtonNZ and the Dominion Post we are supporting Love Local Buy Local campaign and we are undertaking initiatives to build pride, confidence and community spirit.
Looking to the recovery we are teaming up with Wellington NZ and the Chamber of Commerce to establish a City Recovery Panel. We’re also responding with our regional partners to Government’s request for ‘shovel ready’ projects to boost employment.
As a landlord we will also be looking at rent relief where organisations and businesses can show financial hardship caused by Covid-19.
Back to Council’s own financial position as a result of the lockdown.
We’re looking at a fiscal shortfall for the Council in the 2020/21 year of between $60 and 70 million from lost revenue from a range of user charges and investment income.
We were already looking to find $12 million in savings to keep rates at a reasonable level – even before Covid-19 appeared on the horizon.
The Council has to keep spending to keep the city running – but our non-rates revenue streams have instantly dried up – as they have for so many businesses around the city, region and nationwide.
As of a week or so ago we have no income coming in from our swimming pools, from parking meters and parking enforcement, and other revenue streams we use to keep rates down.
It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the revenue the Council receives from its share in Wellington Airport is likely to be impacted – given that hardly any planes are now flying.
If we are to avoid a significant rates increase next year then we will have to borrow significantly and possibly have to look at service cuts – and we know that such cuts don’t go down well with the community.
These are the big issues we’ll be looking at this afternoon.
So – a big day for your elected representatives – I’ll report back to you on how we have got on either later today or tomorrow.
Please keep safe, keep separate, stay home – and help get us through this as fast as possible. It will help ease the pain!
Kia kaha Wellington.