The plan includes a 5.1% rates increase, reduced from the 7.1% forecast for this year in the 2018/2028 long term plan. The Annual Plan includes provision for rates deferrals where ratepayers have been significantly financially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillors also voted not to increase fees and charges this year except for some waste and marina fees. During the period affected by lockdown, the Council also froze or forgave a range of fees, charges and rentals to help various businesses and organisations affected by Covid-19.
On average, this will mean a household in a home with a rating value of $700,000 might see around a $150 increase in their annual rates bill, providing that the rateable value hasn’t changed since the last rating year.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says there's no doubt this Annual Plan has been a difficult process. “Pre-Covid-19 we were facing significant cost increases to deliver existing services, respond to earthquake and resilience issues, Let’s Get Wellington Moving, and increased investment in our three-waters networks, Te Ngākau Civic Precinct and the new temporary central city libraries.
“This all meant we were looking at a rates increase of 9.2%. The pandemic has put increased pressure on our budget while decreasing the ability of some ratepayers to pay. It's been a balancing act to remain fiscally responsible, not put unbearable burden on ratepayers, keep delivering services and maintain our facilities to the level that Wellingtonians expect,” says Mayor Foster.
“We know many people and businesses in Wellington have been financially impacted by Covid and that a 9.2% rates increase this year is unacceptable. Therefore, along with borrowing to offset the pandemic impacts, we have also made more than $7.4 million of cost savings and taken on more risk to keep rates as low as possible.”
Councillors also agreed to extend the rates postponement to include the 2021 quarter-one instalment for up to six months. Information on the criteria and how to apply will be available in the next rates instalment invoice.
The Council has identified five priorities for the year ahead and these form the heart of the 2020/21 Annual Plan. These priorities focus on what is needed in the next 12 months to recover from the pandemic impacts and build back better. They are:
• Recovery - working closely with WellingtonNZ and our business, arts, culture and events communities on recovery actions, including an exciting events programme.
• Positively Wellington. Working to develop new economic and arts and culture strategies and action plans and making more of being New Zealanders’ Capital City, building our sense of identity, and renewing our Memoranda of Understanding with our iwi mana whenua partners.
• Core infrastructure - with a focus on water repair works, additional funding for condition assessment of our three-waters network, and work on retaining walls in Wadestown and the major slip in Ngaio Gorge.
• Planning for a growing city. While the short-term growth of the city has been impacted by Covid-19, the long-term projections still say that our population is expected to grow by 50,000 to 80,000 people in the next 30 years. The Planning for Growth programme will continue this year with the development of the spatial plan – how we will use our city in the future. Let’s Get Wellington Moving will be delivering safer speed limits and walking, cycling and bus priority projects, as well as the business cases for mass transit and state highway upgrade work.
• Protect and restore the environment. The Council is working to become a carbon-zero city and mitigate the impacts of climate change and will agree an action plan to deliver the Te Atakura (First to Zero) carbon zero strategy. The Council will also continue the 30 year long environmental and biodiversity restoration journey and seek to protect important natural areas. Work continues on a limited extension to the Southern Landfill, alongside investigating waste collection alternatives, waste minimisation projects, and treatment of sewage sludge as an alternative to landfilling.
“Wellington is a community with a strong heart – we’re a resilient city. We’ve overcome major issues in the past and we will win this battle too, building an even better Capital city, fit for the future and where people are excited to come to work, play and live” says Mayor Foster.