News | 16 December 2022

Notable decisions from yesterday’s City Council meeting

A number of important decisions were made at yesterday’s final 2022 meeting of the Wellington City Council – some in public and others in public-excluded sessions.

Te Matapihi Harris Street view artist render
Central Library preliminary design render showing view from Harris Street

Mayor Tory Whanau says the public-excluded nature of some of the debates allowed elected members to frankly discuss a range of commercially and legally sensitive issues to ensure the best outcomes and value for the city and its ratepayers. 

 

Mayor Whanau is disappointed that public-excluded documents were leaked to media.

 

“Our intention was always to release the information once the Council had made its decisions. It’s also important we redact commercially sensitive information before being made public, to enable us to negotiate contracts and get the best possible value for ratepayers. 

 

“Transparency is vital but so too is following process, so projects don’t get derailed. Leaking publicly excluded documents goes against Councillors’ code of conduct and a host of legislation. I have zero appetite for this irresponsible political sabotage.” 

 

Major decisions made in the full meeting included approving additional funding for Te Matapihi Central Library, Frank Kitts Park playground, and giving the green light for Wellington’s new sludge minimisation facility. The Council also voted on the trust deed for the new community housing provider, and to purchase 475 off-street carparks in a building on Tory Street, as well as a small piece of land from KiwiRail to install a roundabout on Aotea Quay. 

 

Mayor Whanau said it’s critical the Council doesn’t delay funding decisions “as we know that only creates increased costs for ratepayers down the road”.

 

A summary of those decisions:

 

 

Te Matapihi Central Library

The Council resolved to increase the Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui budget by $12 million to meet new legislative requirements and address the implementation of Council committee resolutions from 2021.

 

In 2020, Council decided on the required seismic strengthening of the original Te Matapihi building and reconstruction. The initial budget approved for this work was $178.7 million. In April 2021, the Council approved a further $8.5 million to extend levels 3 and 4 and $1.9 million to progress sustainability initiatives to achieve a 5 Green Star design rating. These three amounts are the baseline budget for construction works.

 

In April 2021, the Council established new guiding design principles directing the future of the Te Matapihi project. This design defined a future visitor experience of Pōneke’s unique cultural identity and integrated services, including City Archives, Customer Service Centre and Experience Wellington’s Capital E.

The additional funding provision of $12 million for the Te Matapihi project addresses these required elements and legislative requirements supporting new and exciting public services at the heart of our inner-city centre for everyone to enjoy.

The extra funding includes:

  • $6.5 million for cultural identity, including 13 cultural and art elements and entranceway design.
  • $500, 000 for a legislation change MBIE has introduced that Council must adhere to and the costs associated.
  • $5 million for integrated services and spaces, providing an enhanced visitor experience all in one place.

Sludge minimisation facility at Moa Point

The Council approved the construction of the new sludge minimisation facility at Moa Point, which will help the Council meet its target of halving emissions by 2030 and becoming net-zero carbon capital by 2050.

 

The new facility is a critical piece of infrastructure for Wellington. Expected to be operational in 2026, it will reduce the volume of sludge being taken to landfill by 80 percent. 

 

Sludge is the solid waste produced from the wastewater treatment process. It contains microbiological contaminants that need to be disposed of in a well-managed way. Its high moisture content means it is difficult and expensive to transport and dispose of. 

 

One million litres of sludge are piped to the Southern Landfill sludge dewatering plant, partially dried, and about 45 tonnes of solids buried each day. This process is unsustainable if the Council is to meet its target of becoming net-zero carbon capital by 2050. 

 

The new facility will break that link between sludge and landfill, reduce carbon emissions, minimise odour, increase the resilience of the overall sludge management process, and align with mana whenua values. Wellington City Council will apply for funding through the Infrastructure Funding and Finance Act 2020 (IFFA), as outlined in the 2021 Long-Term Plan (LTP). IFFA applies a levy on beneficiaries (in this case ratepayers) to pay the cost of financing over time. The Council will apply for core funding amount of $299m from IFFA to be paid back over 30 years. The levy will be calculated based on the latest capital values (CVs) with commercial ratepayers contributing 25% of the total levy requirement. Residential ratepayers will contribute 75%.

 

Ratepayers directly connected to the Moa Point facility (generally, properties in Johnsonville and to the south) will cover 70% of the levy requirement, with all City Council ratepayers covering the remaining 30%. The levy will start in 2024 at 25% of the total, increasing to 50% in 2025, 75% in 2026, with the full levy being paid in 2027, when the plant is fully operational. 

 

Directly connected residential properties with a CV of $1 million should expect a levy in the range of $281-$321 in 2027, with directly connected commercial properties paying between $417-$476. Other residential properties will pay between $73-$83 per $1 million of CV, with all other commercial ratepayers paying between $108-123 per $1 million of CV. 

 

Construction on the sludge minimisation facility, to be built on land adjacent to Stewart Duff Drive at the southern end of the airport, is expected to start in mid-2023, with the project completed in 2026.

 

Council to purchase 474 off-street car parks in Tory Street 

The Council voted to purchase 474 car parking spaces in the Century City parking building in Tory Street for $13 million.

 

The purchase of the parking spaces will enable the Council to provide affordable short-stay off-street parking which will then allow for better access to the increasing number of retail and hospitality offerings in and around Tory, College, and Jessie Streets. 

 

Revenue from the parking spaces will also offset the loss of revenue to the Council as on-street car parks are removed from parts of the CBD in coming years in order to facilitate greater active and public transport options. 

 

The investment includes a mix of car park types, with casual parking in addition to monthly leased parking. The revenue on average per car park is expected to be between $2600-$2900 per year and would result in a payback of the purchase price in about 25 years. 

 

The car park building contains 771 car park spaces in total. The Council has purchased 474 parks. The remainder of the parks service what was the Distinction Hotel and the apartments located in the overall complex. 

 

The 474 parks are currently operated on a 24/7 basis, and it is envisaged that this would continue under Council’s ownership which would provide parking for people seeking to access the city for entertainment purposes in the evening as an example. 

 

The 474 car parks would initially be operated as a mix of short term and monthly leased car parks. However, changes to that model over time are envisaged with the potential to convert a percentage of the parks to support the Council’s wider objectives. This could potentially include dedicated EV charging stations, dedicated car share parking, cycle/e-cycle charging and parking. 

 

Any of these initiatives would need to be agreed with the body corporate for the car park building – but the Council’s purchase of the 474 parks means it will have the majority of the votes on the Body Corporate. 

 

The financial modelling assumes that the cost per hour to park casually in the building would align with the pricing for existing on-street parking. 

 

Frank Kitts Park playground 

The Council reconfirmed its commitment to construction of the Frank Kitts Park playground by approving an additional budget following the liquidation of the original contractor Armstrong Downes. Negotiations continue with Downer Construction to take over the waterfront project following the liquidation earlier this year of Armstrong Downes.

 

Aotea Quay land acquisition

The Council has voted to buy a 1768 sqm piece of land from Kiwi Rail to provide space for a signalised roundabout to accommodate the anticipated traffic resulting from the new ferry terminal and the larger ferries they’ll be accommodating.  It will also enable further improvements on Hutt Road to improve cycling and public transport provision as part of the LGWM Thorndon Quay Hutt Road project.

 

Community housing provider (CHP) decision

The Council has voted to approve the signing of the Trust Deed for the Community Housing Provider, which will take over tenancy operations from the Council’s social housing arm in July next year. 

 

Following community consultation, the Council made the decision last June to establish an independent Community Housing Provider (CHP), as the best option available to resolve City Housing’s long-standing financial challenges.

 

The CHP will enable access to central government funding for new social housing supply in Wellington and access to the government's Income Related Rent Subsidy (IRRS) for new, eligible tenants.

 

The Trust Deed outlines the purposes and principles for the new CHP charitable trust. Following the Council’s approval today, the Trust will be signed by the CHP’s initial six Trustees, allowing further work to progress to establish the CHP.

 

We are communicating regularly with tenants about key decisions as we work to set-up the CHP. We will also have a tenant feedback panel in place in the new year, to receive tenant input into transition issues as we move through them. 

 

Current tenancies are secure. Current tenants will transfer over to the CHP on their existing tenancy agreements and rent. Tenants will continue to have access to the same supports and services that they receive from the Council’s City Housing.