News | 29 April 2024
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Wellington’s five infrastructure focuses for this Long-term Plan

Our city is experiencing the impacts of earthquakes, the aftermath of the global pandemic, issues with our ageing three waters network, and climate change. Dependable and future-proofed infrastructure is expensive, but is a key investment priority for the Council. Here we outline the five infrastructure challenges for Wellington City’s Long-term Plan 2024-34.

Construction workers.

The biggest challenge for the Council is being realistic about what we can pay for and when. We own a lot of infrastructure that we need to maintain and upgrade  buildings, roads, pipes and more.

We all know that a city’s infrastructure is crucial for residents to thrive and is often taken for granted. Poor infrastructure can have significant negative consequences on our city, affecting our environment, public health and safety, and community and business confidence. 

We’ve identified five infrastructure challenges for this LTP that need long-term planning to solve them. There is no quick fix and these issues need funding across multiple years. 

1. Population growth and changing demand 

We need to ready our infrastructure for the future to serve our growing and changing population, so that we can foster liveable, safe, low-emission neighbourhoods and travel. 

2. Ageing and declining condition of infrastructure

Much of the city’s infrastructure was built in waves when parts of the city were urbanised, including a sizeable portion that was built after World War II. This means a lot of our infrastructure will reach the end of its life in the next 30 years. 

One example of this challenge is our three waters network. We are seeking feedback on the level of funding for Wellington Water as one of our key proposals of this consultation.

3. Mitigation and adaptation to climate change

Our city's infrastructure, including transportation and waste systems, play a key role in where we live, how we move around, and the industries we support. However, as a steep coastal city with many of our roads and other critical assets situated at or near sea level, the functioning of our city depends on adapting our infrastructure to be resilient to climate change.

4. Earthquake hazards and earthquake prone buildings

Wellington is built on shaky ground due to its location on an active tectonic boundary, and the challenges caused by climate change makes things worse as higher sea levels can cause land to sink and saturate  soil in low-lying areas. This combination increases the likelihood and severity of natural disasters in the city. 

5. Affording and delivering better infrastructure

The costs of maintaining, operating, renewing, and upgrading infrastructure are big and have been increasing quickly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Obtaining the funds to improve our infrastructure is also becoming challenging as the costs increase. Local government funding is therefore a pressing issue and councils are working with central government to address the funding issues and find a sustainable system for the future (see page 23 for more information).

Snapshot of the top of a crane.

Responding to these challenges

There are five principal options for addressing our infrastructure challenges in the long-term that are outlined in the Infrastructure Strategy: 

  1. Prioritising growth areas;
  2. Targeting emissions reductions to the greatest gains and operational efficiency; 
  3. Growing our understanding of climate impacts and adaptation costs;
  4. Managing the overall asset portfolio better through strategic rationalisation; and
  5. Prioritising the interventions and work programme for affordability.

Of the options above, the two that apply to all our infrastructure issues are the strategic management of our assets, and prioritising the right things at the right time. 
We cannot afford to continue maintaining, operating, and renewing all our assets as we have in the past. For example, it is no longer sustainable or affordable to keep adding more assets. Therefore, we must pause and reset. This means taking a careful look at all our assets and conducting strategic reviews. 

See a snapshot of Wellington’s current infrastructure

Financial affordability for both the Council and ratepayers means that we must focus on doing the right things at the right time in the most cost-effective way whilst deliberately managing risk. We will prioritise solutions to maximise the use of our assets and deliver value for money and operational efficiency.

We’re creating Wellington City’s next ten-year plan and budget (our 2024-34 Long-term Plan). We can continue to invest in making Wellington thrive but need to balance the pace of our investment with what we can afford. As a community, we need to make some tough decisions about what to prioritise. To find out more or make a submission, visit