"We want to maintain what's great about Wellington during the global economic downturn," says Mayor Kerry Prendergast. "But I really do want to hear what Wellingtonians think about the spending choices we're facing.
"I'm determined to keep next year's rates rise below four percent - knowing full well that we're all collectively in for what looks like a rough ride economically in 2009.
"So my message to Wellingtonians is: now we've had a great Christmas and New Year's break - please, during January, try to think about how your Council spends your money and how we can keep rates down.
"We can't continue to do everything and keep the rates down - there have to be tradeoffs. We've come up with some ideas - we want to know whether the public is comfortable with them or, if not, whether they have better ideas."
Starting this month the City Council will try a range of new methods "to get people thinking and talking to us" before the formal Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) process starts in March. These will include a forum for Facebook users, the phone hotline and the residents' panel.
- The phone hotline initiative - during which Mayor Prendergast and Councillors will take calls, will start on 14 January. The phone number will be (04) 801 4205.
- For more details about the Residents' Panel, go to www.wellington.govt.nz/plans, click on Early Engagement and fill out the nomination form. To find out more about the Panel, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (04) 499 4444. Nominations close on 10 January.
Mayor Prendergast says City Councillors have endorsed an LTCCP approach that prioritises spending areas including safety, events with economic benefits, and greater collaboration with Central Government.
Councillors also agreed to maintain non-priority areas at 2008/09 service levels. This is an approach that gives the Council flexibility and agility to respond to change, keep any rates increase as low as possible and completes key strategic investments such as the proposed Indoor Community Sports Centre at Kilbirnie.
A full list of what is being considered will be posted on the Council website on 6 January. Some of the options up for discussion include:
- Options for a possible regional amenities levies levy - similar to a levy in Auckland - that would spread the funding load for events, arts organisations and facilities with a regional benefit
- Prioritising maintenance for gardens and beaches so less is spent on mowing, maintenance and garden beds
- Deferring upgrades of some parks and beaches for the next three years
- Reducing spending on the Move to Wellington promotional campaign
- A region-wide standardised building consents service
- Ending the heritage grants scheme for building owners
- Reducing catering budgets and reducing the printed quality of some of our publications
- Installing artificial turf on one more sportsfield to increase the hours it is available
- Reducing the nights the Central Library is open and not offering evening hours for branch libraries
- Meeting learn-to-swim demand by reducing casual lane swimming hours
- Reducing spending on public art for three years
- Charging out-of-town visitors an entry fee to visit the Council's museums and City Gallery
- Redeveloping Khandallah Town Hall and investigating moving library services there
- Maintaining our graffiti-removal programme
- Continuing support for the Rugby World Cup
- Earthquake-proofing the Karori Tunnel
- Maintaining parking fees at existing levels.
After the public engagement, the Council will produce a draft LTCCP for the more formal consultation process and the LTCCP will be adopted by 30 June.