Council Keeps Likely Rate Rise Below 4 Percent

13 March 2009

Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee yesterday agreed to a draft long-term plan that if approved will result in a 3.67 percent increase in the total rates take in the coming financial year - a figure in keeping with the Council's aim to keep the increase below 4 percent.

With more ratepayers in the city, this would mean an average real rates increase of 2.47 percent. However the increase for individual property owners will vary.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says she would have liked to have seen a lower increase proposed but decisions made this week had pushed the figure higher. The draft plan will be considered once more at a Council meeting on Thursday 26 March and changes with an impact on the rates figure could still be made.

"As many people will be aware we have been seeking some early feedback over the last couple of months in a bid to help keep rates rises down," she says. "A large number of people have taken the time to give their views, which has influenced the decision-making this week. The community will be able to comment on the draft plan itself as part of the formal consultation process that begins next month."

The Council was considering making cuts to library services, including slight reductions in opening hours - a move which would have saved about $269,000 in 2009/10 and a total of $4.1 million over the next 10 years. Feedback from the community on this over the last few months has been largely negative and Councillors voted yesterday to drop the proposed service cuts. Unless the decision is overturned at the 26 March Council meeting, which it could be in the interests of achieving a lower rates rise, the cuts will not be included in the draft Long Term Council Community Plan.

Consultation on the draft plan is planned from Thursday 16 April to Monday 18 May.  The plan will determine what the Council does over the next three years and provide a blueprint for the next 10 years (2010/19). 

People will be able to have their say on plans that will see about $5 billion dollars spent on the city's infrastructure and providing Council services over the next 10 years. This includes maintaining essential road, water and sewage networks as well as projects and initiatives designed to achieve a range of goals including protecting Wellington's environment, creating strong, safe and healthy communities and making sure the city remains vibrant, internationally competitive and affordable.

Among those initiatives are plans to put artificial turf on more of the city's sportsfields to help meet increasing demand, to continue to attract high profile events like the World of WearableArts and the 2011 Rugby World Cup, to support great community events like the Pasifika and Newtown festivals and to improve our bus lane network.

It is proposed the Council increase the annual funding it provides to Te Papa by $250,000 a year, up from $2 million, and boost funding to the Museums Trust - an additional $11 million over the next 10 years.

The Council sets user fees and charges to cover a proportion of the cost of operating some services. This is to help ensure that those who directly benefit from services pay an appropriate proportion of increasing costs. If that doesn't happen, ratepayers must pay for all the increases through rates whether they use the particular service or facility or not and that would mean higher rates.

A number of increases are proposed in the plan for 2009/10 in line with the Council's Revenue and Financing Policy. These include changes to water charges, a new entry fee for Khandallah Pool ($2 for adults and $1 for children) and modest increases at other pools - an adult swim would go from $5 to $5.30 and children from $3 to $3.20. Increases are also proposed at recreation centres - adult entry would rise from $2 to $3 and children from $1 to $1.50.

Library charge increases proposed at this stage include DVD boxed sets, up from $4 to $8, and adult audio books, up from $1 to $3.

From 16 April, people will be able to check the plan and what's planned, by visiting the Long Term Council Community Plan 2009/19 consultation web page in Public Input or get copies of the draft plan from libraries, Council service centres or by phoning our Contact Centre on (04) 499 4444. There will be lots of information in the April issue of the Council's newspaper Absolutely Positively Wellington and in the Our Wellington page in The Dominion Post. People will be able to have their say online, by email, in writing or arrange to make an oral submission in late May (starting Monday 25 May). The weekly phone hotline that has proved so popular over the last few months is continuing every Thursday evening, 7.00pm to 9.00pm, until the end of June and the online discussion forums will be reinstated.

City Councillors will take submissions from the public into account when the Council meets in late June to make final decisions. The final plan will be published in July.