Draft Plan Aims to Help Wellington Retain its 'Edge'

27 March 2009

Wellington City Council's draft long-term plan, which was finalised for consultation last night, aims to keep rates affordable while ensuring the city retains its competitive edge as a place where people want to live, visit and do business.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says balance is what matters in uncertain economic times.

Considerable savings have been achieved and some modest service reductions proposed as part of the draft plan, but the Council believes continued prudent investment is crucial so Wellington doesn't lose momentum and is in the best possible position when the economy picks up.

The draft Long Term Council Community Plan (2009 - 2010) finalised last night would result in an average real rates increase of 2.38 percent for the coming financial year - a figure in keeping with the Council's aim to keep the increase below 4 percent. However the increase for individual property owners will vary.

Wellingtonians will have a month to comment on the plan from Thursday 16 April to Monday 18 May. The plan will determine what the Council does over the next three years and provide a guide for the next seven, outlining how some $5 billion dollars will be spent in the next 10 years on the city's infrastructure and providing Council services.

Mayor Prendergast says keeping Wellington vibrant, internationally competitive and affordable is essential for the city's future and will help it weather challenging times.

"We need to continue to support the attractions like Te Papa and events like the World of Wearable Art, the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the Sevens which bring large numbers of visitors to the city and help support our hotels, restaurants, bars and shops," she says. "We've worked hard to forge Wellington's reputation as the events and arts capital, and from the feedback we've had, Wellingtonians like the fact their city is a vibrant place that offers a host of things to see and do. Our investment in this area has had significant economic, social and cultural benefits."

The Council encouraged people to get involved early and help shape the plan by running a range of activities over the last few months including workshops, online discussion boards, information stands and a phone hotline that is still operating every Thursday evening, 7.00pm - 9.00pm.

Views provided have influenced decisions made so far. For instance, a modest reduction in library opening hours and the possible introduction of a small charge for out-of-town visitors at city-owned attractions like the Museum of Wellington City and Sea and the City Gallery have both been dropped.

"I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to share their thoughts and ideas so far and encourage as many groups and people as possible to check out the plan from mid-April and let us know what you think by making a written submission," says Mayor Prendergast.

She says the Council is continually looking at what it does to find more cost-effective ways of doing things and keep rate rises down. Operations and budgets have all been extensively reviewed over the last year to reduce costs.

The draft plan covers everything from maintaining essential road, water and sewage networks to projects and initiatives designed to achieve a range of goals that include protecting Wellington's environment and creating strong, safe and healthy communities.

Among the initiatives are plans to put artificial turf on more of the city's sportsfields, build an indoor community sports centre, support great community events like the Pasifika and Newtown festivals, and improve the bus lane network.

The plan outlines how the Council will work with others in the region to determine how best to meet the city's future water needs, lobby the government for funds to make it easier and cheaper to access broadband and push for a regional amenities levy like Auckland's so other ratepayers in the region contribute to the cost of attractions and facilities that benefit the region as a whole.

A plan to work with other neighbouring councils to develop joint building services is also proposed.

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.