Plan Aims to Keep Wellington Affordable and Vibrant

6 March 2009

When Wellington City Councillors meet next week to decide on the contents of the draft Long Term Council Community Plan, they will be working to achieve a balance that recognises the economic situation and the need to ensure Wellington is in the best possible position when the economy improves.

Councillors will be considering draft proposals that would mean total rates would increase by 3.1 percent for 2009/10. After taking account of growth in the city's ratepayer base, the average real rates increase for 2009/10 is forecast to be 1.9 percent but this could change depending on the decisions made next week and at the Council meeting on 26 March.

The Long Term Council Community Plan (2010/19) will determine what the Council does over the next three years and provide a blueprint for the next 10 years.  

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says the aim will be to continue to provide key services, retain the city's vibrant character and keep the rates increases as low as possible.

"The global economy is slowing, household budgets are tightening, and there is anxiety about jobs. Residents cannot be asked to fund significant increases in rates, or any other area of household spending. At the same time it would not be wise to make deep cuts to Council spending," she says.

"That approach would cost jobs, remove important services and in the long term make Wellington less vibrant, less competitive and a less enjoyable place to live."

The Council met late last year and agreed on some priorities and a general approach, and has been canvassing these and a range of money-saving ideas with Wellingtonians over the last six weeks.

Councillors have taken calls on the weekly phone hotlines, talked with people at ward clinics and in other ways, and will be fully briefed by staff next week about what the research and feedback has shown so far, before deliberations on the draft plan begin. They will also hear views from the residents' panel, which was set up to consider the challenges the city faces and the pros and cons of a range of options and ideas.

Mayor Prendergast says the research and discussions with the community so far indicate many Wellingtonians want Wellington to remain a vibrant place and that the majority are comfortable with the Council aiming to keep the rates increase below 4 percent.

"There was a significant minority who believed that a higher rates rise was acceptable and also a group who believe that any rates rise should be in line with the rate of inflation.

"We'll be considering feedback on our overall approach and the concerns that have been raised over some of the modest service cuts proposed to help keep rates rises down," she says. "It could be, for instance, that we agree the late night at our suburban libraries should be retained and instead propose slightly shortened hours at another time."

Mayor Prendergast says City Councillors have endorsed a long-term plan approach that prioritises spending areas including safety, events with economic benefits, greater collaboration with Central Government and keeping the city affordable, something that goes well beyond containing rates increases.

"For instance, our approach to transport is to provide people with more reliable low or no-cost options. We want to encourage walking and improve the bus network, which both also have environmental benefits.

"We know that certain services are likely to become more important during a recession. Events, for example, give people the chance to get out and enjoy themselves - they also attract people to the city, helping to sustain our accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors."

The Long Term Council Community Plan deliberations will happen in Committee Room One on Tuesday 10 March, from 9.15am to 4.00pm, and will continue on Wednesday and Thursday if necessary.

Decisions made next week and voted on at a Council meeting on Thursday 26 March will determine the content of the draft Long Term Council Community Plan (2009/19) that will go out for public consultation in April. Wellingtonians will have a month (Thursday 16 April to Monday 18 May) to consider the draft plan and make submissions.

As in past years, people will be able to check on the plan and what's planned by looking at the Long Term Council Community Plan pages on the website or by getting 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 feedback received will be one of the factors City Councillors take into account when the Council meets in late June to make final decisions. We'll publish our final plan in July.