Council Confirms Draft Plan for Consultation

22 March 2010

Wellington City Council has confirmed its 2010/11 draft Annual Plan for consultation, including proposed initiatives that will help the city make the most of next year's Rugby World Cup, improve city pools and take action on climate change.

If approved, the plan will result in an overall average real rates increase of 2.88 percent - the lowest for the commercial and residential sectors for seven years and well below the 5.38 percent overall average real rates increase forecast in the Council's Long-Term Council Community Plan.  

The actual movement in the rates bill for an individual property will vary depending on the changes in capital value and on the effect of the rates differential between businesses and households. This means differing impacts on different sectors - on average about a 5.5 percent real rates increase for the residential sector and a near zero rise for the city's commercial sector.

The Council has traditionally charged the commercial sector significantly more in rates than residents but since 2000 has been gradually altering the differential (the ratio that determines how much of the general rates take the commercial and residential sectors pay) to reduce the burden on businesses to a fairer level.

This doesn't mean residents will end up paying more than commercial ratepayers. Even next year - at the end of this gradual transition - commercial ratepayers will still be subsidising the residential sector by something like $31 million.

Wellingtonians will be able to find out more and comment on the plan in a few weeks' time. They will have a month (9 April to 10 May) to make submissions on the plan, which sets out the Council's work programme for the coming financial year and explains any differences from the long-term plan - proposed new projects and changes to existing projects.  At the same time, the Council will seek comment on its draft 2010 Climate Change Action Plan and draft Community Facilities Policy and implementation plans.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says this year's draft Annual Plan includes some new projects to help ensure the city is well prepared for Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC) and maximises the benefits of being part of the biggest event New Zealand has ever hosted.

Among these proposals are spending $150,000 over the next two years leasing the new Wharewaka on the waterfront and setting it up as the base for the RWC village and $350,000 commissioning Weta Workshop to produce a large sculpture as the centrepiece of the village.

"With entertainment and big screens showing live match footage, the village will be the hub of Rugby World Cup action off the field and the place to visit to soak up the atmosphere, buy memorabilia or get information," she says. "The sculpture, which depicts players jumping in a line out and rugged aspects of Wellington's landscape, would add to that atmosphere and draw global attention to Wellington's creative industries and the work Weta does.

"The city is known internationally as a centre of innovation and creative talent, thanks in no small part to Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop, and we want to highlight that."

Wellington's draft 2010 Climate Change Action Plan, which has also been signed off for consultation, proposes Council leadership and community action as well as some initiatives that will help the city plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change and reduce its emissions.

Retaining the city's compact form and encouraging more people to live in the central city has seen the percentage of vehicle commuting trips drop in favour of walking, cycling and public transport.

Among other things, the Council has also been incorporating energy-saving features into its rental housing units as they are upgraded, introducing bus priority measures and looking at the potential to use new technology to convert sewage sludge into energy. Methane - a greenhouse gas - is already being collected at the city's landfill and used to produce enough electricity to power 1,000 households thanks to a partnership we have with Todd Energy.

Most of the things proposed in the action plan can be achieved within existing budgets but some things will require additional funding, including contributing to a regional coastal study, led by Greater Wellington, to identify areas most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and working with other interested parties on a $50,000 pilot programme aimed at encouraging local use of electric vehicles.

Through its draft Annual Plan and Community Facilities Policy, the Council is proposing improvements and new approaches to providing community facilities in the city and suburbs.  

As part of that, it is looking at building a new teaching pool at Karori Pool for the learn-to-swim programme and a new hydrotherapy pool at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in the coming year, and doing improvements over the next few years at Keith Spry, Tawa and Thorndon pools. The new hydrotherapy pool would allow the existing shared teaching and hydrotherapy pool to be used exclusively for learn-to-swim programmes. The Council is also proposing to boost its social and recreational grants fund by $250,000 in 2011/12 and again the following year to support the upgrade of school swimming pools. To be considered, work planned will need to improve opportunities and access for school and public learn-to-swim programmes.