Wellington City Councillors agreed yesterday to the draft Long Term Plan, advancing the Council's projects and budgets for the next 10 years.
"The context of tough financial times has shaped our decisions and we have gone through the Council's budgets in detail," says Mayor Wade-Brown. "Two key themes emerged among Councillors: a commitment to make this city as safe as possible for our citizens, and a commitment to support the communities and their facilities that make Wellington so unique.
"This Long Term Plan sets a course for Wellington over the next decade, a course that balances affordability for residents against the imperative to ensure the city's safety so we can invest in our communities and their facilities.
"We're operating in an extraordinary set of circumstances: a global recession, rising asset ownership costs and an immediate need to focus on earthquake resilience; these have created significant pressure on our budget," she says.
"The Christchurch earthquake has highlighted how important it is to strengthen our buildings and infrastructure. That must be a priority for the city and we can't compromise safety." Over $44 million has been included in the plan for earthquake strengthening over the next decade, including work on the Town Hall.
As part of the Long Term Plan, Councillors will be adopting rates targets and rates limits set out in a new financial strategy. The rates target and limit for next year is 3.8 percent. In later years, the Council aims to reduce the rates target so that by 2014/15 it is at the level of household inflation.
Mayor Wade-Brown says that Councillors remain confident they will be able to meet the 3.8 percent rates target. She says significant savings will be made in the renewals budget and that the public consultation process will identify areas for further savings. Staff have been asked to report back on the potential to reduce approximately $1.1 billion of asset replacement costs by up to $100 million over 10 years.
"We're mindful of the times and understand that the Council must respond to the challenge of keeping rates down. The balance between investing in the future, through the projects we've agreed to, and keeping rates down must be achieved through careful public consultation."
"However, we've included important items like support for Positively Wellington Venues, investment in the city centre including transforming Opera House lane, and funding for Te Papa, at a lower level, in our Long Term Plan because it's essential we gauge the public appetite for how much we can support these important facilities.
"The new Johnsonville library and investment in the town centre underline our commitment to that area. It's long been understood that Johnsonville is a key area for Wellington's strategic population growth, so we'll be making sure it has facilities to support this growth."
During deliberations, Councillors identified a number of projects which will not be budgeted for in the Long Term Plan. These options will be described in the draft document for consultation and include a proposal to construct a deep water pool at Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, a refresh of the Central Library, and further investment in building new roads. The public will be invited to make submissions on these and other projects.
A financial sustainability working party has also been established to review the Council's spending and services and carry out a strategic review of the way it does business in a changing environment. Mayor Wade-Brown will chair the group, which also includes Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon and Councillors Jo Coughlan, Paul Eagle, Andy Foster and Justin Lester.
The financial sustainability working party's role will include reviewing capital projects to see if further savings can be found. The group will also look at service levels, alternative service models, the Council's asset holdings and potential income-generating opportunities.
Public consultation on the Long Term Plan will start on 16 April and continue until 18 May.