Te Papa, SPCA Favoured in Recommendations

11 June 2012

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says huge public interest in Wellington City Council's Long-Term Plan (LTP) - and a close look at spending on infrastructure assets over the next decade - means the Council can this week revisit and reconsider a series of spending priorities.

A number of recommendations will be considered by the Council's Strategy and Policy Committee during deliberations starting on Tuesday 12 June. The committee has seven days in which to make decisions on the 2012-2022 Long-Term Plan and also set the Council's budget for 2012-13.

Key recommendations for change from the draft include:

  • The Council's annual funding for Te Papa be set at $2 million rather than cut to $1 million as earlier proposed in the LTP process. Up until this year the annual funding has been $2.25 million. This would be a more modest reduction, with tighter conditions.
  • Jointly fund, with the SPCA making a very significant contribution of almost half a million dollars, about $900,000 of earthquake strengthening and renovation work on the historic Chest Hospital on the Town Belt above Newtown so the SPCA can relocate there.
  • Bringing forward $7.1 million in committed funding to upgrade and increase the capacity of roads in Johnsonville - particularly around the shopping centre. This funding would coincide with the scheduled start, in 2013, of the expansion of the Johnsonville Shopping Mall by DNZ Property Fund.
  • Provide $900,000 for the upgrade of the Miramar Town Centre in 2012-13 with further support from local businesses.
  • Continue to fund progress towards an agreement with an airline to run a regular long-haul international service out of Wellington. This would require funding of $200,000 per year and financial agreements with Wellington International Airport Ltd - of which the Council owns a 34% shareholding.

Mayor Wade-Brown stresses the proposals are recommendations by Council officers. "Clearly it is up to myself and Councillors to make decisions on these proposals after serious debate this week.

"There has been great interest in this year's LTP consultation, with a record number of submissions - more than 2,600 - and eight days of hearings after a number of community meetings and forums. It shows Wellingtonians have a deep interest in the issues and events in the city - and this is to be applauded."

Mayor Wade-Brown says the committee is able to reconsider some key funding proposals thanks in large part to the work of the Council's Financial Sustainability Working Party in the past few months.

"The working party focused - along with senior Council officers - in the past few weeks on opportunities to trim back asset renewal spending and create more operational efficiencies over the next 10 years.

As a result, that pushed the projected rates rise for 2012-13 down from an average 4.1 percent (after growth in the ratepayer base) to 3.3 percent.

"That has given officers the leeway to reconsider some of the spending cuts and deferrals proposed earlier this year."

The recommendations strike a balance between a prudent financial course and addressing community concerns. "The LTP consultation process has been a great success - we have listened to the public and these recommendations reflect that."

She adds, however, that it is important that the recommendations still reflect the 'big picture' for the Council. "We remain mindful of the economic climate and significant immediate financial pressures, such as the need to fund earthquake-strengthening work.

"But it is also important to invest in implementing the long-term strategic vision for the city set out in our Wellington Towards 2040: Smart Capital document such as the biodiversity advantage our reserves provide, improvements to strategic cycle routes, cultural activity and long-term management of the water, stormwater and sewage networks for conservation, healthier harbour and streams.

"The focus of the LTP is on investing in the city's resilience, encouraging diversification of the capital's economy, ensuring the vibrancy and character of the CBD in particular, and supporting our diverse communities.

"We want to take a frugal approach that balances investment in the city with the need to keep rate rises to a minimum."