Annual Plan reconsidered in light of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic

20 March 2020

Wellington City Councillors met yesterday to reconsider their response to the draft 2020/21 Annual Plan with respect to the rapidly changing situation in regard to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Mayor Andy Foster says the Council recognises many businesses and ratepayers are already feeling the economic impact of the pandemic and this is expected to increase in coming months.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented and fast-changing environment. We need to deal with that nimbly, but calmly, thinking about both the immediate challenges for our community and the medium- and longer-term needs of our city which has important issues and opportunities beyond the current situation.

“So our Annual Plan has to allow us to continue providing the services the public expect and respond to the investment needs of the city, while also managing the impact of rates on businesses and residents.

“Yesterday, in light of the current and evolving issues the city and country is facing, we asked officers to include a number of initiatives for the Council to consider as part of our Annual Plan deliberations. These include:

• Looking for options to increase efficiencies and take on a greater degree of risk in the budget. This includes thinking about how we will minimise the impact on ratepayers of passing on significantly reduced income and increased spending that results directly from the coronavirus pandemic.

• Reassessing proposed fee increases to ease the impact on the local economy and residents, including parking fees and liquor licences.

• Remodelling the budget and funding to propose lower rates options. This includes increasing debt funding of costs that provide benefit over a number of years.

Mayor Foster says the Council acknowledges the economic slowdown is likely to cause significant cashflow issues for ratepayers and businesses.

“In addition to the Government’s relief package, we’ll consider options to assist those most in need, including allowing for delayed payment of the final rates instalment in the current year, and options to postpone the payment of 2020/21 rates.

“We’ve listened to the public saying they want clear decisionmaking and reduced red tape. We’ll take these decisions straight to the Council on 2 April so we can get your views on these proposals as soon as possible.

“We know we may need to look at more options as the situation with Covid-19 develops, and will have the opportunity to respond and consider public feedback before finalising the Annual Plan in June,” says Mayor Foster.

“In the meantime I encourage Wellingtonians to look after each other, stick to the health advice and continue supporting local businesses as best they can. We will get through this together.”