Feedback sought on rates rise

30 April 2020

Today Wellington City Council agreed to seek community feedback on the proposed 2020/2021 Annual Plan, which includes increased funding for the water network, and projects such as the new central city library network and planning for Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

Mayor Andy Foster and Councillors agreed to go to consultation on a recommended 5.07% percent increase in rates for the next financial year.

Public consultation will take place between next Friday 8 May and 8 June.

Mayor Foster says the Annual Plan has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown and has been adjusted to help lessen the impact on Wellingtonians, many of whom are suffering financial hardship.

The recommended rates rise was pushed up to 5.07 percent from 4.95 percent by a series of successful late amendments that recommended:

• A continuation of the Council’s rates scheme that gives a $5000 remission to first-time home buyers who purchase new-built properties

• Investment in funding of built heritage, arts, a climate lab, insulation of homes and environmental initiatives.

“The Covid-19 lockdown has affected all of us and will continue to do so for some time. Many Wellingtonians and Wellington business are facing financial hardship at this time as well as uncertainty about the future,” says Mayor Foster.

“We are very mindful of the difficulties facing many Wellingtonians, including their ability to pay rates. We have tasked the Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, to look for further savings and efficiencies. My colleagues and I will assist her in that role,” says the Mayor.

“We already have a process in place to help people who’ll be struggling to pay this year’s fourth-quarter rates instalment and we will consider similar options for the 2020/21 financial year.

“Apart from landfill and marina fees which are ring-fenced activities, we are not proposing increases to fees and charges this year, as we want to ensure we are doing all we can to help the residents and businesses to recover.”

Today’s decisions were made in an online meeting, as Councillors are still meeting virtually under the Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions. A video of the meeting is available on the Council’s YouTube channel.

The Council is seeking feedback from the public on two options for rates. The preferred option is the 5.07 percent rates increase and to borrow to cover revenue lost due to Covid-19 restrictions on Council facilities. “This option avoids putting undue pressure on ratepayers now and softens the impact on our budgets and rates increases in the future. By debt-funding the loss of revenue the Council is also able to undertake some of the work needed on our infrastructure and assets. This is the preferred option,” Mayor Foster says.

The other option is a 2.3 percent rates increase. This option would result in big rates increases in future years and it would likely mean the Council would not have the budget for the repair and maintenance work needed on infrastructure and assets.

“This is not recommended because Wellingtonians have told us they want us to invest more in key infrastructure – particularly in the three-waters area,” says Mayor Foster.

Adapting the engagement process Covid-19 has affected the Council's intended engagement process and we are arranging alternative ways for the community to access the consultation document and supporting information and to have their say from home. More information on the engagement programme will be available at letstalk.wellington.govt.nz/annualplan2020-21 soon.