Rates deferral leads Covid flightback

2 April 2020

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says he is looking to fast-track a suite of City Council initiatives that aim to soften the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and get Wellington back on its feet.

The initiatives – led by a proposal that the payment of the next quarterly rates bill be deferred – were discussed by Mayor Foster and City Councillors at a Zoom workshop this afternoon.

“I want these initiatives to become reality ASAP – Wellington needs the Council’s help right away so I’m looking forward to the backing of my colleagues on this.”

Central to the initiatives is a Pandemic Response Plan that has a range of initiatives that aim to cut the cost of doing business and also help to ‘pump-prime’ the local economy into recovery.

Mayor Foster also wants the payment of the 2019/20 fourth-quarter rates bill to be deferred for at least six months for ratepayers who need financial breathing space and that the 10% late-payment penalty be dropped.

“We haven’t finalised whether there’d be a December deadline for payment or whether we could sort out a softer payment option – but the important thing is to defer at this tough time.”

He says he was pleased at the generally positive tone of today’s workshop. “City Councillors were given a briefing on the very serious financial issues facing the Capital City and, as a result, the City Council. We generally agreed on the direction of the suite of proposals presented by our Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, and her senior staff.

Mayor Foster is also backing a recommendation by Ms McKerrow that the release of the 2020/21 Annual Plan document be delayed and that a ‘position statement’ instead be issued. “This will allow the Council to tackle the huge financial uncertainties that have hit us all in the past few weeks.”

He says Councillors will look at the implications for the city and the Council of a range of rates options for 2020/21 – starting from a zero increase option. All options have pros and cons and magement have been asked to clearly illustrate the implications of each option.

“We’ll be better able to set out the financial situation for Wellingtonians and take a little extra time to consider the implications for the city. People will still be able to have their say on the Council’s financial direction.”

Mayor Foster says Council officials have been asked to look at a possible list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects that could be brought forward. “One morale-raising example could be the redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park or at least the FKP playground - this obviously is something that has to be weighed up against the ability of the local construction sector to respond, given the turbulence of the economy.”

Other examples are the planned Omaroro and Bell Road reservoirs and also developments within Te Ngakau Civic Square. “We’re also already talking to Greater Wellington Regional Council and NZTA about any projects that could be brought forward in terms of early LGWM projects including bus-priority work.”