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Rates going up by 4.3% or 3.9% ? And no free weekend parking

Wellington.Scoop
In another preview of the Wellington City Council’s ten-year plan, Mayor Justin Lester says a rates increase has been set at 4.3 per cent but he wants to bring it down to 3.9 percent. He also wants to start charging for weekend parking – but at a reduced rate – as a way of keeping rates down.

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council will release its 10-Year Plan today. Mayor Justin Lester says the Plan is consistent with the Council’s earlier stated priorities for the triennium.

“There is a strong focus on resilience and our local environment, housing, transport, celebrating a decade of culture and strengthening our economy,” he says. “It’s always a challenge when prioritising investment in Wellington and our Council is working hard to keep rates affordable.

“Early projections for the 2018-19 year were that rates would come in at 7.2 percent, which was unacceptable.

“We’ve gone through the proposed 10-Year Plan with a fine-tooth comb. Our report released later today will show a rates increase of 4.3 percent, but we are committed to reducing that further to 3.9 percent, which I hope to introduce as an amendment next week.”

The Mayor says it is a balancing act.

“I’m determined that we will not cut services or jobs as part of bringing down rates.”

He is proposing to introduce discounted weekend parking fees to help keep rates down. The proposal is for parking in the CBD to cost $2.50 an hour. On weekdays it costs $4.50 an hour to park in the CBD.

“We have two choices: ratepayers can pay a little more to subsidise free weekend parking or the people actually parking can pay $2.50 an hour. We have significant demand for car parks and I don’t think offering them free helps that. This will encourage turnover.”

The complete draft 10 year plan document is now online. It will be discussed by councillors on Wednesday. (They’ve got four days to read all 350 pages.) Public consultation will begin on 15 April.

20 comments:

  1. Traveller, 2. March 2018, 18:15

    It’s an old trick that Justin has inherited from his predecessors. Announce a rates increase. Then announce you’re going to reduce it a bit. Thereby distracting people from asking why there has to be a rates increase at all. Why, every year, does the council have to increase the rates? Why, for a year or two, can’t it leave the rates unchanged?

     
  2. Andrew, 2. March 2018, 18:34

    Asking Justin why there is an increase is a waste of time. He is not leading, as shown by sidestepping a critical vote on Shelly Bay because he had accepted a campaign donation from the developer.

     
  3. TrevorH, 3. March 2018, 11:37

    I get it. The way to deal with congestion is to kill off retailing and other services in the CBD, brilliant.

     
  4. luke, 3. March 2018, 13:49

    I dont see why ratepayers should subsidize parking in the CBD.

     
  5. michael, 3. March 2018, 17:17

    My understanding is that the free parking was started by imposing a “downtown levy” on commercial Wellington businesses, who have been paying it for years. This levy was to be specifically used to assist CBD businesses by paying the cost of free car parking in the weekends. This levy is still being paid by the commercial businesses and bringing in millions of dollars a year.

    Is the council now going to stop charging the levy? If not, is the council going to use it to assist businesses paying the levy, or is it just going into the council coffers for other things? Perhaps it is time the businesses asked for a breakdown of what their money is going to be used for, before continuing to pay the levy.

     
  6. Rus, 3. March 2018, 19:30

    The WCC have always argued that parking fees are designed to manage parking space supply and demand. But clearly the fees have always been about generating revenue which is budgeted for. A pity it couldn’t be honest but then that is not part of local body or central government culture.

     
  7. Citizen Joe, 4. March 2018, 9:56

    I see Justin wants a tourist bed levy too. Keeping rates rises ‘down’ (but still consistently higher than inflation) means introducing new taxes and increasing existing ones.

     
  8. michael, 4. March 2018, 10:34

    Rus: the cost of the free parking has been carried by the CBD businesses who have paid a Downtown Levy, so they are the ones who have paid the taxes not ratepayers. Wonder what the council is going to do with the millions/year it makes from the CBD businesses as the levy was meant to help promote them.

     
  9. Sarah Webb, 4. March 2018, 12:09

    The Downtown Levy is indeed paid for by the commercial ratepayers only and was introduced some 20 years ago with the primary aim of funding the free weekend parking to encourage people to shop in the CBD rather than go out to the malls. $14,371,700 is collected annually and $1,476,000 is used for the free parking, so it’s odd that council are saying it doesn’t cover the cost of the lost parking revenue. The remainder is used to fund WREDA (50%) and the rest galleries, museums, Te Papa and the Carter Observatory.

     
  10. michael, 4. March 2018, 14:46

    Thanks for the clarification Sarah.
    In other words, the Downtown levy, paid for by the commercial sector of the CBD, has been paying for considerably more than free parking for 20 years!!
    Surely it should be up to the businesses paying the levy to decide what should happen to the $14 million+/year they are paying as they agreed to pay it based on a premise that is now being removed.
    Not only does this seem to be another scare tactic to bleed more money out of us all by the council but it also seems to be very misleading. So much for the council’s claims to more transparency.

     
  11. Simon, 4. March 2018, 18:44

    This is a totally irresponsible plan. Despite Lester’s assurances that it only maintains services, buried in the document (page 387) is the statement:
    “The indicative 7% rates increases were largely the result of decisions to increase levels of service to ratepayers and residents, the impact of earlier Council policy decisions and the impact of a heated market for services that Council purchases (p387)”.
    So rather than keeping services the same, the council is raising revenue in other areas to keep rates at double the rate of inflation.
    But the Council is not only raising revenues at just under 4% annually, it’s proposing to borrow more as well. Debt will more than DOUBLE over the ten years; from $507M to $1.16B (page 390).
    Rates up 3.8% annually, borrowing growing at 8.6% annually, the population in Wellington City growing at 0.7% annually (Source https://forecast.idnz.co.nz/wellington, paid for by WCC).
    The plan is totally out of touch with reality – and with central government which is committed to lowering the public debt.

     
  12. Tony Jansen, 4. March 2018, 20:03

    Can anyone name one thing that WREDA has done that is universally agreed as a success?
    Also if we are in deficit for the next financial year and must find additional revenue, why don’t the council look at measures such as axing WREDA, implementing a salary freeze at WCC (too many employees on over $100K pa), stop giving away huge earning potential by doing sweetheart deals with their pet developers. Perhaps they should also start planning to sell council’s stake in Wellington airport which we have no valid reason to continue to hold. Once the latest building and improvements are complete, the council i.e. ratepayers should be able to realise a decent profit. Worth thinking about.

     
  13. TrevorH, 4. March 2018, 21:32

    Grandiose vanity projects and and continual b/s.

     
  14. Barbara Smyth, 5. March 2018, 10:30

    Justin Lester wants to put our rates up by 3.9% which is more than double inflation (1.6% according to Stats NZ for 2017). In fact, I cannot recall my rates ever going up by less than inflation and ask why Wellington City cannot manage its costs like the rest of the economy. I note the Council lauds itself on paying a ‘living wage’ but I won’t be able to afford to live in Wellington if such increases continue.

     
  15. Citizen Joe, 5. March 2018, 14:17

    Well put Barbara! Justin and team at the WCC live in a parallel universe immune from the financial pressures the rest of us face.

     
  16. Neil Douglas, 6. March 2018, 12:45

    If Wellington is anything like the average council, then public and business awareness and satisfaction with what they do will be very low – based on the latest (2017) Local Government Survey. Unfortunately, the report gives only a few statistics (probably because they are so bad?) with only councils getting the full breakdown (so much for ‘transparency’!). Overall performance rated at less than 30%.

    Two ‘disasters’ are business’s view of the building consent process which plumbed the depths at 9%. Council skills only managed 22%, with local and regional roads being the highest rated at a hardly stellar 31%!

     
  17. James S, 6. March 2018, 15:15

    Why does the Council keep writing ten year plans? Why don’t they just get on with doing the work set out in the previous plans?

     
  18. TrevorH, 6. March 2018, 18:45

    It’s well past time that local government was abolished. Either that or return to the system pre-1975 where only ratepayers got to vote. Local government politicians insinuate their way into office by promising free stuff to people who have no skin in the game. Local government is a huge out of control cost on the economy that achieves little of value.

     
  19. Esjay, 11. March 2018, 11:56

    So the boffins are keeping the final document away from the public until 15th April and drip feeding the public with pre selected items. We will have to await what has happened to the $90million for the runway extension, as the 3.9% was originally set to cover that amount.

     
  20. Cousin Avi, 20. March 2018, 23:58

    It’s nice you have guiding principles etc but all this touchy feely stuff with public consultation on some vague options list is frankly useless. You are avoiding making decisions and taking ownership/responsibility of problems which you are paid to solve. You need long term network planning.

    Here is my 2 cents:
    Fix your bottlenecks and increase the throughput of your system. Enforce the variable speeds on the motorway – no one follows them, everyone drives at a 100kmph.
    Invest in high speed rail – strive to be Japan in terms of rail.
    Stop listening to minority interests – be bold and move the city forward.