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Regional Councillors reject plan to increase city rates by 16.1 per cent

Wellington.Scoop
Wellington regional councillors today refused to accept a proposal which included increasing Wellington city’s rates by 16.1 per cent.

The proposal was detailed in the agenda papers for the Regional Council meeting, as part of an average 6.5 per cent rates increase across the region. But several councillors spoke against it, and consideration of the proposal was deferred. Instead there’s to be a new rates proposal for them to consider at their next meeting.

Councillors were told that one of the reasons for needing to increase the rates was to pay for extra bus services, introduced after the Council’s new bus network failed to satisfy local commuters.

Here’s how the council describes today’s decision.

News from Wellington Regional Council
The Regional Council has decided to reconsider its rates proposals for 2019-2020 in view of their potential impact on some communities in the region. Substantial rises in capital values for property, such as a 44 per cent increase in Wellington City, could have the impact of imposing greater rate increases in some areas than others. Council has chosen to consider these impacts further before finally setting rates. Council will discuss options at its next meeting in early April.

However, it has confirmed that public transport fares would be held at current levels for at least the next year.

Greater Wellington’s plan reflects big escalations in insurance costs, new bus services, zero bus and train fare increases and funding of all the major programmes contained in its Long Term Plan.

“It’s been our consistent position that we must minimise the impact of rates on regional ratepayers,” said Council Chair Cr Chris Laidlaw.

Earlier report from Wellington.Scoop
The Regional Council, facing continuing criticism for the continuing problems with its buses and trains, is today being asked to raise its rates in Wellington by more than 16 per cent.

Its press release on the subject refers only to a 6.5 per cent increase.

But papers presented to today’s meeting show a different story:

gwrc-rates

For Wellington businesses, however, there’s a reduction in rates:

gwrc-rates-business

The council places part of the blame for the rates increase on its attempts to fix its bus system:

Council has approved changes to enhance the Wellington bus network since the rollout of the new network in July 2018, in response to community feedback. This includes changes to add or alter bus routes and timetables. The introduction of these additional services amounts to approximately $3.7m with an associated rates impact of $1.8m

There are other increased costs relating to the buses:

The indexation payment assumption on the bus operator contracts (to reflect changes in fuel prices and other underlying costs) has been revised from 0.5% to 1.4%. This will have a total impact on the budget of $511,000 and a rates impact of $250,000. This is a contractual requirement.

The Regional Council has however given up the idea of increasing fares:

In the Long Term Plan the budget for 2019/20 included an annual fare increase for public transport at the rate of inflation (1.6%). This is no longer proposed (refer to Report 2019.93) and has been removed from the budget and partially offset by an increase in the assumptions around growth in patronage revenue.

And here’s what the Regional Council has to say about the problems with its bus services:

The roll-out of the new bus network last year has been challenging and we have not been able to provide the high standard of customer service we aspire to. The focus for the upcoming year is to consolidate and continue working with the bus operators to improve the performance of the region’s bus network. We will conduct a post-implementation review of the bus network rollout and implement the recommendations. We will also continue our asset renewal programme and new bus infrastructure across the network. Our performance will improve and ensure that buses meet expected standards for reliability and punctuality.

And what about continuing congestion in the CBD:

In partnership with Wellington City Council, we will work to improve the efficiency and flow of buses in the city through measures such as bus priority lanes, bus pre-emption signals and improved bus stop layouts. This activity will form part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving early delivery programme.

As fore more electric buses, the future is uncertain:

Looking further ahead, it is timely to consider how to achieve our aim to be the first region in the country with a fully electric bus fleet. We will develop a bus fleet strategy to understand the implications and options for progressively increasing our electric bus fleet over the next 3-10 years, and beyond. Our work will need to tie in with latest government policy, as well as our own policies for land transport and Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

11 comments:

  1. Barbara S, 21. March 2019, 15:27

    Why do we have to pay for an incompetent GWRC. I am at the end of my tether with these huge rates increases! Where is the accountability for a 16% increase? Who do I complain to?

     
  2. Daryl Cockburn, 21. March 2019, 15:39

    Go back to where we were with Boards for water, pests, forests & parks, and create TfGW.
    Is that what many cities have done? GLC to TfL

     
  3. Dave Hartnell, 21. March 2019, 16:35

    I’m not accepting a 16 percent rates increase. I will be complaining to the local govt commission and minister of local govt and pressing for statutory management.

     
  4. Now a cyclist, 21. March 2019, 16:59

    It was a better service, for less money before. The path to improvement is as simple as reinstating old routes.
    You know what they call someone who pays more for a worse service: a fool.

     
  5. michael, 21. March 2019, 17:05

    This statement from GWRC “Looking further ahead, it is timely to consider how to achieve our aim to be the first region in the country with a fully electric bus fleet” makes me wonder which planet they are on? Certainly not planet Wellington, as they have removed our electric trolley buses and filled the city with cacogenic belching noisy 2nd hand diesel buses. And, Barbara I agree there should be a robust process through which we can voice our mounting worries regarding rate increases and the council’s inept performance.
    Maybe it is time for a ratepayers’ protest march through the city.

     
  6. SD, 21. March 2019, 17:17

    Wellington city is not paying anywhere enough compared to other Wellington regions, and should be paying its fair share (16% is not a big enough increase)! The council documents show this inequity very clearly: rates of $73.15 per $100k of capital value for Wellington city compared to rates of $135.08 per $100k of capital value for Hutt City. Only Masterton, Carterton and the South Wairarapa have cheaper regional council rates.

     
  7. James S, 21. March 2019, 17:24

    Will we ever know which of our regional councillors spoke against the 16 per cent rates increase, and which were happy to wave it through?

     
  8. Diane Calvert, 21. March 2019, 17:40

    A proposed hike of 16% by ⁦the for Wgtn city residential ratepayers should never have got to the table. Shows how out of touch ⁦the Regional Council is with public sentiment. [via twitter]

     
  9. Carol, 21. March 2019, 17:41

    “Part of the reason for increasing the rates is to pay for extra bus services, introduced after the Council’s new bus network failed to satisfy local commuters”
    What planet does the Council live on? What extra services? Surely not in the Eastern Suburbs. I assume that councillors drive to work and don’t need to deal with their craftsmanship during the morning commute. The bus system is worse than before the change, and we are paying a higher fare. Buses are being cancelled at the last minute leaving commuters stranded. Ratepayers who are forced to pay for this failure are being exploited.

     
  10. TrevorH, 22. March 2019, 7:22

    Let me get this straight. They wreck a bus service that generally meets people’s needs and then try to gouge ratepayers for applying band-aids to the resulting disaster? The GWRC is not fit for purpose – we need a regional transportation board in its place.

     
  11. Tony Jansen, 22. March 2019, 9:52

    Does it say anywhere what the old bus network cost in comparison to what we are now paying and will be paying in the near future? I bet the old service was cheaper (and we all know it was better).
    There is not a bus driver shortage. Let’s be clear about this. There are a lot of unemployed or differently employed bus drivers who have either been made redundant or left their employment due to the draconian conditions and dreadful remuneration.
    If they paid an honest wage they would have mkore drivers.