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Councillors discuss “pandemic package” at workshop

by Andy Foster
A lot of Wellington businesses are hurting from the covid-19 pandemic, especially in sectors which have been closed by the lockdown. Sadly that means a lot of people have lost their jobs or had hours reduced. Many people are looking to the City Council to make some big moves in terms of softening the economic blow for local businesses and ratepayers. We absolutely get that, and we’re working on it.

I’m meeting with my councillors and our Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow and her senior management team in a workshop tomorrow where we’ll be looking at all the financial issues facing the city and the Council.

A wide range of options will be discussed tomorrow. We will provide councillors with a lot of background information about what other Councils are signalling, and the scale of the impact on the Council’s revenue. The sums involved are very large.

We know Councils around the country are facing similar financial pressures as the Wellington City Council – and we’ve been talking at political and senior management level with other big councils and via Local Government NZ.

We will discuss the potential for deferral of the next rates bill due in June.

We will discuss the approach to the 2020/21 rates, and their willingness to alter the expenditure programme and service levels or debt fund operating expenditure.

We will discuss a ‘pandemic package’.

We will discuss the Government’s request to bring forward capital projects to help reboot the economy.

We will discuss the way we handle the Annual Plan process.

What spending cuts could mean for big projects like Te Ngakau Civic Square, the Central Library, the Town Hall project and our various infrastructure obligations – notably our three-waters network – will be front-of-mind.

So will the possibility that we could get some ‘shovel-ready’ projects going if the local economy needs ‘pump-priming’ in the coming year.

Council borrowing and debt levels will also be discussed – this is an issue that’s starting to be debated at a national level so we’ll be getting briefings on the implications of such an approach to reduce rates impact.

Any recommendations that come from the workshop will be formally discussed at a full Council meeting next Thursday.

Immediately after tomorrow’s workshop I’ll be taking part in an infrastructure meeting with the region’s other mayors and council CEOs

Finally, and on a different note, tonight at midnight marks just one week since we entered the lockdown. We’ve got another three weeks to go – in the best case scenario. It’s been a strange seven days, with some sad moments, some surreal moments, but also plenty of surprising and uplifting moments.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve been seeing amazing examples of kindness, respect, patience and aroha on a daily basis.

Everyone I am seeing is doing the right things, staying home, exercising locally, keeping physical separation. There’s a real sense of togetherness in this.

I am hearing some people though don’t appear to be taking it seriously and there are places where people are congregating. Please, please don’t do that. We are having to look at closing at least one more popular location which would be a shame, but we just have to keep separation.

Covid is highly contagious. We want to stamp it out in New Zealand now. That way we save lives, and can get out of Lockdown earlier rather than later. We also reduce the impact on our economy and our standard of living.

So thanks again Wellington – you’ve been absolutely, positively awesome. Stay safe, stay connected, stay home, and stay strong – kia kaha.

7 comments:

  1. Andrew, 1. April 2020, 20:42

    “Shovel ready projects” doesn’t necessarily mean pushing through with vanity projects – it could mean fixing infrastructure neglected over years. Not so pretty and no ribbons to cut but probably a better use of dwindling funds.

     
  2. Pablo, 1. April 2020, 22:57

    Many Wellingtonians are facing a bleak winter and rates relief is what they need – not a dead in the water conference centre.

     
  3. michael, 2. April 2020, 1:19

    All we’ve been hearing is “we’re working on it” and “a wide range of options will be discussed”. How about making some practical decisions to give Wellingtonians a sense of confidence.

     
  4. jamie, 2. April 2020, 6:38

    Pump priming and shovel ready is the key. Lots of shovels means lots of people in work. Big projects generally mean big machines which is few people in work. They might be vanity projects, but if they are construction they employ lots of semi and unskilled people. Infrastructure projects employ machine operators and engineers.
    The council problem for the vanity projects is that the business case for the revenue model has lost most of its proposed revenue so even if ready they will contribute a bigger burden on ratepayers. The first gesture that needs to be shown is a reduction in costs with councillors leading from the front with a wage cut.

     
  5. Traveller, 2. April 2020, 9:35

    Hutt and Porirua chief executives have taken a salary cut. No info about whether councillors are considering the same. No mention of whether Wellington’s chief executive is taking a cut.

     
  6. Casey, 2. April 2020, 10:27

    First on the agenda today should be:
    Cease all further work on the Conference Centre and upskill Willis Bond on how to replace sewers.

     
  7. Andy Mellon, 2. April 2020, 12:41

    All local authorities should be suggesting to the government that a major ‘shovel ready’ project would be a substantial replacement and upgrade of urban water infrastructure. Added to this would be NZ-wide improvements in water treatment infrastructure so that we don’t dump effluent into the waterways every time the rain’s heavier than a shower.

    Water infrastructure doesn’t appear to be as ‘sexy’ to voters as ploughing for lanes of tarmac around the place, but we’ve already seen in Wellington this year the impact if we don’t deal with the backlog in investment for water.

    Plus, it would take the burden of the cost off the local authorities and the ratepayer.