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Wellington Mayor wants to defer next rates payment; zero rates increase is an option

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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 yesterday 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 yesterday’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 management 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 the Regional Council and NZTA about any projects that could be brought forward in terms of early LGWM projects including bus-priority work.”

29 comments:

  1. Diane Calvert, 2. April 2020, 19:28

    Overall proposal a good start and good to see ideas incorporated from business group I got in front of Council a few weeks ago. [via twitter]

     
  2. Fleur Fitzsimons, 2. April 2020, 19:37

    … some good proposals like rates deferral, flexibility on payment and free Zoo, Zealandia and pools entry when they re-open. [via twitter]

     
  3. Traveller, 2. April 2020, 20:14

    FKP already has a a popular and well-used playground. What’s the point of redeveloping it? On the other hand – the two reservoirs, and Civic Square. Let’s spend to get them completed. Including the Library, which seems to have been forgotten in recent weeks … (But is Civic Square shovel ready already?)

     
  4. Driver, 2. April 2020, 20:16

    And how about saving money too, with pay cuts for the mayor and councillors and the chief executive?

     
  5. Thomas Nash, 3. April 2020, 12:33

    The new infrastructure package will shape our transport & climate future. In the Wellington region let’s:
    – accelerate planned walking, cycling & bus priority work
    – fast-track Petone-Ngauranga cycleway & coastal defence
    – electrify rail to Manawatū & Wairarapa
    [via twitter]

     
  6. Traveller, 3. April 2020, 12:51

    Those all sound much better ideas than pulling down a perfectly satisfactory playground and rebuilding it. They’ve been planning the Petone-Ngauranga cycleway for years, so no problem in making it shovel ready.

     
  7. K, 3. April 2020, 13:35

    How about making some changes to the uses of the convention centre – turn the ground floor area into the new library location, and share the use of the “convention centre” main auditorium with a cinema chain and/or music event promoters (since conventions are not going to be happening on a frequent basis any time soon.)

     
  8. Andrew, 3. April 2020, 14:56

    I don’t think waiting for four years, which is how long it will take to finish the building, and the fact that it is well away from the rest of the civic centre, is a good substitute for fixing the existing library building. Redirect the funds to fixing up civic square and find another use for the convention centre site – perhaps a giant kiwi with blinking laser eyes.

     
  9. michael, 4. April 2020, 0:45

    The only “morale-raising project” Wellintonians want to see is for the council to face reality and start trimming the fat. How about pay cuts. Stop all needless vanity projects. Get back to basic responsibilities. Wellingtonians will not be able to afford massive rates rises and won’t give a toss about anything other than trying to survive. Time for a massive refocus.

     
  10. Marion Leader, 4. April 2020, 6:15

    Fleur Fitzsimons suggests an all feel-good give-away spend-it-up approach. Why not actually do something? Why not address the absurd left-over-from-Justin-Lester nonsense about Frank Kitts Park for instance?

     
  11. Ian Apperley, 4. April 2020, 14:55

    We definitely don’t need the Convention Centre, it was dubious in the first place; now, no one will come to visit it. Can we turn it into a library or something? Yes?

     
  12. Iona Pannett, 4. April 2020, 15:04

    Tricky as it wasn’t configured for a library, also we want jobs and getting on with this project will provide employment. The convention centre was for NZers. I think people will want to meet again in person when this disaster is over.

     
  13. Dave Armstrong, 4. April 2020, 15:20

    Totally agree that people will want to meet but not $200million want to meet. Even before COVID it was planned to lose $4million a year. Big conferences are on the way out, and are about as popular with millennials and Xers as Genesis. Barn underneath will also be hard to fill.

     
  14. IRCocytus, 4. April 2020, 15:21

    Turn it into apartments. We need more housing in Wellington and housing is a far greater priority than a “gathering centre” that nobody is going to use.

     
  15. TrevorH, 4. April 2020, 15:43

    @Iona Pannett: convention centres are all about enhancing downtown property values. Their wider economic impact on communities is generally negative. This one if it goes ahead will be a drain on Wellington ratepayers for many years to come. After this pandemic subsides we may well find ourselves with an economy half the size of that which we previously enjoyed. The Council now needs to start basing its decisions on this new reality.

     
  16. Peter Kerr, 4. April 2020, 15:50

    The number of jobs provided by both building and operating a convention centre will be pitifully few, and most will be poorly paid.
    Even the idea that the convention centre was for NZers is a fanciful one. Conventions are exclusive affairs, expensive to cater and vague as far as measurable results.
    People will meet in person again, but a convention centre is lowly placed as a preferred location.
    If the need to convene is so important, take a look at how the Committee to oversee the Government’s Covid-19 response works. No air travel, low-carbon, low cost and with expensive catering avoided. When it’s finished – log out.

    It’s time we had a Council that grasped the chance to leap-frog into provisioning the city with healthy, low-carbon, human-scale facilities – and to not flounder away with short-term, outdated boosterism.

     
  17. Andrew, 4. April 2020, 16:21

    I don’t get the “wasn’t configured as a library” comment. Not that I think it should be a library but at the moment it’s just a half finished foundation. Difficult to see why its configuration couldn’t be changed now.

     
  18. Andrew II, 4. April 2020, 18:47

    Andrew, the councillors from the previous triennium who voted for the convention centre will have a list a mile long as to why it cannot be stopped or reconfigured. Obviously Iona has crossed a few of those off in the last week or so.

     
  19. Keith Flinders, 4. April 2020, 21:14

    Thomas Nash: You wrote. The new infrastructure package will shape our transport & climate future. In the Wellington region let’s:
    – electrify rail to Manawatū & Wairarapa

    Based on the Papakura to Pukekohe electrification project at $5 million per km, then to electrify the line Waikanae to Palmerston North will cost $405 million upwards using 25kv a.c. power, considerably more using the 1500 volts DC the Matangis use. This for 260 passengers per day five days a week doesn’t make any financial sense. Electric buses are a far more economic option unless you can get KiwiRail to pay for the electrification work.

    To electrify Upper Hutt to Masterton will cost upwards of $305 million.

    Where is the best part of $1 billion going to be sourced from ? In the meantime Wellington City residents still are exposed to the emissions from 18 year old Euro 3 buses with no end in sight.

     
  20. Keith Flinders, 4. April 2020, 21:20

    Iona Pannett: Isn’t it time you and the rest of the WCC councillors start to look at the really bad financial situation this city is in, and ditch your unwelcome convention centre vanity project ? Lateral thinking is required, but is not being illustrated by Crs Calvert, Fitzsimons, and yourself, let alone Mayor Foster.

     
  21. michael, 5. April 2020, 0:58

    We are facing a different world and way of operating which will need progressive and innovative lateral thinking, not more of the same.

     
  22. Andrew, 5. April 2020, 8:32

    I think it’s time for the council to come clean as to why they’re all so keen on continuing with the convention centre. Have they entered us into some sort of contractual obligation which would expose us to high penalties should it be stopped? [Yes the issue of possible damages may be one of the concerns that have been identified.]

     
  23. Kara Lipski, 5. April 2020, 8:45

    Adding my voice to the “dump the convention centre”. The WCC needs to concentrate on the basics and think about what is really needed in our city. Inner city housing would be a start for that space along with a park of native trees. Forget the second Mt Vic tunnel – that will only have a flow on effect of removing houses.

     
  24. Northland, 5. April 2020, 9:16

    I would add my voice to the chorus of people advocating the Convention Centre be dumped so long as it is possible to save real money this way. To this end why not bring it all out in the open under the headline ‘Council halts Convention Centre development in light of Covid 19’ and challenge any litigants to follow through in the full glare of the public eye.

     
  25. Mongrel, 5. April 2020, 12:36

    The convention centre contract must be one of the worst contracts the council has ever signed up to. Given the reluctance to stop it, there must be huge penalties for the council if they do. It would be interesting if the process around this whole debacle could be exposed with an OIA. If it cannot be stopped, surely during this pause in construction the internal plans could be reconfigured for either a library/office space/apartments or anything other than what will only be a white elephant.

     
  26. Hel, 5. April 2020, 12:51

    Unless my eyes betray me, the construction works are well underway judging by the big cranes on site. To think you can just stop a construction contract on a whim, oh I changed my mind is fanciful at best. Get on with investment in the water infrastructure and bring forward the let’s get Wellington moving works, won’t be popular but that includes the second Mt Victoria tunnel.

     
  27. Andrew, 5. April 2020, 13:04

    Yes your eyes deceive you. There is just one crane on site and it’s only just been put up, it has never lifted anything. Only part of the concrete slab has been lain with some reinforcing work just commencing. Work has only just started.

     
  28. Peter Kerr, 5. April 2020, 16:40

    Sorry Hel, stopping the Convention Centre is no “fanciful..whim”. There is no economic benefit to ratepayers accruing from its construction.

     
  29. Andrew II, 5. April 2020, 23:02

    Sure can Hel, if there is no money to pay them. Bust.