Wellington Scoop

Andy Foster: pandemic plan, recovery fund, and options for increasing the rates

Update from Wellington Mayor Andy Foster
Yesterday was a big day for the Council, and a very heartening one too for our country. We had a historic first ever Council meeting by Zoom, myself, councillors, staff, public participants and audience all participating or viewing from home. I’m advised that 730 people watched the meeting which is also a record.

At the meeting we formally agreed to a Pandemic Response and Recovery Plan with immediate effect. It includes a range of rates deferrals and freezing of charges, as well as other initiatives. This is to soften the economic impact on businesses and workers who have lost work or had hours cut because of the pandemic.

We agreed on a City Recovery Fund and to actively support our cafés, restaurants and bars. They are such an important part of our city, and are really doing it tough. We also agreed on further support for organisations helping the most vulnerable at this time. And we directed officers to develop a draft Annual Plan based on rates rises of either 4.95% or 2.15%.

The Draft Annual Plan will be approved on 30 April and available for a month’s public consultation.

We know it’s tough to be thinking about any rates rises at a time like this. But Council itself expects to lose up to $70 million from the likes of parking, pools, venues, and airport. We will borrow this year to cover that.

However, we still need to invest in crucial water and transport infrastructure, and maintain the community services we all love. We look forward to reopening those services like libraries, parks, and playgrounds – soon we hope.

We will also be working closely with management to find savings where possible over the next couple of months.

This pandemic is likely to bring significant changes to our city’s economy. Many people appear to have taken to the advantages of working from home at least part of the time, so the dynamics of our central city may change markedly.

Our CBD is the heart of the region, and widely regarded as New Zealand’s best CBD. We will have to work very hard to get the heart pumping again. Yesterday’s meeting was a great step forward in the long journey that will be our city’s recovery.

In other news I’m really pleased that Kaiwharawhara has been chosen as the site for Wellington’s new ferry terminal over three other possible sites within Centreport. This is vitally important with new larger ferries being ordered. Having certainty over the location is a crucial step for the port, and it allows all the major parties to finally start making decisions about connecting road, rail, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. It will also allow us, I hope, to finally have a terminal that our capital city can be proud of.

Back to our fight against Covid-19. I am sure we were all delighted to see there were only 29 new cases recorded nationally yesterday, while 35 people were recorded as having recovered. We are doing really well in breaking the chain of transmission. Beating this virus in New Zealand once and for all has to be everyone’s top priority. We are staying home, we are staying safe, exercising local and as a result we are saving lives.

It is also the best way to get businesses back on their feet, people back in work, and it’ll reduce the impacts on Government and Councils, and therefore on all of us.Obviously there is no room for complacency, in fact the reverse.

The Prime Minister has scaled up our health response to defeat Covid-19. I think most of us will be delighted to see the get-tough approach continue. The Prime Minister spoke of border quarantines, contact tracing with greater use of technology, and maintaining high levels of testing. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve nailed the first two weeks of lock down, let’s nail these next two.

Finally, It is Easter weekend. It’s going to be a very different Easter! But it can still be a great time to stop and reflect on what is really important in our lives – I’m looking forward to finally getting some quality time with my family. If you’re looking for something to do, check what our fabulous libraries are doing online. There are so many books, films and e-resources available through our Library website, as well as storytimes and activities. It is great to see just how flexible and innovative our staff are being to keep Wellingtonians engaged and entertained during the lockdown.

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  1. Peter S, 11. April 2020, 2:16

    Andy. Please tell us what is happening with that convention centre. Please tell us why we still need it, and why it’s not going to be a financial millstone around our necks for generations. Please tell why you believed the pie-in-the-sky business case and were entranced by the Chamber of Commerce and other growth-is-good proponents, instead of listening to those who told you that convention centres are a dying business.

  2. Marion Leader, 11. April 2020, 7:32

    I admire Andy Foster’s leadership on all this but, as one of the 730 people he says were watching this meeting on Zoom, I noted that councillors spent so much time praising the wonderful work of the officers and so little time talking about actual expenditure on unnecessary items like the runway and the useless convention centre. In an hour I counted twelve such self-serving comments about the officers, and none about the expenditure. Elsewhere on Scoop TrevorH has said that he finds the self congratulatory attitude of these councillors insufferable. I agree.

  3. Traveller, 11. April 2020, 8:54

    Congratulations to Mayor Andy Foster for being such a calming and constructive chair at the Zoom council meeting. And congratulations to the council staffer who made the Zoom system work so well – a much more effective way of showing the meeting than the old single fixed-camera system.

  4. michael, 11. April 2020, 11:28

    Like many others, I despair for Wellington’s future unless WCC councillors wake up to reality and accept that the future is going to change dramatically. It will not be business as usual. And therefore we need clear coherent decisive leadership and decision, not self-congratulatory messages.

  5. Kara, 11. April 2020, 17:34

    It’s unbelievable that only a month is available for the Wellington public to look at the annual plan and put in our opinions. Doesn’t the WCC planning division and the Mayor realise that we may not be out of lockdown by the end of May?