Wellington Scoop

Optimism or criticism

“We’re a great city that’s about to happen. We’re not a failed city by any means.” That’s the view of developer Ian Cassels, quoted by the DomPost in a report telling us that 21 per cent fewer building consents were issued in Wellington last year.

It was different in Upper Hutt where consents were up 28 per cent and in Lower Hutt where there was a 9.6 per cent increase.

The optimistic Cassels says however that Wellington is likely to see an increase in permits for new buildings over the next 12 months. “There are a lot of big projects in the pipeline. For instance, we’ve got 1065 houses to build, and a lot of those houses haven’t gone in for building consents yet.”

However he doesn’t think that Wellington is development friendly. “It’s hard to get things going in Wellington,” he said, with a lot of “machinery at the council that needs to be hurried up” in order for consents to be processed more quickly, though he is optimistic this will happen.

His optimism isn’t shared by former MP Peter Dunne who this weekend published a mournfully critical attack on Wellington with a headline describing his hometown as “the stagnating little capital.” He wrote:

Wellington’s focus will always be on the business of government and presenting an image of stability and competence to go with that. Poorly performing infrastructure and a central business district that looks as though it has seen far better days do not contribute to that. Nor does a constantly bickering council.

And he says the governance review set up by Andy Foster

needs to … ascertain what systemic reasons have contributed to the litany of dysfunction that has developed, and what more fundamental steps are required to overcome them. After all, successive mayors and generations of councillors and officers have come and gone in that time while the problems appear to have intensified regardless … There is a deeper disruptive systemic and cultural issue at play that needs to be identified and resolved to prevent future councils becoming side-tracked the way this one and many of its recent predecessors have been.

Dunne writes that “Wellington city ratepayers … have observed, largely in silence, the decline of the last quarter century, and now face skyrocketing rates bills to address some of the deficits that can no longer be avoided.”

Let’s agree with Peter Dunne’s concerns about skyrocketing rates bills, but let’s prefer Ian Cassels’ belief that Wellington is by no means a failed city. Remember, you can’t beat us on a good day.


  1. Claire, 7. March 2021, 12:52

    Big rates rises equal mismanagement over the years. New councillors infighting and sticking to party ideology when pragmatic cost saving decisions were needed. Being unaware of the hard and costly work that is needed for pipes and infrastructure. The governance review will hopefully make people understand real roles and stamp out undermining behaviour.
    Wellington’s DSP should never have being voted on in its current form. People have spoken out in their submissions and said do not destroy the wonderful character of Wellington and its older homes which are lasting longer than some newer ones. All the grown ups would like extra housing put up along commercial sites.

  2. Jane, 7. March 2021, 16:50

    Big rates rises also reflect the fact we’ve possibly not been paying our fair share for a very long time.

  3. Claire, 7. March 2021, 17:08

    Jane the WCC have been diverting money allocated to three waters to glamour projects. That is mismanagement. This proposed rise is the largest in NZ so far. The governance is also under review, this tells its own story.

  4. Trevor H, 7. March 2021, 17:32

    @ Jane. No, big rate rises are the result of money we paid to maintain and renew the three waters being siphoned off and squandered on vanity projects by successive councils. No accountability for them.

  5. Peter Kerr, 7. March 2021, 19:21

    I think both Trevor H. and Jane are right. It’s got nothing to do with new councillors. Read this and this for a review of a deteriorating local government environment in NZ.

  6. Jane, 7. March 2021, 23:33

    Claire and TrevorH, you are both conflating my comment with an additional argument: mismanaged council expenditure does not preclude our rates being possibly lower than they should have been for many years.

  7. Claire, 8. March 2021, 9:19

    Jane. I think the council struggles for avenues of income; they need infrastructure partnerships with Central Govt and private set ups. However mismanaging the money they do get is very bad practice.

  8. Jim candiliotis, 8. March 2021, 13:09

    Mmmm someone really needs to question the depreciation process/numbers given that council”cash fund” depreciation. That is, real money is collected put into a ” jam jar” for want of a better term. Dollar value it was in the region of $50 million a year last time I took an interest. If anyone does ask the question don’t let them tell you it’s only a book entry. Not so it’s real money with specific restrictions on what it can be spent on and GAPP for public benefit entities apply.

  9. Ray Chung, 8. March 2021, 17:17

    Hi Jim, it seems to me that the WCC might have a few of these “jam jars” as the council officials when briefing councillors, said they have $50 million tucked away for installing water meters. So do any councillors have the nous to look at these “jam jars” and understand what they are? I’ve also questioned how they calculate the costs of projects, such as seven months ago they estimated that the cost of refurbishing Frank Kitts Park was $30 million, up from the original $6.5 million, but was now over $40 million, an increase of over 35%! Is this believable to anyone but the most gullible?

  10. Ray Chung, 8. March 2021, 17:41

    Hi Peter, I read your URLs and yes, they do talk about the Local Government system needing improvement but they don’t say what? Perhaps I’m being naïve but I’d like to have councillors on the council to have at least some modicum of education and business experience to be able to do their job without requiring significant training and development. Looking at the CVs of the councillors we have now, there’s a dearth of both.

  11. Jim Candiliotis, 9. March 2021, 6:49

    No Ray, they don’t. I wasted a couple of hours about 15 years ago walking Andy Foster through it as well as appropriate use of depreciation vs maintenance. He didn’t comprehend it then, chances are he still doesn’t. But it could be by choice. Had the same conversation over many years with various councillors, not many truly comprehended it.