Wellington Scoop

The rates go up, then up and down

The Wellington City Council yesterday announced an add-on to next year’s budget – an extra $120,000 “to improve community emergency preparedness.” In the same announcement, we’re told that the average rates increase is going up to 4.4 per cent from the previously announced 4.3 per cent. Curiously, the council also tells us that rates increases for homeowners and commercial property owners will be coming down.

The changes aren’t acknowledged in yesterday’s announcement. But if you look back at the first announcement on March 11, the council says that homeowners’ rates will go up by 6.5 per cent. Yesterday, the increase is stated as only 6.24 per cent. For owners of commercial property, the rates increase announced on the 11th was to be 1.8 per cent. Yesterday, a miracle, the increase has come down to 1.22 per cent.

What’s going on? Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the figures have changed. Perhaps they didn’t notice? Or did they think we wouldn’t notice? Was there an error last time? Or this time? Do they think we don’t deserve any more details?

There are plenty of details, however, about how the extra $120,000 is to be spent. It won’t provide anything tangible, but only an investigation. Council officers are to be asked to investigate “the potential” for five items: providing portable emergency toilets, providing containers for collecting rainwater, self-contained public toilets in the city, more blue lines on the roads, and more disaster-simulation exercises.

It seems a lot of money for such an investigation. One wonders why the task couldn’t be done as part of the regular activities of council staff. But perhaps we have to pay for speed – staff are expected to report back to the council in June. Which is strange, as June is the month that the council makes its final decision to go ahead, or not, with this spending. If they’re following the rules, then the $120,000 expenditure won’t be approved till the report has been finished.

The emergency inquiries are not the only investigation that’s proposed for the city council’s new budget in a period that’s described by the mayor as “difficult economic times.” The Council wants us to approve expenditure of $650,000 for a feasibility study about building a second swimming complex in Kilbirnie. Apparently one is not enough. Difficult economic times indeed.


  1. Mr windy, 29. March 2011, 21:21

    This is rubbish! Why do we need $650,000 for a feasibility study for a second pool? What type of study about whether you need a second pool requires $650,000? More investigation about where and to whom the $650,000 is going to needs to be made by members of the media.

  2. vryn evans, 30. March 2011, 14:48

    This proposed $650,000 spend is endorsed and will probably be approved by Wellington’s Mayor despite that in her mayoral campaign she advocated keeping WCC expenditures under control and, where possible, reducing these costs.

  3. andy foster, 30. March 2011, 23:15

    Hi Vryn – sorry to challenge your assumptions again – but you are happily incorrect.

    The $650,000 for a feasibility study towards a big new pool at the Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre (est cost $18.9 million) was an amendment by Jo Coughlan and John Morrison. It was subject to vigorous debate at both Strategy and Policy committee and then at Council over the last couple of weeks. Essentially 8 councillors supported its inclusion : Crs Coughlan, Morrison, Lester, McKinnon, Eagle, Ahipene-Mercer, Marsh and Gill. 7 opposed it : The Mayor, myself, and Crs Best, Cook, Pannett, Ritchie and Pepperell.

    The reasons for opposition included – the need for restraint, that we are already investing in a pools development programme targeted at Learn to Swim rather than a competitive deep water pool, that Jo Coughlan’s proposed pool would increase swimming prices across all our pools, that next year’s Long Term (10 year) Plan is the place to consider major investments against each other, and that the cost per user is likely to be very high (officer’s original estimate last year was $26 ratepayer subsidy per swim and that was at a significantly lower capital cost). etc etc.

    Last year we already agreed a roughly $13 million investment in pools, budgeted for over the next 4 years – included $2 million over 4 years for partnerships with schools and learn to swim providers, a $5 million expansion of Keith Spry pool, a smaller $2 million pool at Kilbirnie, a $600,000 small pool at Karori, and roof replacement at Tawa. A retractable roof at Thorndon is looking unlikely following further investigation. This is a package focussed heavily on learn to swim – in preference to one – more expensive – big deep water pool at Kilbirnie.

    In terms of big things that might be considered in the Long Term Plan – and I am not advocating for any of them here :
    Provision for leaky homes – unfortunately unavoidable cost.
    Earthquake preparedness – particularly if we want to accelerate work on earthquake prone buildings and want to preserve some key heritage too.
    Public space and connections coming out of the upcoming Wellington 2040 work.
    Clyde Quay Wharf – following approach from Port Nicholson Yacht Club
    Queens Wharf masterplan.
    Kilbirnie pool.
    Concert venue (expensive !)

    In short it is very easy to find a big list. I wonder what Bill English would consider to be the nice to haves and the essentials! The question will be about priorities.

    In my view major expenditure on a feasibility study and then potential construction of a pool should have waited until next year’s Long Term Plan when we can ask the public for views as to priorities.

    Andy Foster
    City Councillor

  4. vryn evans, 1. April 2011, 14:03

    Read “this proposed”, “will probably” as my comments. To be absolutely precise to avoid your reprimand Cr.Foster, I should have written “when and if approved” … ” maybe the Mayor will endorse the spend.” Politics, as we all know, is constantly evolving with the main players (councillors in our case) quite capable of changing their stance on many issues. Kind regards.