Wellington cutting expenditure and putting rates up – 2.8% increase planned

Press Release – Wellington City Council
Wellingtonians are to be consulted on some modest new initiatives to achieve Wellington’s vision for a people-centred, smart capital, while respecting prudent fiscal management and keeping rates down. The Wellington City Council has agreed to consult on its draft Annual Plan, featuring new projects to boost the economy and reduce expenditure by $9 million to keep the average rates rise in 2013/14 to 2.8%.

The 2013/14 Draft Annual Plan, discussed at this week’s Strategy and Policy Committee meeting, details what the Council’s work programme will cost, along with any proposed rate and fee increases. It will be consulted on between 16 April and 16 May, subject to approval at a Council meeting on 27 March.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the new projects specifically target opportunities to propel the Capital’s economy forward by targeting the city’s strengths. Features include the Capital Education Initiative to bring the nation’s students to Wellington, planning for a revitalised Civic Square to showcase the city’s living heart, the ‘greening’ of Taranaki Street as part of a processional route from Memorial Park to Parliament and a range of recreational and business growth schemes. Details are summarised below.

“We’ve carefully selected some initiatives that will transform those parts of our city that contribute to our liveability and underline our standing as a capital city. We want to maintain a focus on building economic growth and achieving our vision of Wellington Towards 2040: Smart Capital,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

“Prudent financial planning has enabled the Council to balance savings, maintain service levels where possible and create opportunities for projects that will enhance the city and its economy. We must remain focused on Wellington’s future as we continue to deal with substantial financial pressures and issues which lie at the heart of our city planning.

“We’ve kept the proposed rates increase as low as possible despite significant budget pressures from external issues such as earthquake strengthening requirements, our leaky homes liability and increasing costs especially relating to water services.

“It’s important to make your voice heard through the formal submission process, as we do take all the feedback into consideration. I also urge Wellingtonians to join the Our Capital Voice online panel, where you can have a say on the draft Plan.”

Full details of the draft Plan, and how to have your say, will be available on the Council’s website from 16 April. The final Plan, following consultation, will be agreed by the Council in June. Mayor Wade-Brown urges all Wellingtonians to have input into the Plan during the consultation period.

A summary of key proposals follows.

Key projects already in the budget for next year include:

- Destination Wellington – a programme to attract business, talent and investment to the region, jointly run by Positively Wellington Tourism, Grow Wellington and the City Council – $1.9 million is budgeted.

- National War Memorial Park – the Council has been working with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and NZTA on this project and is contributing $5 million.

- Our Living City – Council staff are aligning existing activities and reprioritising budgets to achieve our strategic objectives and improve our urban-nature connections under this work programme. This includes a number of initiatives such as the ‘Two Million Trees’ project and partnerships with Victoria University and others.

Increased investment is proposed in the following areas:

- Smart Energy Capital – to show leadership around smart, healthy and energy-efficient homes, energy efficiency in the commercial sector, increased renewable generation and developing a Smart Grid pilot. The initiative requires matching dollars from external sources, to a maximum of $250,000 per annum.

- Proactive management of the Council’s Built Heritage Fund – targeting heritage building owners who would benefit most from earthquake strengthening – $40,000 for additional staff resource.

- ‘Greening’ of Taranaki Street – landscaping, paving and lighting this major road which forms part of the processional route from Parliament to Government House. $150,000 for design and engagement.

- Civic Square revitalisation – Seismic issues for Capital E, the unlikelihood of a joint School of Music on Jack Ilott Green, the pending demolition of the Portico and maintenance issues mean a revamp of access routes and usage is important for the civic heart ($150,000).

- Miramar Peninsula Framework – developing a long-term plan to guide future development, especially around Shelly Bay and the northern part of the peninsula ($50,000).

- Capital Education Initiative – facilitating visits from schools outside the Wellington region ($60,000 to implement recommendations from the Wellington Museums Trust).

- Safer speed limits in the CBD – consulting on possible speed reductions to 30 or 40 km/hour ($40,000 for consultation)

- An investigation into making the city’s playgrounds more accessible for children with disabilities.

As this is the second year of the 2012/22 Long-Term Plan (adopted in June last year), significant changes to the Council’s programmes are not planned. The $9 million spending reduction has been made possible by a major drive for the Council to work smarter and reduce its internal operating costs. Around $11.4 million in savings and efficiencies were identified – once cost increases, new initiatives from the Draft Annual Plan process and further savings are factored in, the $9 million net figure is reached.

Some modest changes to service levels are proposed in order to help make savings and achieve the Council’s target level of rate rise. The community will be asked for feedback on these. They include:

- closing branch libraries in evenings ($30,000 saving), making closing hours at smaller branch libraries consistent ($22,600) and reducing the opening hours at Khandallah Library ($23,400)

- changes to the Leisure Card scheme ($75,000)

- transferring management of Tawa Recreation Centre to Tawa College ($75,000)

- reducing funding for hazardous tree removal ($100,000)

- rescheduling funding for the demolition of the Patent Slip Jetty ($100,000)

- reducing grants to the Zoo Trust ($84,000) and Positively Wellington Tourism ($140,000).

Opportunities for increased income have also been identified and will be included in the consultation. These are:

- introducing pay and display parking at the Botanic Garden car park on weekdays with the net income going directly to the Botanic Garden

- introducing parking charges at Freyberg Pool ($72,000)

- changing the operating model of the crèche at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre ($40,000)

- introducing paid permits for taxis using taxi stands ($200,000).

A range of fees and charges would also change as part of the proposed plan. Because many services are supported by rates, modest increases are proposed in some fees to avoid a higher rate rise. These include fee increases for the landfill, general admission and swim memberships at pools, some burial and cremation and public health areas and water charges. Concessions for eligible people remain.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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