by Celia Wade-Brown
Fifty days have passed since our inauguration, elected councillors and management have been working well together, and we’ve made some significant decisions for the environmental, economic, cultural and social well-being of Wellington. Here are some highlights:
Economy & Employment
We’ve agreed to progress some important ideas – some of which have been developing for a while. Some of these will form the basis for our long term plan. I’m most excited about advancing the Film Museum. Avatar and The Hobbit showcase superb local talent – workshop, sound, digital, directing – let’s keep our world-class talent visible.
There’s a prospect of turning our collective creativity, curatorial and design skills to work on a Museum of Conflict (War & Peace is too Tolstoyan). Telling Te Atiawa’s history of Parihaka and peaceful resistance, the Moriori repudiation of violence, NZ’s nuclear-free commitment (led by the capital) and our current peace-keeping roles could bring worldwide interest.
Our economic approach is very much to build on our strengths – museological (is that a word?), film, IT, knowledge economy – both in our tertiary institutions and our public sector and emphasise our wild nature close to the urban heart.
We’ve agreed to take conference and indoor concert facilities further and the new Council confirmed support for getting a business case for an airport extension that will show both the costs and benefits.
Some proposed economic incentives include 50% development contribution remissions for five-star green buildings and rates remission if an earthquake prone building needs to be vacated during strengthening. We have agreed that any development contributions will be invoiced on completion or sale, not upfront, from the beginning of 2014.
A healthy economy for all is necessary for good jobs and it’s pleasing to note a greater business confidence this year, especially the intention to employ more staff. Visitor numbers are increasing and our aim is to encourage longer stays.
Our Council will pay staff a living wage from the 1st January. Many Wellingtonians and councillors are strongly motivated to see everybody able to participate fully in society. We noted that our CEO has agreed to pay a living wage as part of a workforce development package that includes internships and more training. Improved morale and lower turnover are important for Council’s many frontline staff. We don’t consult on wages at the top of the organisation either. We are interested in mechanisms for CCOs and contractors so if you have suggestions. This will be a more complex area.
Culture & Arts
CapitalE National Theatre for Children (funded by the Council) is taking on the lease of the Hannah Playhouse, where Downstage used to be, so several production companies can use the space. We’re working with CreativeNZ on a longer term solution.
The Town Hall is now closed for strengthening and there are some good ideas about a scoring stage and more music performance focus in the Civic complex.
2014 NZ Festival has a really exciting programme for 24 days and the Latin Festival/Jazz on Cuba is going ahead. Work’s being done on the evolution of the Cuba Street Carnival.
We reversed the loss of some children’s programmes at the libraries for next year’s budget and clarified that the last couple of years have actually seen modest increases in library spending. The allocation of Council-wide overheads across all activity areas in previous budgets made that unclear. These days there are huge demands on library staff to support e-books, information searching as well as deciding which of the huge range of new books to purchase.
Wellington is part of a global network of cities that take nature seriously right in their urban centres www.biophiliccities.org . As well as the intrinsic value of biodiversity, this is the sort of place people want to live – healthy, uniquely flourishing with endemic species, clean and inviting for recreation on land and sea. We do have an extensive stormwater catchment to improve further.
Our draft Annual Plan includes funding for all the initiatives in Our Capital Spaces – plus more pest management and hazardous tree management. Zealandia has reduced entry prices and that’s encouraging more people to experience Wellington as it was before tuatara, kiwi and other native wildlife was overwhelmed with introduced species.
We’re promoting solar panels too – just installed one and seeing the energy generation information – at Karori Recreation Centre with EECA and we’ve received plenty of school applications for the Schoolgen partnership solar scheme with Genesis Energy.
Transport is always contentious – mobility, personal choice, emissions, safety and affordability all cut close to our hearts. While we won’t always agree on projects or policies, we’ve agreed to aim for a better working relationship with NZTA – which should enable the Great Harbour Way to become a reality, for example, and to draw on the lessons from Hastings and New Plymouth as model walking/cycling communities. We’ve suggested a big increase in cycling funding in the draft budget and look forward to hearing Wellingtonians’ views. Looks like really good, welcoming, cycling facilities will need some parking reduction on the public roads. We’re particularly keen to encourage new cyclists – and getting recreational ones to commute; healthy and reduces congestion. The flyover at the Basin is out of Council’s hands and at the Board of Inquiry.
The Public Transport Spine study has elicited some excellent submissions and their queries and suggestions must be considered seriously. The sub-committee has asked submitters and staff many questions. We genuinely want more capacity, fewer “bus-jams” along the Golden Mile, more reliable journeys that will attract commuters out of their cars. We also want better cycle facilities and brighter laneways.
Parking services are to come in-house – both the technology and the wardens will come within Council from 1st July. While no-one loves getting a ticket, turnover and safety are both imperative. Wardens can also be our information and eyes on the street. They will get a living wage too.
Community, Social and Recreation
Reopening Newtown Park flats was a tremendous highlight. The computer rooms, liaison with health providers, community gardens and tenant-led shared meals are inspiring and a far cry from the unsafe and unsavoury place it was a decade ago.
Among the many organisations our social grants support, English Language Partners are a brilliant example. Hundreds of volunteer tutors support new migrants to learn English and become part of the local community. It was an honour to present certificates to tutors and learners alike.
This month I participated in Hanukkah in Civic Square, Newtown Christmas Carols at Government House, the re-consecration of Sri Kurunji Kumaran Hindu temple in Newlands,
the annual Interfaith Concert of Light and the Santa Parade. What a diverse multicultural society we have.
Room at The Inn is overflowing with volunteers. Three leading supporters came in to receive an APW award from me. What a great thing it is – delivering 180 Christmas lunches to housebound people and feeding dozens at the Aro Valley Community Centre. It’s not the only one and I’m planning to serve at the Newtown Christmas lunch. There are always things we can do to make people’s festive season better – ring someone lonely, invite a new migrant in for a cup of tea – or a beer, babysit while new parents get ready for Christmas – and keep donating to local and overseas charities for Christmas presents for those who already have enough “stuff”. Experiences are also great gifts – Zealandia night tour, NZ Festival tickets, a meerkat encounter or an invitation to a walk and a picnic!
Mayor’s Office & Administrative matters
I’ve moved into an office in the main administration block, at minimal cost, and closer to both councillors and staff. That was always my aim and our CEO has made that possible. Justin is doing an excellent job as Deputy Mayor and all the Committee Chairs are really committed to informing themselves about Wellington’s needs, leading decision-making in their areas of responsibility and making good things happen. New councillors all have responsibilities too, and are proving an enthusiastic bunch. We kept our resolution not to pay elected members for being on Council organisations and extended that to the Airport Board and the Stadium.
We calmly agreed to bring both the Waterfront Company and the Cable Car within Council and will simplify our economic agencies.
The nine Councils in the region are working together where we can save money by sharing services – integrated water management, IT provision and economic development are likely to follow last term’s Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office. The Local Government Commission is likely to publish a proposal for some change in governance in April or so but there’s no clue whether it’s the Regional Council model, the separate Wairarapa model or just a reorganisation of responsibilities. I hear that a couple of places in NZ are looking at giving all the Transport responsibilities to the City Council and the regional body returning to more of an environmental watchdog role.
Our draft budget – the draft Annual Plan, has been agreed early and we’ll be consulting soon after the holiday period. That will help staff plan for 2014-15 much better.
Enjoy the free fun events at Summer City starting on New Year’s Day http://wellington.govt.nz/events/annual-events/summer-city
End of newsletter, end of year…
There are many more things I could talk about (sport, housing, Tasmanian devils) but we all want to spend some time with friends and family this summer! If I’ve missed something close to your heart, email me (officially ) at email@example.com or if it’s more private/campaign-style, firstname.lastname@example.org
We will all have farewelled some friends, colleagues and world figures. Let’s honour their memory by working towards ideals and also being kind to our colleagues, friends and family – and not too hard on ourselves! Nobody eulogised “her inbox was empty at last” or “his kitchen was spotless”. They talked of family, fun and friendship; they praised persistence, achievements and principles.
My final words to all those who tweeted, made online comments and wrote letters to the papers – Thank You and KEEP DOING IT in 2014. The media has been much more positive, the Council a better place for open debate not personal attack and next year augurs well. Please share your support for Council and Mayoral successes.