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Underspent? So they spent it

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The Wellington City Council this week had to decide what to do with money that it hadn’t spent. Councillors were told on Wednesday that the “trend” to underspend “has culminated in a $45m underspend in 2013-14.” So what did they do? They decided to spend a third of it.

They were persuaded it would be a good idea to get more money into the local economy so that residents could “reap the benefits of services or upgrades sooner.” So they accepted proposals for “reprioritising”, which means they gave the go-ahead to some projects which before Wednesday had not been been considered important enough to be paid for. (There were also a couple of projects which had been approved but which had turned out to be more costly than expected.)

Here’s how councillors decided to spend some of their unspent money “without impacting on rates or projected borrowing limits”. See if you’re surprised by some of them.

Portico demolition
Additional $800,000 for the deconstruction of the earthquake prone portico
between the Council’s civic administration building and the library. The budget for this project is insufficient to deliver what the tender process has revealed will be a complex project. Without the additional funding, the Central Library and the Administration Building will continue to be earthquake prone.

Improvements in Victoria Street
The Central City Framework outlines plans to make Victoria Street into a tree lined boulevard so that it is a much more attractive place to pass through, spend time, live and work. It is expected that upward of 2000 people will be living in Victoria Street in the future, and the exciting proposal of an arts and creative hub from Weltech and Whitireia will bring more than 1000 full-time students to the area.
This city boulevard will integrate Council investment in the streetscape with development from private investors in the buildings along each side of the street and proposed works on the adjacent State Highway. The proposal includes creating a new park in the triangular area near the Victoria Court Motor Lodge, which is a layby and parking area at the moment, it also includes an upgrade of Volunteers corner to make it a more useable public space.
This $11million project will use the resources of the Memorial Park Alliance. Under the Alliance model the client forms a consortium of specialists to deliver a project outcome. This entity takes the risks of any project uncertainty and also shares the rewards should delivery exceed expectations. This is not the traditional client/ consultant/ contractor approach and so the checks and balances of that model
get replaced by an alliance agreement.

Improving Masons Lane
This project involves making Masons Lane a more desirable pedestrian route with improved safety and making it a place where businesses want to locate. The laneway bridges the vertical gap between The Terrace and Lambton Quay. It lies approximately 500m from the Northern end of Lambton Quay. Masons Lane is a Council owned lane. It has a low canopy that is privately owned and is planned to be removed by the owner of Civic Assurance Building. The Lane has suffered from deferred maintenance pending the outcome of the canopy. Council has a unique opportunity to work with building owner to get a good outcome. An improved inner-city laneway would improve the pedestrian network and strengthen a key link between Lambton Quay and the Terrace; support existing private businesses, residents and pedestrians; improve the quality of the environment with better quality surfaces, artwork and light.

Fixing problems in Lower Cuba Street
$180,000 to rectify drainage and accessibility issues. Digging out the tree pits, replanting with Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and topping them with Rockpave to create a flush finish. The project will also be digging out the raingardens at either end of the street to remedy the drainage and accessibility issues. The project will add more street furniture and other elements to compensate for the loss of vegetation and prevent cars driving on the rockpave.

Extra money for upgrade of Cenotaph precinct
To ensure the upgrade will be completed in time for ANZAC Day 2015. Not receiving the extra money would mean the scope of the project would be significantly curtailed. The quality of finish would be greatly reduced and defining features of the design may disappear, resulting in inconsistency with the concept design discussed and agreed with key stakeholders.

Replacing lamps in traffic lights
2,900 Quartz Halogen (QH) lamps are currently installed in approximately 1,000 of Council’s traffic signal lanterns. QH technology was superseded by LED technology some time ago and over the last 5 years the WCC has been converting our QH signals across to LED. The Long Term Plan (2012/22) includes an annual capex budget of $83k to progressively convert the remaining QH lanterns to LED technology by 2026. In April, Philips announced that due to a significant decline in global sales, they would discontinue production of QH lamps. Their last production run was in June. With no proven alternative manufacturers of QH lamps, the approved LTP funding from future years needs to be brought forward in order to accelerate our transition to LED lanterns. Current secured stock of 2,800 QH lamps, gives sufficient supply to complete a transition to LED over the next 18 months. If the transition to LED is not completed within this 18 month period, there will be a situation where failed lamps cannot be replaced, leading to widespread and long term outages of traffic signal displays.

Replacing seats in TSB Arena/Shed 6
The north end mechanical block seats (950 seats) in the TSB Arena are near the end of their useful lives. There are currently health and safety issues with the existing seating in the TSB Arena which has impacted on sporting events due to operational issues. While the seating is considered safe for use by the public, the process to retract or move seating is very difficult, stressful, and places staff under risk of injury that has been mitigated to date through the implementation of suitable procedures. This difficult operational situation has persisted for
a number of years and at times has hindered the smooth running of events at the arena. Accordingly the seating is well overdue for replacement. There is also a utilisation issue as the old seating currently takes 4 hours to move in or out with a minimum of six to fifteen staff as needed. The new seats would reduce the resource requirements to half an hour and two staff.

Expanding exhibition space in Museum of Wellington City and Sea
The project will open the top floor (the Attic) of the Bond Store increasing the
Museum‘s exhibition space by 450m² (30%) and open new exhibitions to the public in 2015. This phase will also deliver an increase in the seismic resilience of the historic Council – owned building and allow integration of Council property renewals work in the optimum summer period. The project is ready to commence construction and has an immediate need for $1.6m from the council.

Loan to Wellington Zoo
An extra $1.5million to complete the Meet the Locals project which opens an area of the zoo that is currently closed. The Zoo Trust has already secured $3.0M of funding for this project. This project has been identified by the Zoo Trust board as critical for completion in 2014/15. This project has been fully designed; a tender price has been received and is ready to start construction.

Renew the digital projector at Carter Observatory
At a cost of $365,000

Instal a permanent light show in the cable car tunnels
At a cost of $160,000.

Create a “cable car trail”
to improve the visitor experience in the environs of the cable car and Botanical Garden

Improve groundkeeping facilities at the Basin Reserve
by restoring the historic Groundsman’s Cottage

Eva and Leeds streets:
$500,000 to be spent to improve this walkway between Ghuznee and Dixon streets which is increasingly popular as the focus of a new food and drink scene.

Bond Street:
$100,000 for a trial ‘summer activation’ of Bond Street between Willis and Victoria streets. Tables, chairs, planters and other paraphernalia will be installed – and the roadway and footpaths will be painted in a summer colour.

Upgrade the street banner system

Money for major city events
$1.6million to be spent, for celebrations including Christmas and New Year’s Eve and the city’s 150th anniversary as a capital.

You can read more details of the expenditure in the agenda from Wednesday’s meeting which is here.

This article was updated a day after publication to add some specific project costs which were released by the city council.