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The annual plan, with missing projects

by Ian Apperley
The Wellington City Council’s annual plan is out for public consultation. Putting aside the usual marketing and rhetoric, it makes for interesting reading. On face value, it appears that some large projects have been effectively parked for the next fiscal year.

The remarks from the Mayor and CEO in the draft plan smack of apologist tendencies (I say with my cynical hat on) and repeat tired platitudes including the “it’s only going to cost you $6 a day” mantra. A number that is meaningless for most ratepayers and unsupported by any metrics.

Putting that aside, the rest of the plan makes interesting reading.

Skipping through the “projects” that are being mooted for the year, the highlights include;

A rates remission for first home and apartment builders up to $5,000. Now, to be honest, when house prices are tipping into the stratosphere, an extra $5,000 is not going to encourage anyone to build a house. It’s a nice tax incentive for property developers though, especially when you are building a two-hundred room apartment block, then leasing most of them.

Homelessness is mentioned – a business case looking at accommodation will be developed, to the tune of $75,000. I would have expected some more aggressive leadership in this area given the left-leaning and Labour heavy Council. A business case? I can’t live in a business case!

A bravo goes to developing a “one stop shop” for business, something I recall as a Nicola Young idea.

From personal experience, setting up a business in Wellington that requires any kind of Council interaction is a nightmare. Expensive, confusing, miles of red tape, and no consistency in terms of contact with officers. Anything to change that situation will improve the economy. Just don’t charge for the service WCC.

Nearly a million dollars has been set aside to repair and protect the south coast against storm damage. This is a good start, however the WCC needs a longer-term plan to deal with the rising sea-levels and increased, intense, weather events.

Wellington has the fastest rising sea-levels of any city in New Zealand for a good reason. As well as climate change, the plate we are sitting on is sinking, compounding the issue. At some point a plan will be needed to relocate coastal communities.

An initiative to expand community engagement resources for key projects is welcome, given that the consultation process of the three previous Councils was woeful. There is a problem though – the WCC has only set aside $75,000 for the initiative.

That’s not only inadequate, in my opinion, it’s bordering on an insult. After the Island Bay cycleway and other failed consultations in the last term, this amount of money is going to do very little other than pay for stationery. It’s time the WCC put their money where their mouth is and invested substantively in community engagement.

Other initiatives focus on resilience, which is a welcome step forward. We live in a vulnerable city and ensuring that we are ready for any event is logical, smart, and progressive.

What is interesting is the missing projects.

The movie museum will not require funding. Nor the convention centre. This signals a change in pace for the WCC and we can expect no movement in the next financial year if the plan is approved.

Cycling improvements appear to be out as well, with a note saying, “Stronger community engagement has meant a re-phasing of the programme.”

Frank Kitts Park development is on hold effectively.

Financially, rates rises drop, operating expenditure increases marginally, capital expenditure is cut by nearly $40 million, and borrowings drop.

So what’s missing this time from last?

The airport extension, National Hockey Stadium, an indoor concert arena, the ocean exploration centre, the convention centre, film museum, a city-wide cycling network, vehicle network improvements, Adelaide Road redevelopment, Kent and Cambridge Terrace redevelopment, Civic Square development, and Basin Reserve redevelopment.

No mention of Shelly Bay, nor any other significant housing investments.

On balance, the plan feels conservative and it’s about time. There is little point in biting off more than you can chew, so choosing a few projects makes sense. Here’s hoping that the WCC can deliver on their draft plan.

3 comments:

  1. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. May 2017, 10:13

    Hey Ian. Major upgrades to traffic arterials are dependent on the outcomes of Let’s Get Wellington Moving and of course any work along SH1 through to the airport would be paid for directly by the NZTA. Roading changes to support the new bus network for July 2018 will be funded by GWRC.

    There’s a very large budget for the cycling network, substantially funded by the NZ Govt. There’s adequate funding to cover all the new cycling projects being designed and consulted upon for implementation in 2017/18. This process has already commenced and the enhanced engagement processes including a large number of stakeholder workshops are funded through that source. (Future years’ projects may require more funds but we’re talking about 2017/18 here.)

    Cllr Diane Calvert is leading on community engagement. She’s making great strides in ensuring the the council fully engages with the community on all major new initiatives and projects. The budget increase she sought is in the draft plan.

     
  2. Michael Gibson, 18. May 2017, 12:11

    Regarding “Frank Kitts Park development (being) on hold” why is the Council still spending our money on employing two sets of lawyers to get resource consent? The answer to this would be helpful for two reasons: firstly, because I have taken up the question of the status of these lawyers directly in connection with my Appeal to the Environment Court and, secondly, because this would free up at least $5,000,000 budgeted to be spent on destroying the Frank Kitts amphitheatre etc.

     
  3. Barbara, 19. May 2017, 9:37

    Missing projects will probably reappear in the submissions process as is usually the case for big projects so that the public don’t have a chance to submit on them.

     

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