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2005/06 Annual Plan invests in Wellington’s future

NEWS RELEASE
23 June 2005


2005/06 Annual Plan invests in Wellington’s future

Wellington City Council has established its Annual Plan for 2005/06 with more than 20 new initiatives designed to highlight Wellington’s environment and help position the city as an exciting tourist destination, while continuing to maintain its key assets.

The projected average real rates increase is 6.99 percent, lower than the predicted increase of 7.88 percent forecast in the Council’s Draft Annual Plan. Mayor Kerry Prendergast is pleased with the wide range of initiatives approved, which she says demonstrates the Council’s vision for the future while dealing with the demands of the present.

“The Council plans to invest $7 million in the Marine Education Centre (Aquarium of New Zealand – Te Moana Tamariki) and $8 million in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, as they are vital to the success of the work we are doing to promote Wellington as a centre of nature-based tourism,” says Mayor Prendergast. “They will be icons for New Zealand as well as for our city.”

“We are assisting the growth of tourism in Wellington by working closely with Positively Wellington Tourism. Because Australia is our prime tourist market, we have increased our annual grant by $200,000 this year to support their Australian marketing efforts. We are also making significant increases to their ongoing operational baseline funding and market research budget.”

“The Council is demonstrating its commitment to attracting talented and creative people to Wellington by its continuing support of the Wellington Arts Centre Trust with a grant of $606,000 to partially fund the centre’s operations. And in establishing the Indoor Stadium Development Trust, we will be working to enhance Wellington’s strong reputation as a centre for iconic sports events.”

Cr Robert Armstrong, chair of the Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee, says Councillors have carefully considered all the proposed projects and have come up with a plan that can only add to Wellington’s reputation as the place to live, work and play.

“The Council has agreed to bring forward capital spending of $8 million on the waterfront, which was previously budgeted for later years, to allow Wellington Waterfront Ltd to complete its waterfront development programme earlier than originally planned,” says Cr Armstrong. “Wellingtonians will now have greater opportunities to enjoy the waterfront sooner than they had anticipated.”

“We have also been mindful of the city’s more basic needs by significantly greater spending on public toilets and pavilions, and increasing our weed and pest control budgets.”

“The Council has demonstrated its commitment to our youth, with a plan to redevelop Spinks Cottage on Dixon Street as a youth café,” says Cr Armstrong. “We are helping our older citizens, too, with a grant of $60,000 to co-ordinate implementation of our policy on older people and provide information for older Wellingtonians.”

While the average total real rates increase for 2005/06 is 6.99 percent, individual ratepayers will pay more or less than that, depending on whether they pay commercial or residential rates and on changes in the value of their property.

The Council will meet on Tuesday 28 June to formally adopt the 2005/06 Annual Plan.

Attachments:

 List of new initiatives

 Frequently Asked Questions

Key initiatives approved for 2005/06

 $7 million interest free loan to the Marine Education Trust (Aquarium of New Zealand – Te Moana Tamariki) to be repaid over 25 years, conditional on the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust raising the balance of $12.6 million to build the aquarium.

 $8 million interest free loan to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, to be repaid over 25 years, conditional on the trust raising the rest of the money from government and the Wellington Regional Council to re-launch itself as the Sanctuary of New Zealand and develop their visitor centre. The Council will also grant additional operational spending of $1.165 million a year for two years only.

 $350,000 to speed up our tree removal work in order to protect public safety and reduce the likelihood of damage from falling trees in future storms.

 $206,000 increase to weed and pest control budgets.

 $50,000 to assess buildings to discover which are earthquake-prone and need strengthening work. This information will help us develop a new policy on dangerous and earthquake-prone buildings by June 2006.

 $8 million to Wellington Waterfront Ltd (WWL), which is capital spending previously budgeted for later years, to allow WWL to complete its waterfront development programme earlier than originally planned.

 $489,000 on public toilets and pavilions, to allow for the construction of one new public toilet a year, and a further $436,000 for an ongoing programme of upgrades.

 $190,000, spread over two years, to the Wellington Boys and Girls Institute to redevelop Spinks Cottage on Dixon Street as a youth café.

 $90,000 to increase salary support of community centres, citizens’ advice bureaux and five other community groups.

 $60,000 to co-ordinate implementation of our policy on older people and provide information for older Wellingtonians.

 $150,000 increase on the regular grant to support the New Zealand International Arts Festival.

 $200,000 grant to the Renouf Tennis Centre towards the cost of a new building to cover two of its existing outdoor tennis courts.

 New operational spending of $218,000 and capital spending of $1.97 million towards the redevelopment of Newtown Park.

 $60,000 increase on operational grant to Wellington Museums Trust.

 $200,000 increase on annual grant to support Positively Wellington Tourism’s (PWT) Australian marketing efforts.

 $100,000 increase in PWT’s ongoing operational baseline funding.

 $205,000 grant to PWT for market research on tourism

 $200,000 to support two major conferences (the New Zealand Alumni Convention and Sister Cities New Zealand Conference).

After reviewing our transport asset management plan, we have increased our budgets for roading capacity projects and traffic sign renewals. We also propose increasing expenditure on maintenance of roadside retaining walls. After a review, we have reprioritised some aspects of the SaferRoads project, including increased expenditure on minor safety projects and traffic calming measures.

In addition, there will be increased fees and charges in the following areas:

 Overdue charges at the libraries

 Swimming pool entry

 Recreation centre fees

 Building consent fees (including code of compliance, building certificates, earthworks consents, building inspections, etc.)

As required under the Local Government Act 2002, we have adopted a Development Contributions Policy that will be confirmed at Council on 28 June 2005, with effect from 1 July 2005. It outlines how we intend to fund the capital spending needed to meet future growth in the city. It recommends that development contributions are used as the main method of funding all growth-related capital expenditure for the water supply, wastewater, stormwater, roading and reserves.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Wellington City Council making such a significant loan to the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust?

We believe the Marine Education Trust (Aquarium of New Zealand – Te Moana Tamariki) will be an important new visitor attraction for Wellington, with more than 190,000 visitors a year expected to visit Wellington’s stunning south coast. It could sit alongside the Sanctuary of New Zealand and the city’s parks and reserves in a cluster of nature-based attractions.

Why is the Council making such a significant contribution to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary?

The $8 million loan is conditional on the trust raising the rest of the money needed from government and the Wellington Regional Council to re-launch itself as the Sanctuary of New Zealand and develop a new visitor centre. The Sanctuary Trust will also seek funding from the Wellington Regional Council and the Government.

The sanctuary is already a major visitor attraction and an important contributor to New Zealand’s ecology. Once the work is complete, it is expected to attract about 190,000 visitors a year.

Is the Council spending enough on the maintenance of Wellington’s infrastructure?

As well as its firm commitment to the development and promotion of Wellington as a vibrant, creative and innovative city, the Council is fully focused on developing and maintaining Wellington’s infrastructure, such as roading, water, sewerage, stormwater, and buildings. Over $75 million of our capital spend is on such existing infrastructure.

For example, in addition to our usual budget, we are spending $489,000 for the construction of one new public toilet a year and $436,000 for an ongoing programme of upgrades. In the coming year, it’s likely this funding will be used to upgrade the Te Aro Park toilets and staff them to reduce vandalism and make them safer.

Why have Wellington city’s rates increased by an average of 6.99 percent?

There are a number of reasons for this increase. The Council’s two significant cost areas are labour costs and the purchase of services from the private sector. The tight labour market has resulted in increased labour costs, while material and labour costs for our contractors have also risen and been passed to the Council.

The level of rates increase is, however, lower than the 7.88 percent rise originally forecast, in part because of the cancellation of the V8 race.

Why is the Council borrowing money?

The Council is making investments in Wellington city. A sewage treatment plant like Moa Point, for example, will benefit Wellingtonians for 100 years. By borrowing to pay for half the cost, we have passed some of the cost of servicing this borrowing onto the future generations who will enjoy the benefits of the investment.

Borrowing is the best and most equitable option for funding essential infrastructure and for investing in new ideas and new way of operations. We would otherwise have to increase rates or sell assets.

What will be the impact of the Development Contributions policy?

This is an initiative the Council has put in place for a more equitable contribution from developers for the work Council has to undertake to provide new basic infrastructure for new property developments. Developers will pay the cost rather than asking rate payers to foot the bill. The policy recognises that people who are responsible for areas of growth need to pay for the cost of sewage and other amenities such as water supply, wastewater, stormwater, roading and reserves. In the past, the cost would have been spread across the entire city, whereas under this policy for growth-related expenditure, we will target only those who will use the facilities.

Why are fees and charges for libraries and swimming pool entries rising?

The Council funds 90 percent of the costs of our libraries. We are proposing a small increase in fees for overdue books, magazines and periodicals to encourage people to return items to the library sooner so that they are available to other borrowers. Adult charges are rising from $0.40 to $0.50 per day and for children and teenagers from $0.20 to $0.25 a day.

Currently, user charges fund 45 percent of swimming pool costs, while rates fund 55 percent. We are proposing a 50/50 split, as it is primarily individuals who benefit from using swimming pools. The adult entry fee will rise from $3.50 to $4 and for children from five to 16 years from $1.50 to $2.

Recreation centre costs have been met by about 25 percent from user charges, with the rest coming from rates. Small increases (such as increasing gym hire from $33-$35 an hour) will mean that user charges are 30 percent.

Building consent fees are currently funded 50/50 user charges and rates. There will be a change to 60/40 split in 2005/06.

ENDS

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