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Council confirms draft plan for consultation

NEWS RELEASE
31 March 2008

Council confirms draft plan for consultation

Wellington City Council has confirmed its 2008/09 Draft Annual Plan – the first since the Council signed up to its vision for a carbon neutral Wellington.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says it is an ambitious vision that will require effort by the Council, central government, businesses and residents but this year’s draft plan is a starting point because it includes some proposed initiatives that if approved, will be small but potentially significant steps towards carbon neutrality.

The work programme and proposed new initiatives in the Draft Annual Plan will require an increase in the city’s rates take of 4.79 percent, rather than the 5.1 percent mooted in recent weeks.

Ratepayers should be aware that while the average real rates increase proposed is 4.79 percent, the actual movement in a property’s rates will vary depending on the changes in capital value and on the effect of the rates differential between businesses and households.

Wellingtonians will be able to find out more and comment on the plan in a few weeks’ time. They will have a month (16 April – 19 May) to comment on the draft plan which sets out the Council’s work programme for coming financial year and explains any differences – proposed new projects and changes to existing projects – since last year’s plan.

Among new initiatives being proposed this year, the Council plans to investigate how Wellingtonians use transport and make transport choices so it can determine how to encourage more sustainable options such as walking, cycling or taking the train or bus. It also proposes building consent fee concessions for new buildings that incorporate sustainable features like solar water heating and better insulation.

“We’re proposing to investigate some options for turning the Southern Landfill into a producer of sustainable energy,” she says. “We want to determine the feasibility of a small-scale wind farm within the landfill and also look more closely at the possibility of using a bioreactor to convert the city’s sewage sludge into electricity or LPG.”

Other proposals that Wellingtonians will be able to comment on next month include initiatives to make Courtenay Place safer and more vibrant; a better online promotion and booking system for people looking to visit Wellington; the installation of artificial turf on the upper sportsfield at Nairnville Park in Khandallah; and funding for the National Children’s Arts Festival and to make the Pasifika festival an annual event.

More money is also being earmarked for pest and weed control to help protect the city’s environment – our native forest areas, regenerating bush and growing native bird population.

Mayor Prendergast says while some new initiatives are proposed to address the challenges and issues the city faces, the increase in rates required is primarily due to the rising costs of commodities like oil, steel and bitumen.

“The costs we face for construction and maintaining essential infrastructure like roads is well above the level of inflation,” she says. “We’ve worked hard to get the rates increase down below the 7.1 percent forecast last year but reducing the increase any further would require cuts to the services we provide.

“In the coming year we will be taking a long hard look at what we do and the way that we do it as we undertake the required three-yearly review of our Long Term Council Community Plan,” she says. “As part of this, we will be engaging with Wellingtonians to seek their views on our work, the services – and the service levels – we provide so that we can work together to agree the future direction of our city.

“We’re very conscious of the funding issues all local authorities face and as a community we will have to tackle some tough issues to ensure Wellington remains an affordable yet internationally competitive city.”

As part of this year’s Draft Annual Plan, the Council will be outlining a plan to fall into line with all other New Zealand local authorities and re-introduce three-yearly property valuations.

The Council is not required to consult on the change in valuation frequency but as a final decision on the change won’t be made until June, the proposed change will be included in the draft plan so people can comment if they want to.

The Council pays to have the valuations produced for rates distribution purposes, rather than to give property owners updates on how much their property could be worth. They are used to help calculate how much of the total rates take each property owner should pay.

Valuations were originally produced five-yearly then three yearly until 1995, when the Council moved to yearly valuations in response to particularly volatile property market conditions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was perceived that the change would reduce the impact on property owners in areas that had experienced above average increases for several years in a row.

Taupo District Council was the only other local authority to follow Wellington’s lead but has since returned to three-yearly valuations.

The Council plans to return to three-yearly valuations because the conditions that originally drove the Council to consider yearly valuations have eased and the move back to a three-year cycle will save the city more than $750,000 over three years. It is proposed the next revaluation of Wellington properties will be in 2009, with three-yearly valuations after that.

ENDS

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