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Early Annual Plan for Capital - now time for action

NEWS RELEASE
7 May 2014

Early Annual Plan for Capital - now time for action

Wellington City Council has today unanimously confirmed the city’s budget and plans for the 2014/15 financial year – including an average rates increase of 2.49 percent after forecast growth.

Changes to assist property development and construction of better quality, environmentally-rated buildings, five years’ rates remission for owners who strengthen heritage buildings and a boost for cycling improvements were among key proposals adopted today.

The 2014/15 budget means it will cost just over $5.50 per resident/per day to keep the country’s Capital City running and flourishing.

The vote to confirm the Annual Plan is almost two months earlier in the calendar year than usual - signalling a determination by Councillors and Council management to get on with the task at hand.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the improved timeframe has enabled Wellingtonians to have a better say with submissions from more than 600 people.

“This Annual Plan takes action to grow the economy, increase Wellington’s rating base, encourage development, make our city more resilient to climate change and other disasters, protecting our built and natural heritage and improving transport choices.

“The fundamental needs of the city are being well met – for example our $404 million of operational spending includes $100 million for stormwater, drinking water and sewage services and almost $20 million for libraries.

“Our economic development funding, which includes events, city promotion and new projects, is significantly higher than four years ago.”

Mayor Wade-Brown says this is helping to progress the economic growth agenda – the ‘8 Big Ideas’ for the city – including, for example, the proposed airport runway extension and a concert and convention centre. Work is now under way on economic analysis of the proposals.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester says today’s meeting confirmed the Council’s commitment to improving the city’s cycling networks, reinvigorating the economy and refreshing Wellington’s CBD and community facilities.

“We’ve kept the rates increase at a comparatively low 2.49 percent without reducing service levels.”

2014/2015 Annual Plan: key initiatives

The plan includes several new initiatives to help ensure the Capital remains one of the world’s most liveable cities, while keeping borrowing and rates within limits set in the Council’s financial strategy.

These include:
• Changing development-contribution arrangements to help stimulate growth
• A funding package to help owners strengthen more quake-prone buildings. This includes a five-year rates remission for owners of quake-prone heritage buildings – once they have completed work to strengthen the buildings above required code.
• tripling the cycling budget to help make travelling by bike safer and easier
• additional funding for storm repairs on the south coast
• more funding for Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.

The Council has already adopted a living wage rate for staff directly employed by the Council and plans to extend this to parking staff when the service is brought in-house in July. It is also working with its council-controlled organisations to explore extending the living wage to their staff and looking at the legal and financial implications of whether this might be applied to Council contractors.

Around $4.3 million will be spent on cycling improvements. The sum is modest in the context of the $83 million spent by the Council on transport networks altogether.

The Council agreed to fund design and resource consent work for the proposed new Johnsonville Library and to provide $100,000 to assist with the citywide roll-out of a graffiti removal programme involving volunteers. This brings the Council’s overall budget for graffiti removal to $570,000.

The operations of two council-controlled organisations, Wellington Waterfront Ltd and Wellington Cable Car Ltd, have been brought back ‘in house’ - into the Council organisation - for more direct control and savings.

During the consultation on the draft plan, the Council received requests for investment in the Museum of Wellington City & Sea, the Clyde Quay Boat Harbour and the proposed Ocean Exploration Centre.

So the Council can consider support for these projects, contingent on business cases, Councillors agreed to transfer $627,000 into its Economic Development Fund rather than increasing its contribution to the Regional Amenities Fund by this amount.

Wellington City Council will still make the major contribution to the Regional Amenities Fund, which was set up to provide top-up funding for attractions and events with regional benefits – contributing $609,200, the same amount as last year. The majority of councils in the region contribute to this fund but most want a more gradual increase than originally planned.

ENDS

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