Covid-19 And Lifestyle Capital Building – An Extraordinary Year For NPDC
Maintaining core services, improving infrastructure and helping the District get Back On Our Feet after Covid-19 is all in a year’s work for NPDC.
According to its independently audited draft Annual Report, sound financial management enabled NPDC to not only weather the Covid-19 financial storm but also to pull together its $20 million Back On Our Feet recovery package, while maintaining investment in core infrastructure and continuing to Build a Lifestyle Capital.
NPDC managed assets valued at $3.3 billion on an operating budget of $154m, and while temporary changes were made to services like rubbish collections during Covid-19, all core services continued running right through lockdown and beyond in tandem with keeping staff and our residents safe.
“Covid-19 changed all the rules and made us re-examine the things we care about. We chose to back our people and our local businesses, putting together a $20 million recovery stimulus package after obtaining feedback from around 1,000 people during lockdown,” says New Plymouth District Mayor Neil Holdom.
“It was a big year in Building a Lifestyle Capital even before lockdown, with the completion of a world-class gateway terminal at New Plymouth Airport, the first sales to leaseholders under the Waitara Lands Act, and the local elections, with a move to the single transferrable voting system and a nationally recognised head-turning voting campaign.”
Revenues ended up slightly above budget with rates accounting for 57 per cent of NPDC’s funding, resulting in a general rates operating surplus of about $2.7m which is being ploughed back into our Covid-19 reserve.
An overall accounting deficit of about $21m reflected the success of the Waitara Lands Act which allowed leaseholders to buy their land for the first time. All the proceeds of those sales, about $22m over the 2019-2020 year, are reinvested back into Waitara through the Waitara River catchment fund, the Waitara Perpetual Community Fund and the hapū land fund.
Covid-19 also affected the Perpetual Investment Fund, which ended the financial year slightly down at $292m, but the nest egg still subsidised rates to the tune of almost $9m.
International credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s reconfirmed NPDC’s financial rating of AA/A-1+, the highest possible ranking for local government in New Zealand.
Other highlights over the past year:
· More than 150,000 visitors attended the TSB Festival of Lights which hosted more than 50 live acts.
· Kiwi hit-makers Six60 sold out the TSB Bowl of Brooklands.
· We worked with Taranaki Futures to help more than 50 young people from three local high schools to get their restricted driving licence, removing a big barrier to job opportunities.
· The first year of our 10-year contract with Downer saw savings of more than $700,000.
· The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery celebrated its 50th birthday with a street party and the world premiere of Len Lye’s seven swirling Sky Snakes sculpture.
· New landfill and food scraps bins were rolled out to homes taking us closer to a Zero Waste future.
· The replacement of 8,025 streetlights to low-emission LED lights was finished a year ahead of schedule and close to $2m under budget.
· The Back On Our Feet package included rates holidays for hard hit residents and businesses, zero interest and cheap loans to keep tradies in work making homes warmer and greener, cutting the cost of doing business, rent relief for commercial and community tenants, providing advice for small to medium businesses, grants to help main street property owners spruce up their buildings, an hour’s free parking for shoppers over winter, extra grants for community groups, and making sure we give local firms a head start when looking for suppliers.
NPDC provides core services such as roads, water and waste, looks after 1,600 hectares of parks and open spaces and it runs Puke Ariki, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, Brooklands Zoo and a varied portfolio including commercial property and a crematorium.