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Greater Wellington Consulting On Its Plans For The Next Decade

Greater Wellington Regional Council has just released its 2021-2031 Long Term Plan for public consultation from 2 April, and it’s looking for strong and active feedback from the public.

“People need to engage with the plan and help shape the region’s progress over the next decade,” say’s Greater Wellington Chair, Daran Ponter, “because there’s no way of avoiding the vital issues the plan covers, many of which are fundamental to our wellbeing and directly affect how we live. This is a transformational plan for uncertain times.

“It’s about making sure we can get to where we want, to town, work or school, having access to clean freshwater, staying safe from life-threatening floods, staving off the destructive impacts of climate change and turning back environmental degradation.”

These and many other issues close to people’s hearts are in the plan, which sets out budgeted recommendations for management and investment in the region between now and 2031.

Standing head and shoulders over most of the issues facing the region, and a core issue confronted by the plan, is the looming threat of climate change.

“Climate change is no longer the elephant in the room, it’s out there riding on our roads and rails with emissions in its wake. Our plan takes climate change head on, making recommendations on how we as a regional council can minimise our transport related emissions and get to climate positivity by 2035, when our regional forests will remove more carbon than our organisation emits.

“The key to achieving this is knocking back public transport emissions. Emissions from buses currently make up 70 per cent of Metlink’s carbon footprint, or 35 per cent of Greater Wellington’s footprint, so reducing them is a no brainer.

“We are looking at decarbonisation, which means moving to electricity to power all of our buses, and eventually, trains. So far, we have 98 electric buses in the fleet and more on order. But we need to make a step change to meet out climate goals.

“So our favoured proposal is that all existing and additional buses (bar a few for emergencies) be replaced with, or converted to, battery electric power when contracts with bus service providers are renewed in 2027 and 2030.

“We also want to move to all-electric trains in Wairarapa and Manawatū over the next decade. This will cost something like $1.1 billion over 10 years, though this figure will include significant government investment and will be further refined.”

Another area where greater Wellington we can make a big difference is grazing in its regional parks, which has been a traditional activity in places such as Queen Elizabeth Park and Battle Hill. Today, it makes up about 20 per cent of Greater Wellington’s carbon footprint, and recommendations are made in the LTP for that to end.

The solution favoured in the plan is to phase out grazing from 1,350 hectares of the 2,083 hectares of grazed parkland through reforestation and restoration of the land. This approach would deliver many benefits. It would simultaneously capture carbon while enhancing biodiversity, improving the quality of freshwater, reducing erosion and providing great recreation opportunities.

Addressing these and other issues, problems and opportunities effectively requires a regional approach – in particular challenges ahead with housing and urban development, economic development, transport and regional resilience.

“For far sighted, integrated and enduring regional planning we need to bring government, mana whenua and aligned territorial authorities together,” says Cr Ponter.

“We’ve done that through establishing Wellington Regional Leadership Joint Committee, and we are proposing through the plan to set up a high powered secretariat to support the committee to make the big decisions around regional growth it will be entrusted with.

The plan’s budget is significant. Between now and 2031 Greater Wellington will invest around $1.5 billion. Inevitably, this will have to be funded by rates, but rises have been kept as low as possible.

Key items of expenditure include: electrification of Metlink buses; rail station infrastructure and upgrades; continued investment in Let’s Get Wellington Moving; development of integrates fares and ticketing solution; RiverLink flood protection; delivery of other major flood protection hazard and management programmes; installation and provision of regional-scale environment and climate monitoring sites; renewal and upgrade of critical drinking water abstraction, treatment and supply network assets; Te Marua Water Treatment Plant Capacity Optimisation; relocation of the Kaitoke water main on Silverstream bridge.

The outcome for regional rates in the first year is a rise on average per week of $1.25 (incl. GST) for residential ratepayers, and $4.78 (excl. GST) for the business ratepayer and an increase of $1.83 per week (excl. GST) for the rural ratepayer region-wide.

“We acknowledge that it’s always a difficult time to raise rates. We’ve therefore confined the plan to the things we believe must be done for the wellbeing of the people of the region. There are no nice to haves here, and we believe that what we are delivering will offer long term value for money and real benefits for the region,” says Cr Ponter.

Consultation on Greater Wellington’s 2021-2031 Long Term Plan runs from 2 April to 2 May 2021. Make your voice is heard through Have Your Say at https://haveyoursay.gw.govt.nz/

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