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Youth Climate Activists, Generation Zero, Want To See More Transparency From Wellington City Council

Generation Zero is demanding transparency from Wellington City Council on funding decisions and welcomes the opportunity to feedback on the proposed Long Term Plan.

Last month Generation Zero questioned the Council on the proposed $75 million loan to Wellington International Airport and it was dropped from the LTP amidst confusion from Councillors. Now, through a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request, we have learned that this loan was included without Council reports or assessments to justify the expense.

We requested any reports or assessments on the financial implications of the loan, the benefits of the seawall project to WCC assets, and the seawall project’s alignment with Te Atakura - First to Zero; the Council’s plan to reach zero carbon. Here’s what we received:

“The information you requested has been refused under section 17(e) of the Act as the information requested does not exist.

This is deeply concerning. It is reasonable to expect financial assessments to be prepared for such a large item in the Council's budget. Considering the airport is a significant contributor to Wellington’s emissions, we are alarmed that there was no assessment of the climate change implications. It looks like council staff were supporting this spend with limited information.

We can’t afford to be carelessly spending money on major polluters while underfunding key infrastructure desperately needed for our zero carbon transition. Generation Zero is urging the Council to respond to the climate and housing crisis facing Wellington by providing greater funding toward cycleways, Te Atakura - First to Zero, and three waters infrastructure in the proposed Long Term Plan. Council can fund these projects by borrowing more now while interest rates are low and debt is cheap. Now is the time to invest in our futures.

“We need to invest significantly in projects like cycleways, three waters, and Te Atakura - First to Zero that will enable Wellington to rapidly reduce its emissions over the next ten years” says Maddy McVie from Generation Zero.

“If we don’t provide this infrastructure in the next decade, Wellington will struggle to transition towards carbon neutrality. The city would be unable to accommodate the projected increase of 50,000 to 80,000 people over the next 30 years. This is because the city would be unable to support urban intensification in the central, inner, and outer suburbs, making homes more unaffordable and Wellington a less attractive place to live”

“Council will need to borrow more money to fund these projects and that is okay. Borrowing to fund critical infrastructure shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, especially as this investment will provide huge value to the community.” says Maddy. “Council needs to push back on the demand for low rates and limited borrowing, and recognise that the issues facing Wellington now are a result of underinvestment in the past. We can’t use COVID-19 as an excuse to reduce spending. Delaying spending now will push costs onto younger people.”

“We also encourage the Government to urgently consider how it can support Councils borrowing more, as this is an issue nationwide.”

Generation Zero is asking Council to adopt the most ambitious option for cycleways; the accelerated full programme of $226 million over 10 years. Reducing emissions by facilitating shift to cycling and other modes of active transport is critical as transport is the largest source of carbon emissions in Wellington City (55%). We urgently need a connected and safe network of cycleways.

“By spending more on cycleways we can deliver a connected and safe network, enabling more people to bike to and from the places they live, work and play” says Maddy.

“Cycleways not only provide a healthy, low carbon, and cheap way to get around, they also make streets more friendly and safe by reducing the number of cars.”

Council must ensure Wellington’s zero carbon plan, Te Atakura - First to Zero, is fully funded and commit to funding the development and implementation of a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy for Wellington.

“We are pleased to see that the Council has chosen to fully fund Te Atakura - First to Zero. This programme of work is critical to reducing Wellington’s emissions” says Eleanor West, also from Generation Zero.

“Climate change has already begun to affect Wellington, and these effects will only increase in the next few years. Therefore we are also calling on Council to fully fund and implement a climate adaptation strategy for the city. This strategy must be prepared in partnership with mana whenua and in consultation with the community” says Eleanor.

“This adaptation strategy should serve as a key document in deciding where urban growth should be focused, where managed retreat may need to occur, and inform the future rollout of infrastructure”

Generation Zero is asking Council to adopt the most ambitious option for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure; the accelerated full programme of 1.5 billion over ten years. We are concerned that the preferred option will only provide the city with the infrastructure needed to support today’s city, not the city in 10 years time. This could mean that Wellington continues to be 5 to 10 years behind in three water infrastructure which puts the intensification of housing at risk. Without this intensification we will be unable to meet future housing demand, further increasing the cost of living in a city that is already unaffordable to many.

“Wellington City Council must be bold and adopt the most ambitious plan for the rollout of three waters infrastructure even though the costs are significant” says Eleanor. “Without this infrastructure, Wellington may be unable to provide the housing needed to meet future demand. This will further increase the cost of living in an already unaffordable city, and force people to live away from the central city.”

Generation Zero also supports the sludge minimisation project and is encouraging the central government to provide funding for it through the Infrastructure Funding Funding and Financing Act 2020. This project will enable WCC to implement programmes to further reduce waste production in the city.

Generation Zero looks forward to engaging with the Council and community over the Long Term Plan.

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