Infrastructure and resilience are the pillars of Wellington City Council’s 2021 Long-term Plan presented by Mayor Andy Foster during a Councillors’ LTP workshop last week.
“My 2021 LTP is a blueprint for changing times in which we are facing increased demands such as housing, the need to mitigate climate change and understanding the shifts taking place in our society,” Mayor Foster said.
He said key decisions affecting the priority and direction of City Council works and services over the next 10 years would soon go out for public consultation as part of the 2021 Long-term Plan review and adoption process.
“The planned investment is diverse and will improve the foundations for a better city. It will increase levels of service in key areas that matter such as infrastructure, climate change, key civic buildings and transport, broadly maintain levels of service everywhere else and retain headroom for future generations.”
Mayor Foster said capital investment in his 2021-2031 LTP was the largest ever proposed – by a significant margin.
Key areas for proposed investment include:
- Wellington’s ageing three-waters infrastructure
- Delivering on Te Atakura: First to Zero and our action plan to reduce the city’s carbon emissions
- Continuing the strengthening of the Town Hall and St James Theatre and begin the upgrade of the Central Library
- Improving our transport network (Let’s Get Wellington Moving)
- Lifting funding for renewals to ensure all our Council assets, including infrastructure, are well looked after and fit for the future
- Setting a prudent budget that allows future generations headroom to make investments and in case of unexpected events.
“However, to focus on the core foundation of our city, the Council has needed to make some extremely hard decisions about what is in and out of the LTP budget,” says Mayor Foster.
“This is to ensure we do not spend more than we can afford, that future generations are not adversely impacted and that we have money for unexpected events.
“The LTP has needed to strike a balance between affordability to debt and the nice-to-have projects that hopefully can be accommodated in the future. Supporting this approach is the ‘prioritise core infrastructure’ message that’s been consistently heard from the community during the LTP summer pre-engagement programme.”
Mayor Foster says he has ensured the LTP is focused on the basics and core infrastructure and, to achieve that he has been governed by five principles:
- Make every dollar work
- Streamline assets
- Finish the projects already under way
- Focus on existing before new
- Focus on critical / core infrastructure priorities.
“There are a number of unique factors that have impacted on the LTP which have made it one of the most difficult budgets I’ve seen,” he said.
“Wellington faces challenges and pressures faced by all other councils, such as three-waters investment and the impacts of COVID-19. But we also have to address ongoing factors in the aftermath of the Kaikoura Earthquake like the Mt Albert Sludge mitigation project, insurance levies, standing up the pop-up libraries and the Council’s Te Ngākau Civic Square buildings.
“In the broader frame there are issues around social housing and residential which is being managed through the Spatial Plan.
“In previous commentary about the possible rates increase, the figure of 23% made the headlines. Nothing can be finally determined until the consultation and consideration process has been completed but 23% was at the top of the range. However, there are options such as those ranging from a 14% increase through to 17% which would increase the level of debt repayment.
“My LTP allows for what we need to do today and for a future in which our three-waters infrastructure is world-class, our transport system efficient and environmentally-friendly and we have housing that meets the demands of a prosperous city – benefiting all of its residents.
“The budgeting decisions that will be made by Councillors in the next two weeks are a key part of the LTP planning process. These will set out what we invest in. Importantly, through public consultation, the community will then have a say in this.
“I encourage all Wellingtonians to be involved with the LTP consultation, due to start in April, and I refer you to the City Council website for background papers and meeting times. Additionally, our media plays a critical role with stories that inform and encourage debate and I thank you in advance for that support of Wellington.”