Under the current Long Term Plan, Wellingtonians can expect rates increases of between 70 and 80% over the next ten years, I intend to change that!
Last year I voted against a long term plan which included 50% rates rises. As I said then, it did not include remotely enough money for either Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) or for Civic Square. That concern is now proving correct. LGWM alone is now projected to add an additional 20% to our rates, on top of the 50% already budgeted.
This morning’s Stuff article “Councillor questions city council’s funding streams for $6.4 billion transport programme” expresses my concern. It is based on a Council submission to the Productivity Commission which councillors will debate tomorrow.
The article says ‘But Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said Foster – a fellow 2019 mayoral candidate – was playing politics, and that the council had long-term provisions in place to fund the programme’.
‘Lester said there was no problem with the council’s budget. “I’m going to make sure the project’s delivered, and that it’s affordable. And we’ve got the budget to do it.”’
Justin is plain wrong. That Long Term Plan currently includes just $120 million of LGWM’s proposed $2.6 billion cost over 30 years. That is LGWM’s numbers show Council spending $800 million in the first ten years, and $900 million per decade in the following twenty years.
Current advice is that LGWM will cost around $90 million a year from about 4-5 years from now, of which 62% ($55 million a year) will fall on rates.
As Stuff reports ‘Foster’s comments are in line with council chief executive Kevin Lavery’s pre-election report released last month, which said the council would need to consider new funding tools to provide its share of the cost’.
The CEO’s pre-election report (pg 15) also says ‘There are significant cost pressures ahead that are not budgeted within the existing Long Term Plan, and once these are added, this would push the Council over its 175 percent funding limit.’ (code for LGWM and Civic Square)
(The 175% is Council’s long held borrowing limit – that debt should not exceed 175% of Council’s income)
It also says ‘The capital projects in front of us will need to be prioritized if we are to maintain our debt levels within our funding limits because there is not sufficient headroom to cater for the current capital projects and the additional items within current limits.’
In simple terms, we cannot do everything. I have set out where I think we can make serious savings, and where I see alternative, non-rates revenue streams in my Wellington Scoop article, which is also available on my website. The costs of LGWM and its proposed funding is very much part of my thinking. LGWM needs to be effective, affordable, and good value for money. As it stands – it isn’t.
As always I welcome feedback and questions.