We are trying to strike a balance between reducing immediate impact on ratepayers because we are all in such uncertain and challenging times, and doing the things we need to do – to help our city’s recovery, and deliver the transformative programmes that our city has been crying out for for a decade.
It includes increased funding for our water network, projects such as the new central city library network, and finally getting transformative action underway through Let’s Get Wellington Moving.
The draft includes a 5.1 percent increase in rates, down from the 7 percent proposed in our Long Term Plan. Public consultation will take place between 8 May and 8 June.
I am really conscious that many people, many businesses in our community are being very hard hit by Covid-19. I also know that many people are really fearful about the future.
Council itself as a business will lose up to $70 million in revenue as a result of the Covid pandemic. We’ve agreed that we will debt fund this rather than trying to balance our budget and recover those costs now from ratepayers. This is the rainy day.
That’s also why we’ve pulled back rates increases. It’s also why we’ve already provided for the deferral of rates due in June and will consider targeted rates deferral into the 2020/21 year.
At the same time we are very conscious of the need to maintain infrastructure, and make progress on key projects to ensure our city comes out of this crisis in good shape. We have a city we all love and are immensely proud of and there are places where some TLC is needed.
Doing nothing is not an option. It’s a tough balance to strike, and I look forward to your feedback.
We’ve also included another option of a 2.3 percent rates increase. This sounds attractive and normally I would be all for a lower increase. However this represents the increasing cost of maintaining and renewing our core infrastructure like water and wastewater pipes. It would also result in more significant rates increases in future years.
We’ve come up with what we believe is a great package for our city and our people. Please take the time to have your say. We’re going to be listening very carefully to our community to best respond to your needs.
You’ll have noticed that slowly but surely the Wellington buzz is starting to return to our city under Alert Level 3 – especially with the return of our favourite cafes and restaurants operating on a click and collect or contactless delivery basis.
You’ll be loving getting a barista flat white, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it’s important that we don’t forget about the safety protocols which are still in place.
So remember to observe 2-metre physical distancing on the footpath when lining up; make sure to pre-order, so you can turn up and simply collect, so you can keep things efficient and contactless; and avoid touching shared hard surfaces.
Payment should happen online or at the point of entry and no customer should be asked to come beyond that point. Businesses, if you are experiencing crowding on the footpath, please contact the Council and we will see what we can do to enable people to maintain their physical distance.
On the subject of food, the Council is #LovingLocal by providing partial fee refunds to the hospitality sector. Businesses that have paid a renewal fee for a food registration or pavement lease between July 2019 and March 2020 can apply online for a 25 percent refund.
We are legally required to charge but fees for the current quarter until June have been set at a nominal $1. Any businesses that have paid fees after 1 April can apply for a refund.
We’re also supporting commercial rate payers to apply to defer their fourth-quarter rates without penalty, and to pass on these benefits to tenants.
I also want to highlight a new tool we’re supporting to provide some help to victims of abuse. The Wellington City Council website is now a Women’s Refuge Shielded Site, which means anyone can access help from the homepage. As a Council we’re wholly committed to supporting the agencies and organisations that help people at risk of family violence.
Finally, this weekend will mark the first under Alert Level 3. Enjoy it, enjoy some local exercise with those in your bubble, enjoy a few takeaways At Yours from your favourite local restaurant – but make sure to keep up the social distancing.
Please don’t slip into bad habits, travel out of the region or break your bubble – it’s just not worth it in terms of the potential health and economic consequences.
Keep up the good work everyone, and I’ll be back with another update soon.