Daran Ponter, Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council
Greater Wellington Regional Council agreed to reduce its 2020/21 regional rates rise from an average of 6.3% to 3% during discussions around its draft annual plan yesterday.
The decision was made by Council after consideration of the impact of COVID-19 and will be achieved through a mixture of savings, reserves, and borrowing, so Greater Wellington can continue to invest in key work programmes such as public transport, flood defences and environmental work.
Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter says the region is facing increased pressure on costs associated with activities and progressing major projects but the impact of COVID-19 on communities would come first.
“COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on our communities, leaving many with financial hardship and stress. With this in mind, we have carried out a line-by-line review of all our activities to identify cost savings and efficiency improvements so we can deliver our planned work programme while keeping the financial burden on communities to a minimum.
“Obviously the overall impact of COVID-19 will still have to be worked through and Greater Wellington will have to be agile in its response over the coming year. This includes uncertainty over the level of fare revenue from public transport as people’s travel patterns change,” says Chair Ponter.
Greater Wellington will deliver a work programme with a reduced rates impact from that envisioned in its Long Term Plan for 2018-28. This reduction equates to an average increase of $0.21 and $1.18 per week for residential and business ratepayers respectively, and an average decrease of $0.18 for the rural ratepayers across all the Wellington Region.
As part of the draft annual plan Council discussed a joint loan with Wellington City Council to support the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust at a cost of $2.1 million to Greater Wellington which is repayable over 10 years. This loan facility, if needed, has been assessed as not significant or material, with very limited impact on rates in 2020/21.
Council also considered its ambitious target to be carbon neutral across all of its operations and subsidiaries by 2030. The draft annual plan for 2020/21 includes a new $2 million internal budget for the council’s low carbon initiatives which will be funded by borrowing and paid back from the sale of Greater Wellington’s New Zealand Council Emissions Trading Scheme units, which are presently valued at around $7.2 million.
“This council is committed to its goals of being a regional leader in environmental matters, upholding our carbon neutral goals and building trust with our communities through sound fiscal responsibility,” adds Chair Ponter.
With no significant departure from the Long Term Plan for 2018-28 no consultation will be required on the draft annual plan. Greater Wellington will provide the opportunity for people to give early feedback on the direction of the Long Term Plan 2021-31.
A final annual plan for 2020/21, related rates and charges resolutions will be presented for consideration at Greater Wellington’s Council meeting on 25 June 2020.