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Greater Wellington’s Long Term Plan balances a ‘resilient future, a thriving environment, connected communities and affordability’

Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter says the regional council’s next Long Term Plan will balance maintaining and improving services while keeping rates affordable despite rising borrowing costs, insurance and inflation.

Greater Wellington’s Long Term Plan Committee, led by Councillors and Mana Whenua representatives, faced managing a 10 percent rise in borrowing costs, insurance and inflation while still delivering services to the standard the community expects to see across public transport, environmental management and the operation of regional parks.

“We’re currently sitting around 20 percent in the first year and lower in the years after that. Rising costs are an issue across New Zealand but no one else is queuing up to deliver the value, benefits and outcomes the regional council provides.

“Our communities want to keep our region resilient and Te Taiao thriving. We’ve witnessed first-hand the havoc Cyclone Gabrielle caused and we’re likely to have more events like this, as the ever-increasing risks from climate change take hold.

“That’s why we’re continuing to prioritise flood management programmes in next year’s Long Term Plan. Every dollar we spend here helps protect billions of dollars of Crown infrastructure assets, from highways and railways to schools and hospitals. More importantly, this work ensures the safety of hundreds of thousands of people by keeping their homes and businesses above water. Going backwards here is not an option,” says Cr Ponter.

“We’re also going to keep up our efforts on removing pest plants and animals from our region. People want to keep our green spaces, forests, and special places healthy and productive.

“If we leave them unchecked, we will see significant degradation of environments and habitats that provide for a wide range of regionally and nationally significant native plants, birds and animals.

By protecting our environment and biodiversity from pests we are also supporting a climate resilient region. The trees and plants we protect now are the same ones that will capture significant carbon in the future,” adds Cr Ponter.

Adrienne Staples, Regional Councillor for the Wairarapa and Deputy Chair of Greater Wellington, says investment in public transport was another key area of focus for the Long Term Plan Committee.

“Hundreds of thousands of people rely on public transport across the region each day. Many of our community members don’t have the luxury of alternative transport options, it’s either public transport or nothing. We also know that every passenger on board a bus, train or ferry effectively represents one less car on our roads, which keeps congestion and pollution down. Reducing public transport services to maintain rates affordability was ruled out quickly because of these factors.

“Instead, the Committee looked hard at areas where it could reduce expenditure, rephase or slow down programmes of work to find an affordable pathway for public transport without raising rates or public transport fares significantly.

“We’ll be making suggestions in the draft Long Term Plan to slow down the growth in our bus fleet and the electrification of the fleet while still meeting Central Government climate targets. We’ll also be asking people their opinion on Greater Wellington ownership or control of strategic public transport assets, with the aim of keeping future contract costs and fares down,” adds Cr Staples.

A comprehensive approach to looking for other savings has been taken, including areas such as: delaying capital programmes; keeping personnel positions vacant; reducing operational expenditure; as well as increasing the length of borrowing terms.

Formal consultation on Greater Wellington’s draft Long Term Plan opens in late-March 2024 and will be focused on the themes of a resilient future, a thriving environment and connected communities.

Community members will get to hear more about the Long Term Plan ahead of the formal consultation period as Councillors and Mana Whenua take information out to their iwi, community groups and residents’ associations over the next few months.

 

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