Responding to Wellington City Council’s approval of plans to spend up to $147 million more of ratepayers’ money on the city’s town hall, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
“Whilst pipes are leaking, roads are crumbling and costs of living are climbing out of control, Wellington City Council have voted to raise the potential cost of the town hall restoration project to over $1,500 per resident. As a Castalia report reveals Wellington City Council is set to blow its budget by $1 billion, quite how the council could justify considering burning hundreds of millions propping up numerous crumbling heritage sites whilst basic services fail beggars belief.
“Council officials have railroaded this decision, providing one-sided information to elected representatives and demanding a decision be taken before proper scrutiny of their advice can take place. Credit must be given to Councillor McNulty for recognising the enormous opportunity costs of this project and calling for time to investigate more cost-effective options, while also encouraging the council to explore a local bill to ensure they don’t end up in the exact same position again in the near future with other buildings.
“A huge chunk of the costs and delays associated with demolishing the buildings stem from heritage-status red tape, but despite what officials would have you believe this is completely avoidable.
“A local bill must be sought to allow Wellington Council to de-list buildings by simple majority. A local bill was progressed by Tasman District Council in relation to a water augmentation scheme in 2018, taking only four months to pass through Parliament. Years of legal battles and spiralling costs can easily be avoided so that Wellington can start focusing on getting the basics right again.”