Wellingtonians, have your say on the city's vision

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Wellington City Council  has some grand plans and Wellingtonians are being called on to have ...
LUKE APPLEBY/Fairfax NZ

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Wellington City Council has some grand plans and Wellingtonians are being called on to have their say about them.

OPINION: 

Today the most substantial investment plan in Wellington's history is released for your feedback.

This plan sets a course of sustained, and sustainable, economic growth for the next decade and beyond. This is a big deal for Wellington.

Wellington City's long-term plan sets the council's 10-year budget and we need feedback by April 17.

We've had a busy 12 months: the Cenotaph upgrade is nearly ready for Anzac Day; Pukeahu Memorial Park is about to open; a temporary WW100 display in the old Dominion museum; Wellington East pool is on track to replace the old BGI pool; Cricket World Cup 2015 is a roaring success; many cruise ships are docking; CubaDupa is about to put the "Supa" back into Cuba St; Kilbirnie's cycle network is almost finished and Keith Spry pool has been refurbished.

We've added special housing areas to boost housing supply and more than a dozen schools now have solar panels.

The airport runway extension resource consent will be lodged this year.

There are lots of functions the council must carry out: keeping streetlights shining, reducing pollution into the harbour and maintaining community centres, libraries, and sportsfields, preventing potholes, cleaning streets and removing graffiti.

To keep doing this, over the next 10 years rates will have to go up an average 3.1 per cent per year to maintain "business as usual" service levels.

For a modest 3.9 per cent increase, we'll invest in a suite of exciting projects to transform the city.

This is how we make a real difference during the next decade.

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Our quality of life is already excellent and unemployment has dropped to 5 per cent from 6.2 per cent a year ago.

However, the total value of our commercial rating base has been flat for 10 years and we're competing with Sydney and Singapore as much as Auckland for increasingly mobile talent.

I've introduced a budget, agreed by the overwhelming majority of councillors, to deliver sustainable economic growth for the next decade and setting aside a significant fund for economic investment projects.

Business cases will be presented to the council before funds are committed. We'll set a funding envelope of $700 million to cover all of the successful projects. Borrowings will prudently be less than 175 per cent of income - lower than most councils.

Business and educational institutes agree that direct flights to Asia and North America would make a huge difference.

Our most valuable growth will be in ICT, film, education and creative industries. Our capital's public sector capability is second to none. International trade in ideas, software and physical commodities is essential to our prosperity.

Therefore, the airport runway extension is the most significant project ahead.

The Civic Square will buzz as a music hub, with the strengthened town hall and new buildings on the Michael Fowler Centre carpark and Jack Ilott Green.

New attractions that focus on the city's strengths are in the pipeline: the convention centre; making the Dominion museum permanent; adding a new film museum, a downtown concert arena and the long-awaited ocean exploration centre at the Maranui Quarry.

We will enhance cultural, environmental and social wellbeing, including new initiatives such as dog parks and lower bus fares.

No service cuts are projected, indeed a new library in Johnsonville will start in 2016.

Resilience is increasingly important. As well as protecting lives and economic futures, our city's expertise is a new international opportunity for our world-class institutions like MetService, GNS, Niwa, Victoria and Massey to earn export dollars.

We'll invest in our city's fundamental transport and urban design with attractive laneways and streetscapes. Cycling and bus priority will get a boost. Frank Kitts Park will be upgraded to have better harbour views, a new playground and a Chinese garden to enjoy.

We're not waiting around for an amalgamation process that will take time, cost a lot of money, and not necessarily deliver anything for Wellington. We're delivering a programme to ignite growth in the capital.

We've set out a financial strategy that is achievable with only a modest uplift in rates.

So now it's over to Wellingtonians - email us, attend a ward meeting, invite a councillor to your community group or business organisation, engage on social media or through the long-term plan web pages at www.our10yearplan.co.nz

 - The Dominion Post

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