Wellington City Council details huge spending plans

Wellington will need to bust out the chequebook - an indoor arena is likely to cost ratepayers $65 million, while a film museum will cost almost $30m.

Wellington City Council is also budgeting $90m towards helping to build the airport's runway extension. The figures have been revealed in detailed budgets for the council's Draft Long-Term Plan, which councillors began debating yesterday.

Until now, the council has spoken only of a $200m "envelope" to fund the capital costs of its big economic development projects.

The budget lines reveal that an indoor arena to seat up to 12,000 would cost about $65m to build, with a further $15m in operating costs, with the money budgeted from the year 2020-21 onwards.

The film museum, being funded through waterfront development budgets, is scheduled to start in the same year and will cost about $29.6m to build, with a further $5.4m budgeted for running costs.

That information comes despite the council refusing to confirm the location or timeline for the project, which is understood to involve Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor.

The idea has been on the table since 2001, when Lord of the Rings mania first seized the capital. The franchise remains a huge drawcard for Wellington: an exhibition at Te Papa in 2002 drew 325,000 people and remains its most popular exhibit.

A spokesman for Jackson declined to comment on the project yesterday.

The draft 10-year budget, which will go out for public consultation next month, includes $90m towards the planned $300m extension of the runway at Wellington International Airport to help attract long-haul carriers.

Jo Coughlan, chairwoman of the council's economic growth and arts committee, said the numbers were early indications of potential costs and likely to change, but the council had to include some figures in the budget.

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"What it demonstrates is that we're actually committed to delivering on these major projects for the city. There's obviously business cases to be developed and a lot of hoops to jump through."

The council's governance, finance and planning committee will continue debating the Draft Long-Term Plan today.

Decisions yesterday included approving the proposal for Civic Square that will turn the town hall into a "music hub" as part of a $100m revamp and earthquake-strengthening project.

The council plans to offer public land to developers for century-long leases on half of the Michael Fowler Centre car park, Jack Ilott Green, and the Municipal Office Building to offset costs.

Yesterday, councillors voiced disquiet about the privatisation of public land, and asked that more details be included in documents going out for public consultation alongside the Long-Term Plan.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery also cautioned councillors over tinkering with cycleway plans. Councillors have suggested lifting the budget in the next three years from $45m to $54m, but Lavery said that was premature and decisions should be made only once a full master plan was settled in April.

If not, there was the risk the council could not fulfil the promise, and it would lose the faith of the New Zealand Transport Agency, putting future funding in jeopardy, he said. "It's really important that we deliver what we promise, or we lose out to other cities."

 - The Dominion Post

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