Wellington City Council signs off on 2.5 pc rates rise

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 13:23 12/12/2013

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Wellington ratepayers are facing a 2.5 per cent rates increase after councillors agreed to the city's draft budget with minimal fanfare today.

With most of the big decisions signed off yesterday - including a move to pay staff a living wage and changes to development contributions - the council's governance finance and planning committee finalised the draft annual plan in a little over two hours today.

The only change to impact rates was an addition by Iona Pannett of $60,000 for library services to ''deliver children's literacy programmes and customer service and collection refreshment''.

It was a small amendment that would ''actually have some impact for users of our libraries''.

The addition was accepted unanimously by councillors, taking the rates increase from the starting point of 2.47 per cent to 2.5 per cent - keeping the increase exactly to the council's self-imposed limit.

A move by Simon Marsh to reinstate $555,000 for the second stage of the Kilbirnie town centre upgrade failed to fly, and the project will be deferred.

He had argued that it was important to finish the project.

''Stage two is, I feel, about helping that economic vibrancy in that area to continue.''

But, Andy Foster argued that the project was linked to the bus barns project, and since that was no longer going ahead the motivation to carry out stage two was not there.

''We need to say what are we trying to achieve with any of these projects.''

Mr Marsh's amendment lost eight votes to six.

Other budget items - including an extra $3m for cycleways and $280,000 for a new walking and cycle path in Kilbirnie - went through without debate.

The budget includes decisions made by councillors yesterday, including an additional $750,000 to phase in a living wage of $18.40 and hour for all council employees, changes to the developments contributions policy to reduce charges by up to 25 per cent, with 50 per cent off for environmentally friendly new builds, and a rates remission policy to help owners of earthquake-prone buildings to carry out strengthening work, and freeze rates on buildings that have completed work.

The committee's recommendation to adopt the draft plan will go to the full council meeting for sign off later this month before it goes out for public consultation early next year.

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- The Dominion Post

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