Wellingtonians must speak up

Last updated 12:00 14/03/2013
wellington city

CIVIC MATTERS: Wellingtonians need to take notice of what the council has in store in the new Annual Plan, writes Allan Probert.

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Wellington City councillors and officers are going through the same all exercises as in previous years to come up with the annual plan. So what? You might ask.

I would argue that it is more important than ever for the average Wellingtonian to be aware of where their money is spent and express an opinion, especially in light of the usual unpleasant proposals being offered by officers such as charging for parking at the Botanic Gardens at weekends, closures of libraries and increasing dog fees.

This is tinkering around the edges and ignores the real issues:

1. The Government has changed the Local Bodies Act to emphasise the need to concentrate on core services. I see no effort by Wellington City Council to take this on board by way of staff reductions or changes.

2. The annual plan is the time for the mayor to instigate her vision for the city. I can find no evidence of this, and interestingly, no evidence of green initiatives in the district or annual plans.

I suggest the following has to happen in a radical shift from what goes on now:

1. There should be three-year review put in to the annual plan which aims to shrink the council size by 25 per cent and critically review its performance and the reasons that it is involved in certain activities, such as events. This would allow adequate income to keep rate rises at less than the rate of inflation, yet meet priorities such as earthquake strengthening and keeping libraries open.

2. A referendum could be held at each annual plan assessing public desire for projects and their relative importance, as part of a drive to get the public involved. This could be part of a smarter electronic town hall initiative that puts council meetings and voting all online.

3. There are specific issues that come up repeatedly, such as the costs of libraries, pools and other community facilities, as well as the future development of the waterfront. Joint working parties could be targeted at resolving these issues on a long-term sustainable basis.

4. Shared service models must be explored to provide additional value to ratepayers. It's noticeable that dog control services are now shared between Wellington and the Hutt Valley yet fees have increased despite apparent efficiencies.

The council is in the position of being the policeman of its own activities. This should stop and radical change be enacted. 

Allan Probert is the Enterprise Miramar chairman and is considering running for local council election in Wellington city.

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