The WCC week that was; war out West, rising rates, housing ideology, LGWM in full tantrum mode, and “Climate Emergency? Let’s extend the airport!”

It’s been a week more or less the same as previous days with the Let’s Get Wellington Moving campaign under fire again (face it, it’s on fire), housing ideology, rates rises, and more Climate Change issues for the WCC.

It’s not been a good period recently for the WCC, which has lurched around with the Let’s Get Wellington Confused transport campaign that not only is starting to look more and more like the Emperor’s New Clothes it’s also looking like those clothes are a clown suit.

Councillors broke ranks during the week alleging that unless the original LGWM plan was changed to suit the Greens, then the coalition deal could be in jeopardy.

The Green Party confidence and supply agreement would have been put in jeopardy if a watered down Let’s Get Wellington Moving wasn’t accepted, city councillors claim.

A number of Wellington city councillors have revealed to Stuff the behind-the-scenes conversations that pushed the mass transport deal over the line in council chambers.

It comes as the Chief Ombudsman investigates Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter’s ongoing refusal to release a letter relating to Wellington’s transport plans.

It is understood Wellington Mayor Justin Lester told a number of city councillors Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and another Green MP threatened to resign if councillors did not vote for the new mass transit plan and the Government would use the money elsewhere

City councillors claim Green Party agreement used as leverage to get agreement on Let’s Get Wellington Moving

Now, putting aside the leaking, sneaking, and then attempts at hiding information in what was supposed to be one of the most transparent government’s ever, it is absolutely astounding that Councillors allowed themselves to be rolled, if these allegations are true.

We seem to be entering an era of “Voting Regret” where Councillors are publicly stating that if they had the vote again, on a number of key issues now, they would change it. But, when questioned by residents on their stance on said key issues either redact, vanish, or have nothing to say.

Election year indeed.

The latest Councillors to have a crack at this are mostly independent and have consistently dragged the Labour Party Councillors out into the open kicking and screaming perhaps in an effort to point out that Central Government has far more of a hand in local issues than is obvious.

Perhaps it’s a retaliation in an ongoing war that started in the Western Ward where Labour is trying very hard to unseat incumbent, independent, Councillors in an obvious effort to get more voting power around the table. Rumours are that’s getting messy.

It’s a shambles, with no hope of transport being fixed in decades and Wellington not getting what they wanted in order of priority. The city deserves better and it’s a classic case of taking some good ideas and stabbing them to death with ideology and political point scoring.

An interesting, comprehensive, and well-written article on LGWM also popped up this week on Architecture Now, that’s worth a read.

For the last few decades, Wellington transport investment hasn’t played to its advantages. Despite a compact mostly flat CBD, regional rail to one end, the town belt, the harbour and initiatives purporting to “fix traffic” with expanding road space have seen the capital city on the way to being a car-jammed, poorly-walkable, barely-bikeable mini-Auckland.

How do we get Wellington moving?

Andy Foster went into print recently on rate rises that have just come through. In a typically verbose, fact-filled, and interesting article Andy spelled out a number of issues, raised some serious questions, and covered the fact our rates are slowly heading through the ceiling for little return.

People have started contacting me to ask why their increases are as large as they are. It even came up in a friendly way on the football pitch yesterday.

I’ll use ours as a ‘modest’ example – city rates up 4.6% and regional rates up a staggering 15.7%. Overall that’s 6.2%. Other people, undoubtedly with greater proportionate rises in Capital Value in the revaluation, have even higher numbers. Normally I don’t get this level of immediate feedback on rates. I suspect the cause is the combination of rates increases and new property valuations.

The bad news is that there is a lot more proposed. The Wellington City Council Chief Executive’s Pre-election Report shows that over the 10 years of our Long Term Plan (LTP) rates are expected to rise by 48.2%. If you add a targeted tourism rate (targeted to relevant businesses) planned for next year, the rise is 52.2%. That is after accounting for a growing ratepayer base – a perfectly reasonable deduction because rates are then spread across more ratepayers. Add that back in and the raw number is 66.0%.

CPI is currently running at 1.7% which if continued would equate to 18.4% over 10 years.

It gets worse. That does not include remotely enough money for Let’s Get Wellington Moving or for Civic Square.

Rates increases – coming to a letterbox near you

A lot of comments on that article about the increasing cost of living in Wellington given rates and insurance rises. It certainly is getting more and more expensive and the old Council adage that “rates are just the same as a daily cost of a coffee” are starting to sound more like “rates are just the same as the cost of a daily brunch.”

Again, we see the WCC bulldozing costs into outlying years, still chasing vanity projects, not dealing with the likely immense cost of Civic Square, and not funding enough basic infrastructure to keep the city resilient.

But you knew that already.

Trying to hit the housing button again this week the Mayor and Social Housing Portfolio holder, Brian Dawson, came out with a very confusing policy promise that is most likely unworkable.

And now Mayor Justin Lester and councillor Brian Dawson want “Mum-and-Dad” property investors to lease their houses to the city council so they can be turned into affordable rentals. 

“We need to intervene, we need to act and we think we can,” Lester said.

Dawson said Wellington could become a “middle class ghetto” if rents continued to skyrocket and diverse groups were no long able to live in the city. 

Houses would be leased for 10 years then rented out at a rate starting at 5 or 6 per cent below the market rate with annual rent rises limited to inflation. 

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester promises council will intervene in rental market as rents surpass Auckland’s

This is a wonderful piece of ideology that would only appeal to “Mum-and-Dad” investors who were prepared to take a hell of a risk who held the same charitable ideology.

For house owners that are worried about their retirement, increasing rates, far more expensive insurance, health home requirements, and other rising costs, I’m not sure they are going to be up for minimising the amount of rent they can take.

Housing is the second highest issue on the election trail this year and having some real initiatives, like releasing land, like speeding up the consent process, and so on, would go down well right now.

Back in Climate “Emergency” land, the airport is continuing to make moves on land owned by the Miramar Golf Club, to you guessed it, put in even more parking for cars and planes.

The WCC has really got egg on their face over the whole Climate Emergency fiasco and this isn’t helping when they own a third of the airport. It looks more like do as we say and not as we do and repeated calls from residents across the city on Councillor’s stances around the airport continue to go unanswered.

Wellington Airport has offered Miramar Golf Club $31 million to take half of the club’s land and turn some of it into a zone for parking planes.

The move will help pave the way for “future passenger growth”, with an aviation industry expert saying it’s also likely to help cater for more intensive screening on regional flights.

Wellington Airport offers Miramar Golf Club $31 million to buy half its land for expansion

So while we can’t give up golf course land in other parts of the city for important things like housing, we can potentially pave over a lot of green space for more parking. Makes your brain hurt.

Up next, new candidates in the running including an increasingly crowded Mayoralty pack with some analysis.