Wellington council budget: Mayor Andy Foster emails last-minute changes at 1.25am

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster has sent councillors a raft of last minute changes to the 10-year-budget at 1.25am this morning, much to everyone’s exhaustion and concern.

Councillor Diane Calvert responded to the mayor’s email: “You just don’t get it. Too little, too late.”

City councillors are gearing up for a gruelling day thrashing out the final details of their Long Term Plan.

The capital is facing myriad cost pressures including ageing water pipes, insurance hikes, seismic issues, transport plans and its social housing portfolio.

They come on top of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Calvert said in another email to Foster the whole budget process has caused far more angst for everyone than it should have.

“Sending an email at 1.25am on the day of the debate proposing substantive amendments to your paper and little communication with elected members is alarming.”

Calvert suggested laying the paper on the table to reach a consensus through discussion rather than “through an ultimatum placed over” the mayor.

Councillor Jill Day also responded saying the changes were hard to track.

“This feels like déjà vu and is terrible governance.”

The biggest change proposed appears to be around the cycleway network budget.

Foster responded to both councillors saying all the issues have been pre-signalled, well canvassed and were familiar to everyone.

“All I am doing is formatting everything to make for an efficient meeting and reduce the number of amendments”, he said.

Foster has previously called the council’s Long Term Plan the resilience and infrastructure budget.

“This is by far the most challenging budget that I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a few.”

The cost of which is not pretty, with a 15.99 per cent rates increase on the table.

This has increased from the 13.5 per cent rates increase proposed during public consultation on the Long Term Plan.

Additional funding requests from that consultation means this has ballooned to almost 16 per cent.

Those requests which have been supported by council officials include things like $7.7m over three years for city safety improvements.

This is part of the Pōneke Promise, a social contract between Wellington hospitality workers, retailers and police.

It’s understood work has since been done to get the rates increase back down to 13.5 per cent.

Councillors will meet from 9.30am to thrash out the final version of the budget which could include late additions and things being taken out to keep the rates increase down.

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