Back from a $20,000 course, mayor displays his leadership skills in explaining plans for hefty rates rises

Wasn’t leadership among the attributes claimed by the Mayor of Wellington while campaigning for the job before the local body elections last year?

We thought so – until we heard he had been despatched (or despatched himself) to a leadership course near Queenstown.

The news was reported by Stuff:

Wellington ratepayers are forking out $20,000 for the mayor’s leadership programme at a luxury resort.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Stuff that Wellington Mayor Andy Foster was away on a six-day leadership retreat at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown, north of Queenstown.

We can only wonder what they taught him, because the next thing we learn from the Wellington city council is that rates could be raised by 9.2%.

This is being contemplated at a time when coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on local households and businesses.

According to this Stuff report:

In Wellington City Council’s annual plan agenda, two options were put forward to councillors who will be making decisions on the plan on Thursday.

The options  would be considered  with coronavirus in mind, as it “provides uncertainty and will have a negative economic impact on households and businesses in the year ahead”.

There was a “high resilience” option of 9.2 per cent which included additional funding for Wellington Water Limited and Te Ngākau Civic Square while another option, without this extra funding, would be 7.9 per cent.

Stuff reminds its readers that on Sunday, the capital city had its first coronavirus case confirmed when an Australian man flew to Wellington before receiving the results of his coronavirus test.

Has this Aussie been arrested and charged with something that carries an appropriately hefty fine plus deportation?

But back to the rates:

The 9.2 per cent proposal was made up of 5.2 per cent for day-to-day services and the impact of increasing asset values and ownership, 0.9 per cent for Let’s Get Wellington Moving and 3.1 per cent for resilience-related projects including water and Civic Square.

Then readers are given a sad but grim reminder of council laxity in the past.

Water pipes across the city have collapsed and burst. In December, a wastewater pipe underneath Willis St collapsed and caused more than two olympic-sized pools of wastewater to spill into Wellington Harbour.

Repairs are still ongoing, blocking off the major centre-city road.

Another failure at Mt Albert caused a major sewerage pipe to break, forcing trucks to cart sewage sludge 24 hours a day from the Moa Point treatment centre to the Southern Landfill.

The Central Library has been closed since engineering advice suggested the building may not perform during an earthquake and  – since then –  Civic Square has been empty with attempts to revitalise the area with things such as a pop-up outdoor library.

At this juncture in the troubling narrative, readers are treated to a quote from their $20,000 leader.

He said – clever fellow – the rates proposal of 9.2 per cent is high.

“It’s the kind of thing normally I’d be uncomfortable with but Wellingtonians are saying very strongly they want the city fixed, particularly around the three waters network and Civic Square.”

Questioned about the rates proposal being considered during a turbulent time, Foster said the annual plan was still a draft at the moment.

The council had to debate the draft itself and then it would go through consultation which meant the final number could be different, he said. 

We trust he and his council colleagues listen to Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, who said:

“No matter what the rates bill is, the council needs to be proactively setting up options for businesses and residents to defer paying rates”.  

The final recommendations including the decision on the proposed rates increase, will be adopted by Wellington City Council on April 2.

Wellington City Council’s draft 2020/21 Annual Plan consultation document HERE.

It looks like a council press release and quoted the mayor:

“This year’s draft plan seeks to address some of the big issues facing our city, while still providing core services and maintaining Wellington to ensure it remains a capital city fit for the future,” Mayor Andy Foster says.

We can’t imagine you have to go on a $20,000 leadership course to make that sort of observation.

We would have thought it could (and should) have been said of every council plan formulated, debated and implemented since Wellington became a city – and probably before that, for good measure.

3 thoughts on “Back from a $20,000 course, mayor displays his leadership skills in explaining plans for hefty rates rises

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