Paying for it
There’s no point trying to pretend otherwise, Wellington has some major costs coming up in the next 10 years. There are two main reasons for this - decades of underinvestment in transport and housing and the unforeseen costs associated with recent earthquakes. The classic way to pay for these things is to increase rates. I want to look at some alternative ways of paying for our major capital projects from fixing our library to getting a proper transport system. I support all of the initiatives outlined, but what happens really depends on what kind of council you get.
What we can do
These are initiatives the council can do now, without any need for the government to change legislation.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Currently the city has an extremely low level of debt. It is below 7% of assets. If Wellington was a house worth 720,000 dollars, we would have a mortgage of 47,600 dollars. We are one of the youngest cities in the country, and by household income the wealthiest by a long margin. Debt is the cheapest it has ever been. We don’t need to be afraid of increasing our debt by what overall would be a small amount.
What is our city doing owning the city’s biggest polluter? The airport and the airlines that operate there are the single biggest source of carbon emissions in Wellington accounting for roughly 25% of all Wellington’s carbon emissions. Currently Wellington owns a 34% of Wellington airport. 34% gives no control, with the airport even making things very hard to run a bus service to. We should look to sell this and ring fence the money raised for the provision of new social homes or green transport initiatives.
What we should do
These are initiatives we need to lobby the government to be able to do
We need to start charging people to use busy roads at peak times. Cars take up a huge amount of road space per person. If we charged drivers who drive in to the cbd from Wellington city between 7 and 9am and used the money to invest in public transport we could get the shift from cars to public transport we need. We have to stop going away the road space for free.
Wellington needs a mass transit system, ideally light rail. We’ll all benefit from this, but the people who will benefit the most are the landowners who own land close to where new stations will be. We need a value capture tax, to ensure the city financially gains from the uplift in values that light rail will bring.
So those are some key options. We need to look at some of these things, instead of just paying for everything through rates increases.