I’m new to Wellington, having become Chief Executive of this Council in April this year. I can already see that this is a great city. It is safe, vibrant, creative, as well as having many environmental features and advantages. I love living here and I am proud to lead this organisation.
As you will see in this report, the Council is in a healthy financial position and is making good progress on its key priorities. In terms of economic growth, we successfully hosted the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and agreed to contribute to the cost of the Resource Management Act approvals process for the proposed Wellington International Airport runway extension. In addition to this, we have decided to use $3 million of this year’s operating surplus to build a Wellington Economic Initiatives Development Fund for the coming year to target further events, initiatives and partnerships as priority areas for growth.
In terms of our resilience to natural disasters, we have done a significant amount of investigation and planning around the strengthening of Council owned buildings. A work programme and funding has now been agreed, with the Town Hall project about to get underway. In addition to this we have been strengthening the city’s core infrastructure including underground pipes, reservoirs, bridges and retaining walls with the strengthening of the Karori Tunnel being a key achievement this year. We have also made great progress with the upgrade of our social housing portfolio, with significant investment from Central Government. The completed projects and associated community programmes continue to win awards and are a true credit to all involved. We look forward to similarly successful partnerships with the Government, particularly in the transport area with the Memorial Park project underway and other major network projects for the region going through their consenting phases.
The Council recorded a net surplus of $28.2 million. After adjusting for fair value movements and other non-cash items of income and expense, the underlying surplus for 2012/13 is $3.6 million – this is largely due to savings in interest and depreciation from the Council not completing its planned capital work programme. The significant amount of carry forward capital expenditure, which results in these interest and depreciation savings, is not a pattern that I see continuing as we set more realistic capital programmes that are more focussed on our key priorities.
In terms of our overall performance, you will note on page 7 that, to take advantage of new technology and reduce costs, we have changed how we survey Wellingtonians about our performance. This has had an impact on some of the results. However, it is also clear that people feel more negative about our performance in some areas, particularly around how we make decisions and satisfaction with some facilities. We will be looking into these results further to find out what we can do to improve our future performance in these areas.
I am committed to working with the elected members, all staff, our partners and the wider community to take this city and region forward. The economy holds the key to our success. We need to invest in the right projects – projects that cut our costs, generate income or lead to economic growth, which in turn expands the business rate base. This will enable the Council to maintain its investment in community infrastructure while keeping rates affordable. I’m committed to leading an organisation that delivers, is accessible and open. This report is part of that commitment. An informed community is, after all, important for a healthy democracy.