Wellington City Council has got its act together to present a relatively united front on the same day mayors across the region pleaded for the council to "pull finger".
There have been growing concerns the council is divided and has become dysfunctional, prompting Kāpiti Mayor K Gurunathan to issue a press release appealing to Wellington City to put aside its differences for the sake of the region.
Mayor Andy Foster did not respond to the Herald's request for comment until 6.30pm on Thursday saying he had been busy in meetings with other mayors, ministers and the construction sector.
"And I've just finished chairing a perfectly constructive and amicable three-and-a-half-hour City Council meeting where we approved the Council's 2020/21 Draft Annual Plan. We will continue to get things done.
"We've had a few issues recently regarding some councillor behaviour – which is why we've started a process, run by an independent facilitator, to sort things out constructively.That exercise is already under way."
This year's draft annual plan has turned into an emergency Covid-19 response budget as the council faces a $70m fiscal shortfall.
It's expected council fees and charges revenue will be approximately 60 per cent of predicted levels in July 2020, not to mention the $14m expected revenue loss from the Wellington Airport dividend.
A proposed rates increase has been slashed to a preferred option of 5.07 per cent.
"This option avoids putting undue pressure on ratepayers now and softens the impact on our budgets and rates increases in the future. By debt-funding the loss of revenue the Council is also able to undertake some of the work needed on our infrastructure and assets. This is the preferred option" Foster said.
A second option of 2.1 per cent will also be consulted on.
Council Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow will also conduct a further review of costs, with specific consideration to the impacts of Covid-19, to reduce budget risks and identify any further budget efficiencies.
At the full Wellington City Council meeting held today via Zoom, councillors also pushed through an amendment with a series of new initiatives to be consulted on.
It was presented by Green councillor Iona Pannett as a package called "Tipu Toa: Build Back Better".
Foster was on board with all of the new initiatives apart from one that saved from the chopping block the council's $5000 rates rebate for those building their first home or apartment in Wellington.
The package included $150,000 for more Home Energy Audits, $100,000 for the Built Heritage Incentive Fund, $200,000 more for the protection of indigenous biodiversity through an expanded weed management programme, and an agreement that officers will work with schools and disabled people to develop a traffic resolutions and minor works designed to make walking safer.
This amendment pushed up the original proposed rates increase by officers from 4.95 per cent to 5.07 per cent.
Panett said- "Thank you colleagues for your very constructive contribution to this debate on a day we are being told we are not unified."
However, councillor Nicola Young voted against every single initiative in the amendment, saying she was desperately concerned about the "financial Armageddon" that was yet to come.
"I just cannot support anything that puts more costs on ratepayers, it's not a matter of how good they are or well intentioned they are, we have to keep our hands out of people's pockets."
Young's concerns were shared by councillor Diane Calvert who pointed out the true economic picture was yet to be painted.
She was also concerned the new initiatives would peg the proposed rates increase at over 5 per cent.
"Being bold is also about being able to say no, and saying enough is enough."
But an amendment by councillor Laurie Foon, which was unanimously passed, managed to find more than $3 million worth of revenue for the council.
She reminded councillors the city had made a commitment to reduce waste by a third by 2026.
Her successful amendment means the council will consult on increasing landfill and Marina fees, as well as getting a report analysing the organic kitchen waste diversion trial in time for Long Term Plan deliberations.