GWRC quietly robs Wellington City Residents of Million$

  • The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) has finalised its Long Term Plan including key decisions on rates funding
  • Regional council final decisions on Transport Rates and rates funding for flood protection mean a multi-million dollar increase in their rates demand for Wellington City … Wellington City residents are worst hit
  • The GWRC will now increase the average Wellington City Household rates bill by over $200/year … and no-one noticed!

The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) finalised it’s 2018-2028 Long Term Plan at its Council Meeting last week. This included the decision to implement a new allocation method for the Transport Rates that fund the regional Public Transport (PT) service. Its press release titled “Greater Wellington invests to thrive” talked a lot about all the great spending over the next decade but only the following about paying for it all:

The Long Term Plan will be delivered with a proposed 5.9 percent increase in average rates for the 2018/19 year. This will mean, for the coming financial year, an average annual increase of $40.75 or $3.39 per month for Greater Wellington ratepayers. Over the next decade, average rates are set to increase by 5 percent per annum.

However, hidden in this rather bland paragraph that only talks about averages is some very bad news for Wellington City residents.


This year the GWRC has decided to change the way they collect the Transport Rates that fund the region’s train, bus and ferry PT services. A more detailed background to the GWRC Transport Rate changes across all ratepayer groups is documented HERE. In outlining changes to the Transport Rate, the “Consultation Document for the Greater Wellington Regional Council Long Term Plan 2018-2028” claimed:

The proposed changes to public transport will mean residents in the Hutt Valley, South Wairarapa and Porirua pay a bit less toward public transport than they do now, while residents in Wellington city, Kāpiti and Masterton pay a bit more toward public transport.

The above claim that this change only means ratepayers will either “pay a bit less” or “pay a bit more” is a typical lie by the GWRC. As outlined in the previous long Wellington Commuter post on the subject, this change really means major increases in the Transport Rates to be paid by some groups as well as reductions (yes reductions) in the amount of rates paid by others.

No Transparency from GWRC reports

The GWRC said it introduced this new Transport Rate because “We want a funding approach for public transport that is more transparent”. But it is still impossible for ratepayers to understand what they will pay through this new Transport Rate model based on information published by the regional council.

For example, the Council Long Term Plan Hearing Report to the 14th June 2018 Council Meeting recommended, the following changes to its rate changes:

  • The Flood Protection funding provisions of the adopted Revenue and
    Financing policy be retained, noting that those provisions provide for up
    to 50% general rates funding for flood protection
  • The Public Transport regional CBD differential to be reduced to 7
  • The Public Transport business (excluding Wairarapa) differential be
    reduced to 1.4
  • Provision for a new Public Transport residential differential for the Otaki
    rating area of 0.5
  • Provision for a six year transition period for Public Transport funding

So what does the above mean for how much the regions ratepayers will pay ? Well you certainly cannot find out from this or any other published GWRC report.

This analysis attempts to answer the “who pays what” question for GWRC Rates. It is based on information obtained under the official information act (and the intervention of the Ombudsman) and especially the Rates Allocation Spreadsheet (the original GWRC spreadsheet is available HERE) as well as the final Greater Wellington Regional Council Long Term Plan 2018-28 approved at the GWRC Council meeting of 26th June.

[NOTE: The above spreadsheet only holds the GWRC proposed rates.  I have now updated this spreadsheet with the FINAL Transport Rates changes.  The additional information is in Blue cells and you should see the Instructions page for more information about this update]

CBD Differential reduced to Seven so who pays what ?

The revised Transport Rate allocations were estimated by adding the new Transport Rate Differentials to the previously obtained GWRC Rates Allocation Spreadsheet. The following graph shows the proposed and final Transport Rate amounts to be paid over the next six years where:

Green = Residential Ratepayers
Blue = CBD Business Ratepayers
Red = Non-CBD Business Ratepayers

The dotted lines show the original proposed Transport Rates and the solid lines show the final Transport Rates on a per household annual cost basis.

The above shows the GWRC decision that “Public Transport regional CBD differential be reduced to 7 really means:

  • a reduced rates payment from Wellington CBD businesses by nearly $3M
  • an increased rates payment from Residential Ratepayers by nearly $3M and
  • that the strong lobbying by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce supported by the Wellington City Council was effective.

It is also clear that the adjustment in the “Public Transport business (excluding Wairarapa) differential” from 1.5 to 1.4 is to ensure all the cost of the CBD Business reduction is transferred to residential ratepayers … not to the non-CBD Business ratepayers.

Who pays more Transport Rates ? … Wellington Residents

So, having identified that residential ratepayers will pay more, the next question is which residential groups will pay what ? The following chart shows the per household annual residential rates for public transport services for Wellington City (green) who will “pay a little bit more” and Porirua (dark blue) & Upper Hutt (light blue) who will “pay a little bit less”:

The dotted lines show the original proposed Transport Rates and the solid lines show the final Transport Rates on a per household annual cost basis.

So, while the additional $3M payment transferred from CBD Business ratepayers to residential ratepayers affected all residential groups, it is only Wellington City Residential Ratepayers that actually face increased Transport Rates. In fact this latest decision to further increase our Transport Rates means the Wellington City household contribution towards the regions PT services now will more than DOUBLE over the next six years.

The following table gives an itemised per household view the GWRC Transport Rate bill for average households for 2023/24 (in six years’ time when the new model is in full effect) for these cities:

The above spells out in detail where the GWRC will allocate the extra $189/year in Wellington residential Transport Rates. In addition to the extra $64 to fund the ever increasing cost of PT Services (mainly rail cost increases), the GWRC is taking $125 from the average Wellington household to reduce the ratepayer contributions in other cities and from the Wellington CBD businesses. By doubling the Wellington household contribution to public transport, the GWRC ensures that Porirua and Upper Hutt ratepayers will enjoy a cut in their Transport Rates !

The Flood Protection funding provisions policy be retained so who pays what ?

The original proposal outlined in the Long Term Plan to fund flood protection in the Hutt Valley and the Wairarapa was to:

… change the way we fund flood protection through rates to reflect the benefits each group of ratepayers receives from this work. Our proposed option is that 70 percent of the costs of flood protection work is funded by a targeted rate on properties in the area where work is taking place. The remaining 30 percent will be funded by a targeted rate on all properties in the region. We all benefit from flood protection work, but the properties in the areas affected benefit the most.

In other words, the GWRC proposed that those homeowners who will benefit from flood protection should fund most of the cost of building this protection.  The GWRC “Revenue and Financing Policy Statement of Proposal” consultation document had a chart (below) that outlined the impact of changing from the status quo of General Rate funding to a targeted flood protection rate that reflected benefits:

However, the final GWRC decision on changing the way flood protection would be funded was:

  • The Flood Protection funding provisions of the adopted Revenue and Financing policy be retained, noting that those provisions provide for up to 50% general rates funding for flood protection

This means the GWRC has now decided to NOT to change to a benefits based approach and will to continue with the status quo of funding most of the cost of flood protection from General Rates.

So, again, “who pays what” funding for flood protection ? Well the Status Quo option on the chart indicates this would add nearly $3m/year to 2018/19 Wellington City rates ! Adding $3M to the Wellington City General Rate means $2.3M will come from Wellington residents.  In practice this means another $30/year from the average Wellington household to fund improvements in other areas.


It is shocking that the GWRC has managed to add over $200/year to the average Wellington City household rates bill without anyone noticing. For example, the “Paying Up” article on Scoop looks into the various rates increases for the different cities but, again, the GWRC manages to fly below the radar … I think quietly extracting millions more each year to fund its projects is perhaps the only thing the GWRC is really good at doing.

Unlike rates information about Kapiti or the Wellington CBD, there was little in the hundreds of pages of public consultation information to indicate the GWRC was actually planning to increase Wellington City Residential Transport Rates from $12.2M to $25.6M in the next six years.  In fact given the small amount of detailed information published on these changes to the Transport Rates models had the wrong figures for Wellington City so we really have been robbed by being denied the information about the impact of this decision on our city.

Wellington Councillors vote for Wellington Residents to pay more

Finally, you might ask how GWRC Councillors who supposedly represent Wellington City voted on this decision to increase Wellington City residents to be the highest in the region and, at the same time, fund reductions in the rates of other cities. Well I did ask one of them and I can confirm all five of our representative to the GWRC voted in favour of the Long Term Plan that included this rates increase … Cr Roger Blakeley even seconded the motion !

But I do not know if our Wellington City Regional Councillors supported this change because they were unaware of the impact on Wellington City households or perhaps they simply didn’t think it was important. Feel free to ask them yourself why they voted to double their constituents GWRC rates payment to fund the rest of the region … their contact details are HERE.

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