It is important to note that we have not decided on all the climate change response projects that we will implement through the Plan, but funds have been set aside so we are ready. During the first few years of the Long Term Plan we will be engaging with the Nelson community on options and costs for development and implementation of a Climate Change Adaptation Framework.
There is $52 million of funding included for investment in climate change response projects throughout 2021-31. Approaches could include protection, accommodation, retreat, and avoiding risks. At the same time we understand that absolute protection is not possible and as a community we must balance risk versus costs.
Dealing with the impact of COVID-19 will remain an ongoing challenge for the Nelson region. The path ahead is uncertain and will depend on many things, including the distribution and effectiveness of vaccines, how the global economy recovers, and what enduring changes may result to how communities live, work, travel and interact.
Council is prioritising recovery and regeneration of the Nelson economy through Project Kōkiri, our region’s economic recovery plan. We are also proposing a significant increase in our capital works programme, to support employment and stimulate the economy. A reorientation of our social funding to communities of greatest need aims to help reduce social isolation, housing vulnerability, and the impact of poverty, and also to improve access to work and learning.
Council understands the need to keep rates affordable but we also know continuing to invest in infrastructure and services is important to a thriving region. The proposed rates increases allow us to provide the services you have told us are important to you. We are also planning to keep debt to what we believe is a reasonable level (projected to be $291 million by the end of the 10 years).
It is important to get the balance right so that future generations will not inherit debt that restricts their choices, and current ratepayers pay a fair price for the services being delivered now. The balance Council is proposing will make Nelson more resilient to unexpected emergency events by leaving us a healthy margin between our level of debt and our debt cap.
To deliver a vibrant City Centre with a growing residential population and thriving retail, business, social and cultural environments. Council is proposing to invest $15.3 million to create a people-focused City Centre over the next 10 years. This work is in addition to the proposed new library and bus exchange. The allocation of our $15.3 million budget will mainly happen after completion of a Spatial Plan and Parking Strategy. However, one project that is already in our Plan is an urban park that would draw people into the City Centre.
Housing in Nelson is some of the least affordable in New Zealand. Council will continue to work with others, including central government, the private sector, and community housing providers, to address the housing crisis. Council’s focus is on planning for more compact urban living (intensification), supplying infrastructure, and leveraging our $12 million Housing Reserve to help provide affordable housing.
Council is investing in our City Centre library. We are proposing to build a new and improved library at a cost of $46.3 million, on a site next to the current library. The new library will be an iconic building and a vibrant hub in our City Centre, and will open up the Maitai River Precinct. It would also support cultural and social activities, and our aim of connecting the City to the sea. Council has been engaging with the community for the last three years to learn what you would want from a new library.
Environmental wellbeing is a key aspect of healthy community life. Council is proposing to invest $11.5 million on a comprehensive pest plant control programme. This would support local environmental health and biodiversity outcomes, and allow us to maintain these areas at a lower cost going forward.
We also propose to invest in other environmental initiatives, including biosecurity, Project Mahitahi, the Whakamahere Whakatū – Nelson Plan, and meeting new government standards on freshwater and biodiversity.
Infrastructure is critical to the wellbeing of the City, the Nelson region, its residents and visitors. The importance of all of Council’s infrastructure activities and assets to the City’s wellbeing makes infrastructure a key priority. A large number of water and wastewater renewal and upgrade projects are on the horizon from 2030 onwards, so Council is bringing some forward to spread the load. Council is proposing to invest $491 million over the next 10 years on essential infrastructure, including transport, solid waste, water supply, wastewater, stormwater and flood protection.