Since being elected to council I've heard a few comments that "council doesn't listen" or "why bother submitting, council won't change it's mind anyway".
If you've heard the same or thought it yourself in the past, then you might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome of our annual plan hearings. A number of proposals put forward by council have been reconsidered, withdrawn or amended to reflect public submissions.
Parking charges won't be increased after all, the Central Library's opening hours will remain largely unchanged (although late night Friday comes back from a 9pm close to 8.30pm because of low demand), and it was decided not to spend $650,000 on a feasibility study for a new pool at the WRAC.
Had people not voiced their concerns then it is likely the earmarked changes would have gone through. So it does pay to have your say and councillors and staff will listen. That's not to say that all of them will all of the time, but at least we're on the right track.
Today it was agreed that the council will contribute an additional $145,000 to fund stage 2 of the Newlands Shopping Centre upgrade. As I'd mentioned previously, funding was finalised for stage 1 but this didn't include the public area that around glass canopy and the playground. In the coming year this now means that $1.145 million will be spent on the Centre upgrade. $860,000 will go towards the car park area upgrade and beautification, $140,000 for new public toilets and now $145,000 for the public area mentioned above.
The new funding will allow for the provision of new and improved lighting, new street furniture, removal of the wooden canopy, new tiling, planting and a significant improvement of the glass canopy area.
I'm very pleased to see the funding come to the northern suburbs and Newlands in particular. The centre is tired and in drastic need of a boost. Throughout the campaign it was what Newlands residents said they wanted most and it will be pleasing to deliver on this.
On Friday we commenced with hearings to finalise council's 2011/12 annual plan. Amongst other things this will determine the level of rates for the forthcoming and the level of service charges across the city. There were close to 100 formal submissions from the northern suburbs and the major themes that came through were that the majority of submitters were against increased parking charges, against reducing the hours at the Central Library and against a feasibility study for a new lane swimming pool at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre (WRAC) in Kilbirnie. These trends tended to reflect views across the city and I'll be taking this into consideration when I vote.