Wellington City councillor Iona Pannett pours cold water over speculation council is facing financial crisis

A Wellington City councillor has poured cold water over speculation the capital's council is facing a financial crisis and pointed to "financial challenges" every other council is experiencing.

Wellington City Council has been forced to shut down claims it's facing a financial crisis after three prominent Wellingtonians funded independent experts to look at the council books. The NZ Herald reports the analysis found a potential $1 billion funding gap in unbudgeted costs.   

Councillor Iona Pannett reassured residents in the capital "we're not" facing a financial crisis, instead experiencing "financial challenges like every other council in the country and the government".    

"We're going to prioritise and schedule things as they need to be."   

When asked about the independent analysis of the council's books, Pannett told AM the council will be presenting the first of its budget where it will slot "in some of the costs".   

"Like I say we will have to schedule them because we can't afford everything at once."  

It comes as Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau revealed on Monday to Newstalk ZB she was open to selling the council's share in Wellington Airport, so long the cash was put back into worthy projects – not to pay down debt.   

The NZ Herald reports that the council has 34 percent share in the airport and Infratil owns the remaining 66 percent.   

Pannett told AM there are "some really big pros and cons" to selling off airport shares, she said the pro-sell argument is that it's an asset "which causes climate change, about 5 percent of our emissions". 

"It’s in a highly vulnerable part of the city and so possibly what we should be looking at is investing in another asset like homes for New Zealanders."  

Pannett said on the other side of the coin, airports are becoming more sustainable and electric planes will be flown one day.  

"We do want to keep control of our assets, so it's a tricky one."  

She said regardless, being a minor shareholder, the council has little say in the direction of Wellington Airport.  

"I think the airport is moving in the right direction, the whole aviation industry knows it needs to change, but really what we need to be doing is investing in the right things, right now."  

Pannett believes green technology and homes would be a better investment opportunity.  

"The important thing is, is that Wellingtonians have a chance to have a say, if 10,000 people come back and say 'absolutely not', then we shouldn't do it."  

Watch Pannett's full interview above.