Annual plan deliberations see vote to keep the aviary

Published on 30 May 2023

Aerial view of Whanganui facing Aramoho

After strong community support for the Rotokawau Virginia Lake aviary, Mayor Andrew Tripe and councillors have voted to keep the aviary open after a zoologist’s report found it needs to be updated to meet modern standards of care.

Mayor Andrew says, “Generations of Whanganui people have memories of visiting the Virginia Lake aviary with family members. It really is a much-loved feature in Whanganui and we’ve heard loud and clear from the community that they’d like to keep it.

“Most birds at the aviary are in good physical condition but in February we were told that the current set-up is no longer suitable in today’s world. The welfare of the birds of course needs to be the paramount consideration; it’s vital that we have an aviary here in Whanganui that we can take pride in.”

Council staff have said animal welfare issues at the aviary can addressed relatively quickly by increasing staffing levels at the aviary, reducing the number of birds and adjusting day-to-day management practices like enrichment and feeding regimes.

“From there council staff will gather specific information about options and costs to enhance the aviary, after community consultation showed an appetite for this. A business case setting out design options and costs will be brought to the Long-Term Plan 2024-34 – community engagement will start on that this year and formal consultation will kick off in April 2024.

“Part of the process will involve exploring co-funding opportunities or fundraising to reduce the costs of the aviary upgrade for ratepayers,” Mayor Andrew says.

The aviary decision came during the council’s annual plan deliberations on Tuesday, 30 May, where a decision was made to reinstate $50,000 for the climate change budget. The funds will go towards a new work stream to investigate climate change risks and threats specific to Whanganui.

An extra $15,000 per year was also allocated to the Whanganui Surf Lifeguard Service for staff wages, for the continuation of the service at current levels.

“This will keep surf lifeguards at Whanganui beaches, providing advice and assistance to beach users seven day-a-week from the end of December to the end of February, including on public holidays. We’re committed to retaining this service at the current levels to keep our community safe.”

Mayor Andrew says it was heartening to see the level of engagement during the annual plan consultation with a 55 percent uptick in engagement compared to last year and he’d like to thank the 438 people who took the time to put in a submission and those who attended an in-person event.

“Amongst the submissions there were some great ideas for projects that we’ll consider through our Long-Term Plan 2024-34.”

He says during the rates setting process for this year’s annual plan, council staff went over the council books with a fine-toothed comb with the goal of getting rates as low as possible.

“Economically Whanganui is doing well right now but we’re very aware we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and many people are struggling with financial pressures.

 “Like households, councils around the country are facing unprecedented costs with large increases in interest costs, inflation and construction pressures and we anticipate that these will still be affecting us next year.

“After starting at 11.3 percent in January 2023, we’ve managed to get the average rates rise down to 8.3 percent. For an average residential household the increase will be about an extra $5 per week.

“This is a good figure in the current climate where a number of councils are bringing in rates rises over 10 percent.

“In saying this it’s really important to highlight that rates increases for some households will vary up or down by a lot more than the average – this is driven by our recent district-wide revaluation identifying dramatic increases in the value of land, particularly in traditionally lower-priced areas like Gonville, Castlecliff and Aramoho.

“A common misconception is that the council gets more money from rates when property values increase but that’s not actually right. Valuations help us work out everyone’s share of rates – so what can change is how much you pay compared to others.”

Mayor Andrew says for the council, rates setting is a balance between keeping costs low and getting on and investing in facilities and services to improve our district.

Rates assessments will be sent out to property owners in August. Ratepayers who are struggling to pay rates should contact the council’s rates team early to discuss options by calling 06 349 0001 or emailing

At its meeting the council also endorsed raising some fees and charges for consents, cemeteries and health registration from 1 July to reflect cost increases.