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Council rift over long-term plans

Three Masterton councillors have voted against adopting the Long-Term Plan [LTP] consultation document, which sets rates and priorities for the region.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, elected members Brent Goodwin, Tim Nelson, and Tom Hullena raised several concerns about the document, including that the long-term rates increase was not explained well enough.

In the consultation document, the council is proposing a 10.6 per cent rise in the coming financial year, followed by a rise of 7 per cent, 6.6 per cent, 5.3 per cent, and 6.2 per cent in the subsequent years [growth-adjusted].

Rates estimates for the remaining years of the 10-year plan are set between 1.3 and 2 per cent.

Underneath the rates rise table in the draft consultation document, the council said: “If the rate increases above are added together, we will see an increase of 44.3 per cent over the 10-year-period of this plan”.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Goodwin said the numbers misrepresented the real impact on rates, because it should be a cumulative calculation.

Councillor Tim Nelson said he also wanted people to see the compounding impact of the rates rises in the consultation document.

“I’ve asked for it to be in there, it’s not in there, I’m not going to support this,” he said.

A council spokesperson said the document had been corrected before the meeting, but the online agenda pack still showed the error.

The total rates requirement for the 2023-24 year for Masterton was $41.6 million.

By year 10 of the proposed plan, the rates requirement would be $70.67m – an increase of almost 70 per cent.

Finance manager David Paris confirmed that when growth is factored in, the percentage increase at the average property level is 53.5 per cent over the 10-year period, “not 44.3 per cent that was in an early draft and was corrected prior to the council meeting”. Councillors also shared concerns that personnel costs were not mentioned in the section of the consultation document titled “What’s behind the 2024/25 rates rise?”.

This section has a pie chart showing “what the 10.6 per cent average rates increase is made up of”.

The biggest portions of the diagram are roading [3.9 per cent rates increase], community facilities [1.6 per cent rates increase], and water supply [1.5 per cent rates increase].

Councillor Tom Hullena said it was “a great diagram, very clear, but to not include personnel cost in there for me is a lack of transparency the community will pick up on and be concerned about”.

“We should be putting it in there because it is a significant cost of our rates.”

In the year ending June 2021, Masterton District Council’s personnel costs were $10,725,121.

In the coming financial year, they are proposed to be $15,284,916.

Goodwin noted this would be a 42.5 per cent increase over that time and that the council shouldn’t “shy away from it”.

The personnel costs in last year’s annual plan were $14,723,796, meaning the rise for the coming financial year is 3.81 per cent.

Hullena said although he supported a majority of the LTP consultation document, the community needs all the information to give quality feedback.

“I think we’ve missed the boat in a couple of spaces.”

Goodwin also wanted the term “not fit-for-purpose” regarding the library removed from the document and said the community has previously rated the library as one of the best assets the council offers.

Last year’s resident survey stated the “library and archive is highly rated by residents”, with almost three-quarters satisfied with the facility.

Johnson said she was happy with the wording saying the library building is currently no longer fit for purpose.

“You can’t use the basement, you can’t get upstairs, there’s no disabled access, and it leaks, so I would say it’s not fit-for-purpose for anything,” she said.

Once the LTP consultation document was adopted, Mayor Gary Caffell congratulated council staff on the work they had done and said it was “the clearest, most concise LTP documentation I have seen”.

“I think the finished product we have is outstanding. I think it is very easy for me to recommend it be passed today.

“This has been a really difficult process, but we got through it and now we have to go out to the public and talk to them.”

-NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. Democracy joke 🙄 🤣 😒 but it’s true 👍 councils are run by CEOS and managers in it for the MONEY 💰 🤑. There needs to be a CLEAR MESSAGE FROM GOVERNMENT ON WHAT COUNCILS RULES ARE BECAUSE RATE PAYERS AND COMMUNITIES ARE BEING USED AND ABUSED. SOCIALISM TACTICS IS NOT NEW ZEALAND WE ARE A DEMOCRACY

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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