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South Wairarapa defers its Long-Term Plan

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] will defer its Long-Term Plan [LTP] to next year as it awaits a raft of policy changes from the new government.

Instead, it will adopt an “enhanced” annual plan for 2024-25.

The move will be enabled by the Water Services Acts Repeal Bill, which is going through Parliament and is awaiting approval.

The Bill includes several transitional arrangements for councils to defer their 2024-34 LTPs because of considerable unknowns regarding the future of water reform.

The controversial Three Water reforms were recently repealed by the new coalition government, which is now working on new legislation that’s due to be rolled out by mid-2025.

Long-serving SWDC councillor Colin Olds said the deferral will ensure the community has more certainty around future government changes.

“Understanding what roading and water will look like will enable the development of a sound Long-Term Plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carterton and Masterton councils will go ahead with adopting their respective LTPs.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, SWDC chief executive Janice Smith said taking an “enhanced” annual plan approach is beneficial and she “struggled to find any fish hooks”.

It does, however, mean the council will be adopting an LTP in June 2025, “with an election hot on the heels of that”.

Smith said the council has also taken legal advice around the recent rating review, which confirmed that this did not trigger the need for an LTP amendment.

The existing LTP will remain in force in the meantime.

An SWDC spokesperson said the advantages of the deferment include the completion of the Featherston Masterplan to “firm up direction on development options in the out years of the LTP”, the confirmation of the next three years of NZTA roading funding, and time to further develop its asset management plans.

“Activities included in the Enhanced Annual Plan for 2024/25 will help inform the next LTP and offer more insight into the future options,” the spokesperson said.

“[It] will also allow us to consult and engage South Wairarapa communities with more certainty about the outcomes and budgets we will be proposing for the long term.”

Community consultation for the SWDC Enhanced Annual Plan for 2024/25 will begin in April, which will help determine the levels of services and the budget for the 2024/25 year.

A nine-year 2025-34 LTP will be produced next year.

The potential to defer LTPs was discussed at Carterton District Council’s [CDC] Risk and Assurance meeting on Wednesday.

But CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said there is “very little difference” between having an LTP and an enhanced annual plan.

Both require an infrastructure plan and an asset management plan that would need to be consulted on, he said.

“In our opinion, the right thing to do — we’re 80 per cent the way through the LTP now, probably closer to 90 per cent — is just push on and do it.”

Members of the committee were more concerned about the impact of delayed rating valuations from Quotable Value.

The council would not receive them in time for the consultation document to be adopted, which Hamilton said “is a really big risk for our community”.

“If those values change materially between the [consultation document and the LTP], there will be a material change in the rate impact for those households.”

Mayor Ron Mark agreed and said he didn’t want to “be hitting people with a consultation document that says this is where we are going to be … and when we come to the final adoption in June, suddenly it’s all different”.

The CDC Risk and Assurance Committee agreed to recommend to council “to proceed with an unaudited consultation document but to continue to engage with Audit NZ on the assurance of the consultation material” for the LTP.

This is because the confirmed audit dates would result in a tight timeframe that the council was not satisfied with.

This move has also been enabled by the provisions in the legislation passing through Parliament. -NZLDR

LDR is local body
journalism co-funded
by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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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