South Wairarapa District Council rates could be hiked by as much as 25 per cent in total after the council approved an extra $1 million spending on wastewater plant repairs reports SUE TEODORO.
The new spending was approved yesterday by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] during its deliberations on the annual plan.
At the meeting, a council finance spokesperson said the additional expenditure could result in an overall rates increase for the district of 24.7 per cent, but stressed this is an initial estimate.
The extra spending was not consulted on as part of the annual planning process and resulted from compliance issues with the Martinborough wastewater treatment plant that were identified after consultation had started. Work is also needed on the Greytown wastewater treatment plant.
The council previously consulted on a total rates hike of 15.9 per cent, with a 29 per cent increase for rural ratepayers and about 10 per cent for those in urban areas.
After an initial motion at the meeting to fund the entire amount of $1 million from rates resulted in a tied vote, another resolution to fund half from rates and the rest from ‘Better Off’ funding from central government passed by a narrow margin of six to four votes.
The extra funding is to bring the Martinborough wastewater treatment plant into compliance, including desludging, at an estimated total cost of $862,000. The cash would also go towards desludging the Greytown wastewater treatment plant at an estimated cost of $360,000.
Voting in favour were from Mayor Connelly, Cr Gray, Cr Plimmer, Cr Bosley, Cr Woodcock, and Deputy Mayor Sadler-Futter. Those voting against were Cr Olds, Cr Ellims, Cr Maynard, and Cr McAulay.
“The main point I would like to make is that we haven’t consulted with our community on adding another million dollars to spending on water,” said Ellims of his opposition.
“If we are going to add another million dollars to our spending, we need to consult with and get a mandate from our ratepayers who are going to be affected by that extra $555 per annum.”
Ellims supported using the Better Off funding for the work instead.
“I think that’s a valid option and communities would accept that.”
Councillor Maynard agreed.
“I don’t have a lot to say except that I’m against it,” she said.
“We have the opportunity to use that one million dollars [from the Better Off funding] both for Martinborough and for Greytown,” Maynard said, adding that not using the central government funding would be “remiss”.
“I cannot believe it,” she said.
After the meeting, Connelly clarified that – after consultation had started – Wellington Water had declared that no new builds could be connected to Martinborough’s wastewater plant.
Connelly said this has the potential to significantly impact the town economically, as well as cause health and safety issues.
“We have an absolute requirement to get on and fix it, and we can’t wait to consult in another 12 months before we do,” he said.
“We are dealing with some legacy issues. What we are now faced with is the consequences of not doing that [work].”
Connelly said the decision had not been easy.
“I am angry that we find ourselves as a new council in a position where the previous long term plan said nothing about these sort of things.
“In the end, it’s what does a responsible council do?”
The meeting approved resolutions to increase the operating budget for Wellington Water to $4.87 million, keep the rural road reserve at $300,000, and reduce the community grants fund to $120,000. No funding for casual library staff was approved.
The final annual plan will be considered by the council later this month.