A Wairarapa district council appears to have the highest confirmed average rates rise in New Zealand this year – as well as the highest increases for two out of the past three years.
South Wairarapa District Council’s [SWDC] average hike of 19.8 per cent tops this year’s leaderboard of confirmed rate rises.
The next highest confirmed average uplifts were Otago Regional Council at 18.8 per cent and Greater Wellington Regional Council at 16.94.
SWDC was the highest across the Wellington region, with Wellington City Council at 12.3 per cent, Hutt City Council at 9.9, Porirua at 9.71, Kapiti Coast District Council at 7.8, and Masterton at 6.2 per cent.
Carterton District Council had the lowest confirmed rise in both Wairarapa and the Wellington region at 5.9 per cent.
Figures published by the Taxpayers’ Union show the SWDC rate hike of 29 per cent in 2021 was also the highest in New Zealand for the 2021-22 financial year.
SWDC rates have increased more than 50 per cent over the past three years.
Taxpayers’ Union national campaigns manager, Callum Purves, described the SWDC rates hike decision as “unacceptable” and “exorbitant”.
“In the middle of a cost of living crisis, it is simply unacceptable for South Wairarapa District Council to agree to such an exorbitant rates hike,” he said.
“With inflation still running at near record levels, raising rates and sinking their hands further into ratepayers’ pockets is too often the easy option for councils.
“Other councils have been more prudent and have managed to deliver much lower rises for their residents, with about a third being able to keep the rise no higher than the rate of inflation,” Purves said.
“South Wairarapa District Council should be looking to these councils to find ways to generate savings by working more efficiently and effectively, and stripping out unnecessary waste and bureaucracy. If this work is not done now, it will simply store up further problems for future years.”
In a joint message in this year’s annual plan documents, SWDC mayor Martin Connelly and interim chief executive Paul Gardner described the operating environment that led to the rate rise.
“Faced with the decision whether to confirm our original intentions for the coming year or amend them, regrettably, we must amend them,” they said.
“The environment has altered so much in those two years [since the LTP was passed] that we must alter what we originally planned to do in the 2023-24 year.
“Amid difficult times, your elected members and Council staff have worked hard to maintain services.”
Difficulties they listed included the uncertainty of government direction [including government funding plans], susceptibility to extreme weather due to climate change, the size of the district, maintaining water and wastewater services, deteriorating infrastructure, and other factors.
“Reluctantly,” Connelly and Gardner said, “we must report that, to deal with these difficulties, we will need to increase the Council’s income from rates by 19.8 per cent.”
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