Wairarapa residents can breathe a sigh of relief.
The proposal to shift the flood protection funding split from 50-50 to 70-30 has been rejected in a vote by the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s hearings committee.
Community feedback and rates affordability were at the heart of the committee’s decision on Friday.
The funding split changes were proposed in the council’s Revenue and Financing Policy document released alongside its Long Term Plan [LTP].
Flood protection is paid for using a 50-50 split between property owners in flood-affected areas, and the region’s general rates – the council was proposing that split change to 70-30 between affected properties and the rest of the region.
However, the committee has recommended the council maintain the status quo, 50-50 split, at least until the next LTP review in three years.
Wairarapa councillor Adrienne Staples said the region had worked hard to get its point across to the council.
“I worked hard for our region . . . I was really proud the Wairarapa people put submissions in, it gave a real voice to the cause,” Mrs Staples said.
The revenue and financing policy document received the most submissions, while the majority of submitters from Wairarapa supported the LTP projects.
Wairarapa Voice representative Ron Shaw was pleased the council showed willingness to maintain the status quo.
Mr Shaw presented at the council’s public submissions in Carterton last Tuesday. The majority of submitters there spoke about their frustration with documents that were difficult to understand, and unaffordable proposed rates changes.
If the proposals went ahead, the regional council projected an average increase of $51 in rates for Masterton, from $130 to $181, $45 for Carterton, from $160 to $205, and $67 in South Wairarapa, from $179 to $246 – the highest increase in the region.
Voting for the status quo had “addressed the issue we raised and we are just really proud that we have something to do with it”.
Mr Shaw and the Wairarapa Voice team put in the effort to pick through the documents and analyse what the council was proposing.
He said Mrs Staples said at the very beginning the region needed to come together and voice their concerns to support her and “she got what she was looking for”.
Regional council chairman Chris Laidlaw said it became clear from the written and oral submissions that affordability was a major issue among Wairarapa ratepayers.
“We heard from many Wairarapa residents, in particular, who shared strong views on possible changes to the way rates are allocated to flood protection works. We listened to that and have acted on it.”
Mr Laidlaw said he was “very conscious of rates costs on people”.
He admitted the figures proposed in the document were “bewildering” and likened it to reading the “Rosetta Stone”.
He said it was “unfortunate” the council did not collate the figures, with enough time to talk to the ratepayers before going out for consultation.
Mr Laidlaw said in future, the council would take more time to discuss future flood protection proposals.
The council will adopt the Long Term Plan on June 14.
Long Term Plan submissions
The Greater Wellington Regional Council received a record number of submissions from Wairarapa residents for its Long Term Plan.
Wairarapa residents dominated, with 119 submissions, followed by 94 from Wellington City.
Of the major projects proposed in the LTP, 51 per cent of submitters supported the proposal to improve the Wairarapa and Capital Connection commuter services.