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PROPOSED NEW RATES: GWRC taken to task

Waiohine River. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
[email protected]

The Greater Wellington Regional Council has been slammed by the region’s councils and groups for its lack of Wairarapa perspective in its latest proposed rates increase.

The regional council is proposing sizable changes which could have some ratepayers hit with an increase of nearly 40 per cent in regional rates under its draft Long Term Plan.

The council is proposing to change the share of rates across different areas for public transport and flood protection.

Traditionally, this is paid for using a 50-50 split between property owners in flood-affected areas, and the region’s general rates. The council is proposing that split changes to 70-30 between affected properties and the rest of the region.

If adopted, the public transport and flood protection rates changes would come in over three years.

Over the next three years, the council’s proposed plan would see an average 6.3 per cent rate increase each year, and then an average of five per cent annually over the following decade.

The regional council says this is partly driven by new CV ratings.

Wairarapa Voice representative Ron Shaw said the council’s process to reach these figures “is a bit of a dog’s breakfast”.

Mr Shaw calculated figures laid out for flood protection in the consultation document would see an average rates increase for Wairarapa ratepayers of just under 50 per cent.

This meant increases ranged from a “low” of 32 per cent for Carterton businesses up to 70 per cent for Masterton businesses, Mr Shaw said.

Waiohine Flood Management Plan (FMP) project team facilitator John Boon said the region’s economy and rating base would struggle to pay what was proposed.

All three of the region’s councils will put forward a submission on the LTP, with Carterton and Masterton district councils opposing the flood management funding changes.

Adrienne Staples, the Wairarapa representative on the regional council, has openly argued that the status quo be retained, but the council opted to call for public consultation.

Mr Shaw said the council had “deliberately tried to underplay the impact” on Wairarapa ratepayers in the LTP documents.

The documents say it was “only” $30 a year, “but it’s not the case for Wairarapa where the increase is from 40 per cent to nearly 70 per cent”.

“They have come up with this scheme to change the rating percentages which will have a big adverse impact over here, without consultation, [and] without any process around the review that enables stakeholders to have an input,” he said.

The consultation documents and proposed rates increases reflected no consideration of Wairarapa’s economy, and impact on the region’s small population.

“Wairarapa is not a wealthy part of the Wellington region . . . and they haven’t considered the impact from a regional view.”

It also did not take into account the rate of inflation, Mr Shaw said.

“They are talking about increases well above inflation. Even their basic increase is 6.7 per cent – that’s ridiculous.”

“People on floodplain management schemes, like the Waiohine, will get hit really hard, but everyone else will too.”

Mr Boon said the Waiohine FMP grew out of the regional council’s “failure of a 10-year process” to create a flood management plan for the Waiohine River.

“Paying for a multi-million-dollar flood protection scheme from a very small base of one or two thousand ratepayers was never going to be easy.

“But a 70-30 [funding scheme] plus a rates hike by GWRC would make a hard task so much harder,” Mr Boon said.

The 50-50 rating split was tough, and the community did not feel any changes were needed to “make it so, so much harder”.

Mrs Staples said the council had received a lot of criticism for its proposed changes to flood protection ratings.

But the regional council had looked at both public transport and flood protection because they were not “rated fairly”.

“If you look at the numbers, Wellington City pays the largest amount in food protection in the whole region and gets a small amount of benefit, and that’s a fact.

“What is proposed is that Wellington city will pay less, that means affected properties and affected areas, of which Wairarapa is one, will have to pay more.”

Public transport rating changes would not have much effect on Wairarapa, she said.

Mrs Staples said she had spoken to the three district councils and urged them, and the public, to put through submissions.

“It’s vital we hear from Wairarapa, if we don’t hear from them then we don’t have any real facts to base our decision-making on that come from the people,” Mrs Staples said.

Mrs Staples encouraged ratepayers to read through the consultation document as there were more projects and services relevant to Wairarapa.

The regional council’s Long Term Plan submissions close on April 29.

Head to whatmatters.co.nz for a copy of the consultation document or to the Regional Council office on Chapel St, Masterton.

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