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Rates: Time to dive into the detail

Brent Goodwin . . .  council surpluses have gone. PHOTO/FILE

STEVE RENDLE
[email protected]

Masterton ratepayers are being warned to check the small print of the district council’s Long Term Plan when considering the proposed 4.9 per cent rates rise.

In its consultation documents, the council has highlighted plans for the town hall, town centre, and library, along with spending on water infrastructure and waste services.

But the high-profile projects make up only 0.6 per cent of the rates rise and Masterton district councillor Brent Goodwin believes ratepayers should be concentrating on the other portion of the rise.

“I’m worried about the iceberg underwater, not the tip sticking up above it,” he says.

“It is the 4.3 per cent I want a conversation about.”

Of that increase, council finance manager David Paris said about 1.1 per cent was made up of $298,000 in extra roading work, 1.4 per cent ($385,000) is added work on the sewerage system, and 0.5 per cent ($130,000) is additional work on water infrastructure, including leak detection and preparation for water meter installation.

But the bone of contention for Cr Goodwin is the one per cent ($273,000) being spent on “well-beings” – economic development, arts and culture, community development, and environmental initiatives.

This includes $100,000 to begin delivery of council’s ‘Well-beings Strategy’, signed off this year.

The past three years have seen $1.2 million funded from surpluses – effectively money not spent from infrastructure budgets – though Mr Paris said other services were not being short-changed to fund the work.

Those surpluses are no longer there.

“This was a three-year trial from surpluses – the surpluses have gone,” Cr Goodwin said.

“So now we have to put the rates up if we want to continue our community development spending.

“Some of that spending is very worthwhile, some of it isn’t.”

The total spend on community development in 2018/19 is around $965,000, rising to nearly $1.3m in 2019/20 and $1.32m the following year.

Economic development and promotion rises from $948,000 to just over $1m.

Council chief executive Pim Borren believes there is no question about the value of work that’s been done – in particular, the economic development component.

“We’ve got one per cent higher GDP than the rest of the Wellington region . . . If that’s not good value for money, I don’t know what is.”

Mr Borren said much of the country was facing a rates increases of five per cent, with some areas “a lot more than that”.

“It’s about what you are getting for your money. We’ve done the work under budget which is fantastic, and we’ve spent that surplus on the well-beings which is bloody fantastic,” he said.

Cr Goodwin remains adamant the council needs to stick to its knitting.

“The risk is that the council can believe it can solve all the woes of the world,” he said.

“My fear is that the council will invest in a cure for cancer – which I believe in, but which isn’t the role of the council,” he said.

“We are one of the poorer communities. Our ratepayers’ incomes are not going to go up very fast. If the rates go up fast there will be tears.”

Consultation on the council’s LTP closes at 4.30pm today.

Details are available on the council website.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It is praiseworthy of Councillor Goodwin to be concerned about the rates increase. But it is a conflict of interest for him to criticise the contribution of ‘one per cent ($273,000) being spent on “well-beings” – economic development, arts and culture, community development, and environmental initiatives’ given his ownership of a cultural business (cinema). I also note that his cinema ticket prices do not really address the issue of us ‘being one of the poorer communities. Ironic? Hypocrisy?

    • Well, the Regent’s tickets are over 30% cheaper than the new cinema in town, and similarly cheaper than cinema tickets in the cities. Stephanie, what ticket price would you like the Regent to charge? .. would $3 pacify you? Get your facts straight then you might be able to write something a little more intelligent in future, instead of spouting off nonsense.

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