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SWDC: Rates rise sits below 8pc

The first of South Wairarapa District Council’s rates meetings, at the Greytown Town Hall, in November last year. PHOTO/FILE

South Wairarapa rates are set to rise 7.6 per cent, slightly lower than the 8 per cent signalled in the council’s Long-Term Plan.

Last year, rates rose 29 per cent after residents were told it would be closer to 17 per cent.

Councillors were set to meet today to discuss a report on the 2022-23 Annual Plan and engagement approach.

Because there are no material differences between the Annual Report and Year 2 of the Long-Term Plan, there is no legal requirement to consult, council officers say.

They have instead recommended community engagement on the plan, which is the same path Carterton and Masterton councils have taken.

Carterton and Masterton rates are set to be higher than what was signalled in their Long-Term Plans due to inflation and other external factors.

As part of the annual plan development, South Wairarapa District Council staff and elected members have reviewed budgets and “worked hard to minimise the impact on our community”, the report said.

The proposed rates increase is 7.8 per cent, compared with a signalled increase of 8.06 per cent in the Long-Term Plan.

The average growth-adjusted increase would be 7.6 per cent.

Several options have been considered to reduce the rates rise, including using the council’s depreciation reserve to offset the increasing costs of delivering water services.

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This would reduce the council’s depreciation reserve balance for water by $632k.

The depreciation reserve is normally used to fund capital renewals.

Another option was to fund the increasing cost of water services from rates, which would have resulted in a 9.9 per cent rise [growth-adjusted].

There were no proposed changes to the levels of service, and for most fees and charges, the increase is no more than the rate of inflation.

Where the rate of increase is higher than inflation, it is because the costs of service delivery have increased above the rate of inflation, the report said.

There is a hike in the planning, resource management, and consenting department fees; publicly notified consent applications would increase from $2660 to $5000.

Senior housing rent would also increase from $10 to $20 a week to reflect the increasing cost of maintenance.

Rather than consult on the Annual Plan, council staff have recommended that engagement be undertaken to “inform the community of the proposed programme of work, the slightly lower than projected rates increase, and changes to fees and charges”.

“We would carefully explain the reasons including the external drivers and variances to the work programme and associated budgets identified in this report.

“Council could also take the opportunity to check in with the community on its strategic direction, community outcomes, and programme of future works to deliver on these, and community well-being, in general.”

If engagement is done instead of consultation, the council would publish an annual plan summary with an invitation to submit questions in late April.

It would hold Zoom sessions with the public in mid-May and public sit-down forums in late May.

Community boards would make presentations to the council on their expectations from the Annual Plan in May.

If the council decides to consult on its Annual Plan, the next steps would be to assess the formal consultation costs and develop a consultation document.

If this were to happen, consultation would be open for a minimum of a month, followed by hearings and deliberations.

The legal deadline to adopt the Annual Plan is June 30.

The council’s draft Annual Plan was not yet in the public forum at the time of publication. — NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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