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SWDC urban rates: 11pc hike in the mix

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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]Urban ratepayers will likely experience a higher increase than rural ratepayers. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] are discussing urban rate rises of about 11 per cent, as they prepare to engage with the public on this year’s annual plan.

The proposals come on top of a 29 per cent rates hike last year.

SWDC decided at a meeting to note a recommendation to engage, rather than consult on the plan.

After the meeting a SWDC spokesperson said due to high public interest in the issue, council had agreed to undertake “best practice engagement”.

A consultation process required specific questions, formal submissions, and a hearing process. An engagement process could still involve submissions and public meetings.

The report tabled on the Annual Plan and Engagement Approach noted a projected average growth adjusted rates increase of 7.6 per cent was within the increase limit in the long-term-plan.

The report said there was no legal requirement to consult on the annual plan.

A SWDC spokesperson set out projected rates increases in more detail.

“We are looking at the moment at a 7.8 per cent increase in rates from last year, as opposed to an 8.06 per cent increase that was forecast,” she said.

The 7.8 per cent would be the year-on-year increase in total, not what individual ratepayers could expect, which would vary.

Councillor Plimmer asked for further clarification on this point.

Another SWDC spokesperson responded by reference to broad averages.

“The total across the district of 7.6 per cent is the average increase,” they said.

“Rural is 3.6, and commercial is 12.8. I’ve split the urban into the three towns; Featherston 9.7, Greytown 11.1, and Martinborough 11.1,” they said.

“Obviously urban have got a higher increase because of the number of properties connected to the water system.”

The spokesperson said the majority of the increase in rates was due to water costs.

“Of the increase in rates total, 75 per cent is made up of water.”

Councillor Pip Maynard questioned the proposed urban uplifts.

“These numbers are very telling. People are expecting 7 per cent, and it’s not, it’s 11 per cent,” she said.

Maynard voted against the recommendation to note the plan to engage with the public rather than formally consult, the only councillor to do so.

After the meeting a SWDC spokesperson stressed the figures were averages, with individual changes varying.

“The 7.8 per cent figure is not the average rates increase, it is the increase in the rates revenue needed [the total costs to run council] so it can meet its proposed 2022-23 budget. This is the total, spread across the ratepayer base, not an average of what ratepayers will experience.”

The spokesperson said regarding urban rates it was important to note each rate type was levied on a different basis.

“A large proportion of the total increase is made up of increases in water and wastewater rates, so ratepayers connected [and those able to connect] to those services will see a higher rates increase. Most of the ratepayers connected to water and wastewater services are in urban areas, therefore urban ratepayers will experience a higher increase than rural ratepayers on the whole.”

They said various factors could influence the upcoming rates increase, including potential savings.

“The council is working on a rates calculator so ratepayers can calculate their individual rate.”

Martinborough resident and upcoming mayoral candidate Daphne Geisler addressed council on the issue, advocating for detailed consultation, at one point locking horns with mayor Alex Beijen.

“I get it, you have no legal obligation to consult on the annual plan, the report repeats this ad nauseam,” she said.

“You state that ratepayers were consulted in depth on the Long Term Plan [LTP]. I beg to differ. You told us the wrong increase in rates. We didn’t know the cost to us. We asked for savings, for detail financial information and you didn’t produce it.

“Now, you want more, eight per cent more than last time. Isn’t it reasonable we would want more information this time, and more choices on the next budget, not less information and less choice?”

“Sorry Alex, I didn’t realise you were reading. I’ll wait,” Geisler said at this point to Beijen.

“I am listening. I can do both,” he replied.

“I can’t believe that council have taken since the public meeting in November to tell me that there is no time to consult.

“While I have come to expect no better I am convinced a council can and should do better,” Geisler said.

The formal engagement plan proposed would involve adverts, a pre-recorded video, community board presentations, and meetings both virtual and in-person.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]

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