Waikato Regional Council has confirmed that it will be sticking closely to the programme signalled in its 2021-2031 Long Term Plan (LTP).
In a vote of 11-2, the council yesterday approved its 2022/23 Annual Plan. One of those voting for the increase was Raglanite, Fred Lichtwark. The $121.797 million rates revenue budget means an increase of 7.7 per cent for current ratepayers – slightly below the increase proposed in the LTP. For the majority of Waikato Regional Council ratepayers, that equates to an increase of $50 a year.
During debate, concern was raised about the affordability of the rates rise for the community.
Council Chair Barry Quayle said: “Global uncertainty is making economic conditions increasingly difficult, and we have been mindful of the impacts these pressures are having on both communities and the cost of delivering services.
“We are also conscious that public transport is a fundamental part of connecting and ensuring resilient communities, while flood protection and river control works enable our communities to be safe and enduring. These are the two areas of the more substantive spend in the council’s budget.
“With this in mind, this rates increase is realistic and constrained and honours the promises we had already made through our long term plan last year. It also follows a net zero rates rise in 2020, the first year of this council, in response to the impacts of COVID-19.
“With local elections on the horizon, we’ve also been careful not to make any major new fiscal or service-level commitments that could place constraints on the direction a newly elected council may wish to take,” Cr Quayle said.
The plan comes at a time when significant centrally-driven reform continues to increase cost pressures for local government.
Chief Executive Chris McLay said: “In the year ahead, we’ll be steering a steady course, continuing our work with others to make the Waikato even better. We’re making great strides forward in a number of areas and I’m particularly proud that we’re on track to meet our current gross carbon emissions reduction target of 68 per cent by 2030.”
The Waikato Regional Coastal Plan, whichgoverns howthe council manages the region’s natural resources in the coastal marine area, is due to be notified in 2022/23 following further engagement with tangata whenua, coastal residents and users, industry and other key stakeholders.
Further improvements are on the cards for the Te Huia train service too, with plans proposed to increase the number of services from four to six on weekdays in 2022/23, subject to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency funding.
The council will also be picking up rating for public transport services in Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki and Matamata-Piako districts, following public consultation in April. While new buses won’t be on the way in these districts within this annual plan or the current long term plan, planning and public engagement around potential new services will continue in light of positive public feedback.
Ratepayers will be able to find rates information specific to their property at waikatoregion.govt.nz/ratescalculator.
Vote – division recorded
For: Barry Quayle, Kataraina Hodge, Angela Strange, Stu Kneebone, Russ Rimmington, Denis Tegg, Hugh Vercoe, Jennifer Nickel, Andrew MacPherson, Pamela Storey, Fred Lichtwark
Against: Kathy White, Stu Husband
This council meeting was livestreamed. To watch it, go to youtu.be/i_hz76P7dN0.