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Consulting on investing in flood protection and how we rate – Environment Southland

Environment Southland is planning to begin consulting on two important inter-related documents following this Wednesday’s Council meeting.

The Council’s draft Long-term Plan consultation document, Investing in Southland Whakangao Ki Murihiku, has been released in the meeting agenda for Council meeting on 27 March 2024.

The Council’s key proposal is for ongoing and greater investment in flood protection for Southland to improve community resilience.

Chairman Nicol Horrell said the region has an extensive network of flood protection infrastructure, but a changing climate with severe and enduring events, coupled with ageing infrastructure may result in a reduced level of protection, over time, if there is no additional investment.

“It’s important we maintain a fit-for-purpose network that can continue to provide protection to people, property and critical infrastructure such as roads, telecommunications, utilities and the airport, all of which are important to Southlanders and the regional economy.”

The proposal the Council is seeking feedback on is for an increase in operating expenditure of $2.3m per annum to be funded by a proposed new Flood Protection Infrastructure Rate. This would equate to $22 a year for a Southland property valued at $450k; $239 for a property valued at $5 million.

This would fund increased flood modelling and data collection, improved capability and maintenance and investigation into alternative ways to reduce flood risk for the longer term.

The Council has no plan to grow any other work programmes or associated budgets for the first year of the Long-term Plan, but does need to service the debt on the recent climate resilience projects co-funded with central Government, and to account for inflation across all its budgets.

The rates increase for 2024-25 for a $450k property would equate to $1.20 per week – 50 cents for Council’s services, including inflation; 40 cents for increased flood operating expenditure; 30 cents for funding costs.

The rates calculations include proposed changes to the way we rate, which will be consulted on via a Statement of Proposal for the Revenue & Financing Policy and Rating Review, at the same time as the Long-term Plan consultation.

The substantive funding changes in the Statement of Proposal are the creation of a new Flood Protection Infrastructure Rate based on capital value to replace 140 targeted catchment rates; Moving the Biosecurity and Land Sustainability Rates (land value) into the General Rate (capital value); and the funding of new flood protection infrastructure by borrowing with repayments paid for by all ratepayers across the region.

The review proposes to share the cost of services everyone benefits from by spreading it across all ratepayers and making some changes to capital value to reflect the value of the service in relation to the property. The move to capital value would also align Environment Southland with the other Southland councils and the majority of other councils within New Zealand that rate on capital value.

Chairman Nicol Horrell: “At the moment, our rating system is complicated and we wanted to make it simpler and more equitable. We looked at the value our services have across the region and had to acknowledge that for most services, everyone benefits in some way, whether that’s socially or economically.”

The Long-term consultation document, Investing in Southland Whakangao Ki Murihiku, discusses the proposal to invest in flood protection. It also highlights the Statement of Proposal for the Revenue & Financing Policy and Rating Review consultation and other topics for feedback. These include the Council’s shareholding in South Port NZ Ltd, the climate change strategy, targeted rabbit control rate, fees and charges schedule, infrastructure strategy, Significance and Engagement Policy and representation review. Information about these matters and all supporting documentation will be available on Environment Southland’s website www.es.govt.nz.

“I encourage people to let us know what they think of our proposals. Councillors are very interested in your views and will be listening to what you have to say,” he said.

The official consultation period is scheduled to open on 28 March and close on 6 May 2024.

 

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