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‘NRC rates proposals increase focus on core business’

A rebalancing with an increased focus on core business to help keep rates down is at the heart of the Northland Regional Council’s Draft Long Term Plan 2024-2034.

Council Chair Geoff Crawford says the council appreciates its communities are under real financial pressure and has released a consultation document that puts forward two main options, one doing a bare minimum and a second, its proposed option, which would impact the average rates bill by 11.05 percent for the coming year.

The proposed option involves doing high priority work the council believes is necessary to maintain momentum on existing programmes, address new challenges, foster partnerships and meet new legislative requirements.

“This would mean an overall rates increase of 11.05%, or $58 per rates bill on average for the coming year.”

The alternative option, ‘the bare minimum’ would keep a rate increase to 2.9%, or $13 per rates bill on average for the coming year.

“While this would fund the bare minimum of what’s required to meet legislative and contractual obligations, there are consequences with this pared back option.”

Chair Crawford says both options are based on a council proposal to stop annual funding contributions to emergency services and regional sporting facilities, freeing up $2.7 million a year to deliver core work while keeping rates down.

“We know these are hugely important for our communities – but they’re not core regional council functions and it’s time to ask whether we should still be contributing annual funding to them.”

He says if council opted to continue supporting both those services it would further boost the total rates increase under its proposed option by an average of $27.65 per annual rates bill in the first year of the 10-year plan, which equated to an additional 5.72% increase.

“On top of our proposed option, this would make a total rates increase of 16.77% or $85.95.”

Chair Crawford says the new Long Term Plan is about “rebalancing” and in planning for the years ahead, the council had reflected very carefully on its role as a regional council.

“We’ve looked through our existing programmes to see what work can be reprioritised and what things aren’t core business that could potentially be stopped to help keep rates down in a time of high inflation.”

“We’re keen to keep our work – and your money – focussed on core business like caring for the natural environment, preparing communities for the long-term effects of climate change, natural hazards and pest control.”

Among considerations had been what council was legally required to deliver, what tāngata whenua and communities wanted it to be doing “and what our region can reasonably afford to pay for it all”.

Chair Crawford says the council’s proposed option includes:

  • Increasing council’s capacity in the environmental management space

  • Refocussing its biosecurity and biodiversity work

  • Growing its climate change work and investing more in preparing for and responding to emergencies

  • Continuing to develop flood risk management approaches for at-risk communities

  • Some new work in our harbour safety and transport activities

  • Strengthening partnerships with Māori as tāngata whenua

  • Investing more in its under-resourced support services.

He says change is currently underway at central government level which may impact the council’s proposals.

“We’ll be monitoring these changes and will make any necessary alterations to budgets during council deliberations in May.”

In the meantime, he urges as many people as possible to let the council know what it thinks of its Long Term Plan proposals by Friday 19 April.

“I know there’s often cynicism about providing feedback; ’what’s the point, you’ve already made up your mind’.”

“I can assure you we haven’t. These are big decisions. And we genuinely need to hear your thoughts to get this plan right…your feedback helps us to make sure we fully understand the impact of the proposals before making any final decisions.”

Chair Crawford says the council is holding a series of ‘Have your say’ events around the region from Wednesday 27 March to Saturday 13 April 2024.

“This is your chance to talk to councillors and staff and give your feedback in person if you wish.”

Important dates included:

  • Whangārei: Wednesday, 27 March 9-11am | 36 Water St, Whangārei (NRC building)

  • Online: Wednesday, 27 March 6.30-8pm | Register online at nrc.govt.nz/futureplan

  • Kaikohe: Wednesday, 03 April 11am-1pm | Mahinga Innovation Centre, 5449A State Highway 12

  • Awanui: Saturday, 06 April 9am-12pm | Māhimaru Marae, 6083 State Highway 10, Awanui

  • Ruawai: Saturday, 13 April 9am-12pm | Naumai Marae, 4936 State Highway 12, Ruawai

To find out more and have a say, people can visit: www.nrc.govt.nz/futureplan

 

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