Rotorua ratepayers face 10.24% rates rise

Rotorua Lakes Council approves its draft Long-Term Plan for consultation. Photo / Laura Smith.

Rotorua ratepayers are facing a potential average 10.24 per cent rates rise in what one council leader describes as “by far the most challenging” draft 10-year plan to draft.

The “critical services”-focused draft Long-Term Plan (LTP) was approved for public consultation at a Rotorua Lakes Council meeting on Wednesday.

Total investment outlined in the plan would reach $2.4 billion over the next decade, with ratepayers funding $1.91b of that.

The draft is the result of 14 Rotorua Lakes Council workshops since September and echoed last year’s annual plan in what it worked to deliver in a challenging financial environment.

Year one of the plan had an average rates increase of 10.24 per cent, and an average of 5.5 per cent across the 10 years.

Council corporate services group manager Thomas Collé said this was the fifth plan he had worked on and was “by far the most challenging”.

Rotorua Lakes Council corporate services group manager Thomas Collé. Photo / Laura Smith.

“We’ve come off the back of probably the highest inflationary environment we’ve had for close to 20 years.”

Another challenge was its need to renew aging infrastructure, with $551 million earmarked in the draft.

Debt would be used to fund growth in the city, peaking at $570m before dropping to $514m by the end of the plan period.

Collé said this would take the council close to its internal borrowing limit – 250 per cent of revenue – but allowed room for further opportunities or challenges.

Key consultation questions revolved around a proposal for a $10m inner city improvement project, aquatic centre add-ons and changes to developer contributions. Another was about “operating within [the council’s] limits”.

Changes to rating models were also suggested, such as for vacant land and short-term accommodation.

Councillors held mixed views of the draft. Karen Barker said difficult decisions and adjustments had to be made.

Barker expected some rural residents she represented would have views on business-as-usual work they believed was “not happening” on street improvement and seal extensions.

Rotorua rural ward councillor Karen Barker. Photo / Laura Smith.

Don Paterson said he was concerned about those with “no voice” who would look at their rates bill of “around-about over $4000″.

“Which, when you break that down – and this is GST inclusive … – $84 a week to live in their own homes, and of course that’s then going to be kicked on to those who pay rent.”

Paterson said he had wanted to wait for government policy to know what funding it could offer for infrastructure.

Conan O’Brien agreed and said he could not support the draft plan for consultation for concerns about debt levels and rates rises.

“We came here to change things, not business as usual.”

Rotorua Lakes Councillor Conan O'Brien. Photo / Laura Smith.

O’Brien referred to how some councillors previously warned lower rates rises could end with “kick[ing] the can down the road”.

“I didn’t come here to kick people out of their homes either.”

Deputy mayor Sandra Kai-Fong said this decision was about consultation.

“We are providing a document for people to provide their feedback on.”

“I think in this situation we’ve gone with a document that is the best we can do in the circumstances.”

Councillor Fisher Wang said it had achieve efficiencies and worked to be “frankly in a better position than many other councils”. He said some were facing rates rises in the high teens or the 20s.

Mayor Tania Tapsell said differing views were a good thing.

“The voice of our community and their opinions is actually what matters most.”

She was proud it would continue to invest in the community, particularly the majority going to “critical services”.

“In order for homes and our people to get clean water in their taps, to get the rubbish picked up, to flush the toilet, to drive, to walk to run on adequate pavements … this is something we need to focus on, that we don’t let our community fall apart.

“That we can continue to invest in essential services well.”

Tapsell said the proposed rates rise was close to the challenge councillors set staff last year to keep below double digits.

“This is what we want to do – but will you be happy paying that price?”

Rawiri Waru said the main kōrero would follow.

Rotorua Lakes Councillor Rawiri Waru. Photo / Laura Smith.

“I do feel aroha for those who will look at it and go, ‘auē, taukiri’ (oh dear).”

Waru said, across the country, past decisions were not bold or brave and “now we’ve got what we’ve got”.

He manako te kōura i kore ai, he said. Wishing for a crayfish won’t bring it.

“There’s a lot of mahi to do behind the scenes to get that.”

Consultation will run from April 4 to May 6 and the final plan will be adopted on June 26.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

You may also like....


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.