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Northlanders are being encouraged to have their say on council plans for the region's future - including proposals for economic development funding and some big flood protection works.
The economic development and flood works are just two of a raft of proposals outlined in the Northland Regional Council's newly-approved Draft Long Term Plan 2012-2022.
Councillors at a special full meeting in Whangarei recently (subs: Tues 06 March) signed off a final draft plan which will be released for public consultation on Monday 19 March 2012. The public will then have a month - until 3pm Thursday 19 April - to comment.
Council Chairman Craig Brown says affordability is a key challenge for the draft plan, which runs to more than 300 pages and has been almost 12 months in the making.
"We're attempting a real balancing act. On one hand we're trying to improve our region's economic performance and meet the varied expectations our communities have of us across a whole range of areas, including the environment."
"But on the other hand, while there's a lot of important work to do over the next decade, we have to be up front and acknowledge that does put pressure on rates when things are difficult financially for many."
Mr Brown says councillors have worked hard to try to deliver a draft plan that's financially sustainable for ratepayers.
"We've aimed to strike a balance in several ways, including slowing the redirection of our investment income (away from rates subsidies and into economic development) to help soften rates increases in coming years."
Under the proposed plan, general rates for the coming year would go up by about $11 per property on average (6.8%), and would increase by a similar amount each year for the next decade.
Mr Brown says the upcoming consultation is a real chance for Northlanders to influence what the council does (and how it's paid for) over the next decade.
"This plan will literally affect everyone in the region in some way, so my fellow councillors and I really want people to get involved and tell us what we've got right, what we could do better and if people think they're getting fair value for their rates."
Mr Brown says about 65,000 copies of a 16-page summary of the draft plan will be arriving in mailboxes right across the region later this month, as a special edition of the council's Regional Report.
The summary highlights some of the new initiatives and big changes being proposed in the Draft Long Term Plan and also outlines Northland's Draft Regional Land Transport Programme 2012-2015, which is open for public consultation at the same time.
The special edition Regional Report also contains a form so people can submit feedback on both the Draft Long Term Plan and the transport programme. People can also make an online submission on the council's website: www.nrc.govt.nz/haveyoursay
Mr Brown says among the Draft Long Term Plan 2012-2022 proposals covered in the summary are:
* Slowing the move of the council's investment income from rates subsidies into economic development * Putting in place criteria and structure to better deliver on the council's increased economic development focus * Some big flood protection works for urban Whangarei, Kerikeri-Waipapa, Kaeo and Awanui * Options for funding public bus services in Kaitaia and Dargaville * Implementing the government's new direction for improving the quality of our freshwater * Selling some of the council's 21-year lease properties in Whangarei * Reducing funding support to Destination Northland * Ongoing support for the region's rescue helicopter service.
From 19 March, the full Draft Long Term Plan 2012-2022 - and the summary - can be viewed online via www.nrc.govt.nz/haveyoursay
Mr Brown says in a first for the regional council, it will also be trialling an online discussion forum for residents to share views and discuss the proposals. That forum can also be reached through www.nrc.govt.nz/haveyoursay