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Affordability and fairness remained concerns for Far North District Councillors when they adopted the Council’s 10-year plan last week.
Councillors adopted the Long Term Plan 2012-2022 on Thursday after considering submissions from 1188 submitters to a draft plan the Council released for public comment in March.
The Council has stuck to a ‘no frills’ spending programme, but will still need to increase rating revenue by 5.86 % over last year to meet inflation and increases in external operating costs.
This means rates will rise, on average, by 4.8% this year, adding $108 to the average residential rates bill and $188 to the average business owner’s bill.
Forest owners and farmers would have faced big rate increases if councillors had introduced a targeted rate and new differential structure.
Instead, the average forest and dairy farm owner will now pay an extra $79 and $220 respectively as a result of councillors’ decision to delay the introduction of these rates for 12 months.
Councillors’ decision to fund capital sewerage and water costs on a scheme-by-scheme basis, as proposed in the draft plan, will mean the average Kaitaia and Kaikohe ratepayer will pay $25 and $14 less rates respectively this year.
Those connected to the Hihi, Kaeo, Kawakawa, Kohukohu, Rawene and Russell schemes will pay significantly more rates with average bills rising by between $296 (Hihi) and $563 (Russell).
Deputy Mayor Ann Court chaired Council meetings when councillors deliberated over submissions and adopted the plan.
She said the Council had not moved away from its intention to give the rating system a much-needed overhaul.
However, councillors wanted to work through issues raised by sector groups hit hardest by the proposed rates before they introduced a targeted road rate and new differential structure.
Councillors weren’t happy about the impact a targeted road rate would have on the farming and forestry sectors or the impact that lowering the Uniform Annual General Charge would have on high-value properties.
The Council had developed good working relationships with groups as a result of the submission process and councillors wanted to see if more equitable solutions could be found.
In the meantime, the Council will part fund roading activities by introducing a new uniform annual charge of $100 per separately-used part of a property.
This will reduce the funding requirement from the general rate.
General and ward rate will also be struck according to formula used in previous years.
Ms Court said councillors decided to bring in a new sewerage and water charging regime this year rather than delay its introduction.
But they asked staff to reduce sewerage costs proposed for Hihi from $1,911 to $918 by deferring non-urgent capital works.
Ms Court said it became clear from the submissions process that many communities thought the debts on their sewerage schemes has been paid off years ago.
In reality, the schemes would never be debt-free because the Council had to upgrade the schemes at least every 10 years to meet ever-increasing environmental standards.
"The message really is that communities need to be very aware of the cost implications of treating discharges to higher and higher standards.
“These costs need to be weighed against the environmental arguments which lobby groups are raising at the time of Resource Consent renewals," she said.
Go to the Council’s website at www.fndc.govt.nz to read the final Long Term Plan or for more information about Council decisions on key choices and options in the Draft Plan.