Relief for Northland ratepayers

Northland ratepayers will be getting some reprieve from rate rises this year, with the Northland Regional Council halving its forecast rates increase.

Last year's long-term plan forecast a general rates increase of 6.45 per cent for 2013-14, but the council's draft annual plan now includes a smaller proposed increase of 3 per cent.

The draft is now open for public comment until February 21.

Council chairman Craig Brown says the change comes thanks to better than expected investment earnings and the council having a close look at its budget.

For a ratepayer in the Whangarei district whose property has a $225,000 land value, the revised figure would mean a total GST-inclusive rates bill of $235.40 for the year.

"We can achieve this by looking closely at our budgets for further cost savings and through investment returns being higher than forecast last year."

Mr Brown says despite changes to the Local Government Act late last year, the draft contains little that has not already been planned for and consulted on as part of last year's long-term plan process.

"This includes the use of investment income for regional economic development which councillors believe is a core public service given Northland's economic and socio-economic record in recent years."

A detention dam designed to reduce the impacts of flooding in urban Whangarei accounts for much of the regional council's $7.7 million capital spend during 2013-14.

The $6.4m project will be funded through a targeted rate already established under last year's long-term plan.

Mr Brown says the regional council is forecasting total operational spending of $27.5m during 2013-14, half of which will be spent on resource management.

Another 16 per cent will be spent on transport activity, 9 per cent each on river management and community representation and engagement, 8 per cent on economic development, 6 per cent on hazard management and 2 per cent on support.

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Whangarei Leader