Rates rise nudges 6 per cent

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 07:39 22/05/2014

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What started the day as a 4.45 per cent average rates increase grew to almost 6 per cent as Horizons Regional Council considered public input into its draft Annual Plan.

Much of that increase will be carried by Whanganui ratepayers, with Horizons shortening the time-frame in which the cost of a flood-control scheme in the city will be paid off.

But councillors at yesterday's meeting also voted for increases to some of Horizons' biodiversity programmes, reflecting the wishes of several submitters.

The council voted to increase its funding for living heritage, a programme that protects native bush and wetland remnants on private land, by $46,000 to match the amount funded last year.

The move, proposed by councillor Rachel Keedwell, split the council six to five. Keedwell said submitters had shown biodiversity protection was important to them and the council needed to reflect that.

After the vote councillor John Barrow, who had opposed the move, said it was "shameful".

"You've flipped and flopped and it's a disgrace to the decision-making processes of this council," he said.

Chairman Bruce Gordon then suggested Horizons increase its annual grant to the Rangitikei Environment Group, which is solely funded by ratepayers in that district, by $10,000, a move councillors agreed to.

The council also voted to make an inflation adjustment to funding for the Manawatu River Leaders Accord, increasing next year's grant by $6000. Keedwell pushed for the increase, saying not adjusting for inflation meant the council was effectively spending less each year.

She found an ally in Gordon, who said at 12c a ratepayer it was a tiny increase. Further, the move would show the council's commitment to cleaning up the river when it was seeking more money from the Government for the accord.

The three decisions would probably be welcomed by former councillor Jill White, who made a submission yesterday morning calling for more money towards biodiversity.

"I just feel that Horizons is just losing the plot a little bit here in relation to the obligation that I believe we have to indigenous biodiversity in our region," she told councillors.

"We know that in parts of the region we have got wonderful living heritage, in other parts of the region it's pretty skimpy."

By the end of yesterday's meeting councillors had not worked through all of the matters raised in submissions.

They will continue to look at the Annual Plan at a meeting on Tuesday before signing it off next month.

SUBMITTERS LOOK TO LONG TERM

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The importance of the three-yearly review of council long term plans was clear to see as Horizons Regional Council considered its 2014-15 draft Annual Plan yesterday.

A number of requests made by submitters to the document were deferred for consideration until next year when the council will deliver its next 10-year Long Term Plan. It's a process that occurs every three years.

Indeed some submitters were even looking forward a year.

The presenters for both Federated Farmers and the He Tini Awa Trust told the council their submissions were more aimed at raising councillors' awareness of issues for next year's Long Term Plan.

- Manawatu Standard

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