Rates rise pared back but still $1 a week

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 17/06/2014

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The trial of a commuter shuttle ferrying cyclists and walkers up the Kahuterawa Valley to Arapuke Forest Park could be the last project added to Palmerston North City Council's budget for the coming financial year.

Councillors made the final tweak to the Annual Plan yesterday, in preparation for resolutions to set the overall rates increase at 3.8 per cent next week.

The increase is down from 5.5 per cent forecast in the 10-year plan, and 4.3 per cent proposed in the draft Annual Plan.

The increase has been rounded down from the 3.9 per cent proposal of two weeks ago, not through cost savings, but through a change in definition about what makes up the rates.

Finance strategy manager Steve Paterson said the difference was metered water revenue, a change expected to be required by Local Government Act amendments so all councils' rates could be compared on the same basis.

The Palmerston North increase equates to an extra $54 a year, or $1.05 a week, for the average residential ratepayer with a property with a land value of $136,000. Their total bill would go up from $2086 to $2140.

The impact on non-residential ratepayers is greater because of the application of differentials.

For the average business ratepayer with a land value of $584,000, the increase is 9.48 per cent, putting up the rates bill from $13,803 to $14,296.

The impact for rural, semi-serviced properties of less than 5 hectares is below 3 per cent, assuming no water, wastewater or recycling charges, but including a new fixed charge of $75 as a contribution toward the costs of rubbish and public recycling.

The latest version of the plan highlights changes that were made as a result of hearing submissions.

Mayor Jono Naylor and chief executive Paddy Clifford drew attention to cycling projects, including investigation of a pathway to Bunnythorpe, speeding up development of a pathway to Linton and supporting the provision of more bike tracks at Arapuke Forest.

The Kahuterawa shuttle service to help more people get to the Arapuke trails was proposed by Cross Country Rentals, a division of Tranzit Coachlines, which last summer trialled a weekend public transport service to the Manawatu Gorge.

General manager James Snelgrove said the services would encourage and enable more people to gain access to two major natural outdoor recreation areas.

At first, the city council ruled the weekend Kahuterawa service out.

Voting on a one-day-a-week option was tied at 8-8, with Naylor declining to use his casting vote, declaring the proposal lost through lack of a majority.

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This week, there was a change of heart, and the $5800 underwriting amount, should patronage not cover costs, was approved in a 15-1 vote.

Deputy mayor and cyclist Jim Jefferies was one who changed his mind. He said he was amazed by the development of a labyrinth of trails, which were a "wonderful asset" to the city.

Councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell said it was urgent the trial service be supported this summer to gauge support for getting it on to Horizons Regional Council's passenger transport programme.

- Manawatu Standard

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