Disquiet at plan for 'significant' rates rises

No debate was allowed last night but there will be plenty of discussion in the coming weeks as Horowhenua residents digest an average 9.9 per cent rates increase.

At a special meeting in Levin yesterday, the Horowhenua District Council approved the release of its draft Annual Plan for consultation.

The plan includes examples of rates increases of between 6 and 13 per cent in Levin, around 16 per cent in Shannon and Foxton Beach and more than 18 per cent in Tokomaru.

Council chief executive David Clapperton told last night's meeting he was going to say it was his pleasure to introduce the plan, but it was more appropriate to call it his duty.

An average of 9.9 per cent is a "significant proposed increase in rates, but it's certainly my view and the view of the management team that this is a necessary increase in rates for this organisation."

Mayor Brendan Duffy told councillors they were not there to debate the plan last night but to release it for consultation.

The time for debate would come after submissions had been received and hearings held, he said.

The draft Annual Plan was in line with what was predicted in the pre-election report released last year and reflected the council's commitment to improving its water and wastewater infrastructure.

Mr Clapperton said the rates increase was "financially prudent" and reflected increased costs and changes to assumptions across a number of areas.

This included increasing the level of funding for depreciation and a recognition that interest rates on council debt were expected to rise.

Mr Clapperton said there were one-off costs in the closing of two water races and increased costs in the operation of Te Takere, the Levin library, culture and community centre.

The cost of running the centre was higher than expected, he said.

Mr Clapperton said the council's management team had spent "a lot of time and effort" examining the cost of running the organisation. It had been able to make operational savings within the council of $1.5 million as a result.

Although no-one spoke in the public forum at yesterday's meeting, several members of Horowhenua Grey Power and the Horowhenua District Residents and Ratepayers Association were present.

Outside the meeting they expressed concern about the affordability of the rates increase for the community and said they expected no shortage of submissions on the plan.

Submissions on the draft Annual Plan open on March 21 and close on April 22. Those who wish to speak to their submissions can do so on May 7 and 8, and the final plan is expected to be signed off on June 4.

Manawatu Standard