Big rates rise unpalatable

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014

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OPINION: It has been a challenging couple of days at the office for Lianne Dalziel.

Presiding over her first Annual Plan meeting, it was evident the mayor was very uncomfortable with the prospect of imposing an average rate rise of nearly 8 per cent on Christchurch residents when many were already hurting financially because of the fall-out from the quakes.

Asking people struggling to get back on their feet to pay anything more than the 6.5 per cent increase signalled earlier in the year was something Dalziel clearly did not want to do.

For her and many of the other newly-elected councillors, it was a politically unpalatable move they were desperate to avoid.

The problem they faced, though, was they had little wriggle room.

They were locked into year two of a three-year plan approved by the previous council and which afforded them little room for financial manoeuvring.

Their troubles were compounded by a $4 million operating deficit - the result of millions of dollars of unexpected expenditure on flood clean-ups and the Crown Manager's reorganisation of the council's building control operation.

Passing some of those costs on to the ratepayers was unavoidable, but the council was determined to lighten the load as much as possible.

The amounts it managed to save were not large but in making those savings it has sent a strong message to ratepayers that it recognises the seriousness of its financial position and realises it needs to differentiate between spending on essentials and spending on luxuries.

A 7.5 per cent rate increase will hurt many householders, but the stark reality is that it could have been worse.

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- The Press

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