As Hamiltonians work through their voting papers in coming weeks, council debt and spending, crime and safety, and rates affordability will occupy their minds.
That's the indication from Waikato Times polling that asked Hamilton residents to identify the biggest issues facing their city as it heads into the triennial elections.
Next biggest was fluoride, city infrastructure, the CBD and council leadership.
The polling of 400 Hamilton residents was done prior to the campaign proper, at the end of August, and has helped the newspaper plan its election coverage.
Sixty-one per cent named debt and spending; then crime and safety (52 per cent); rates affordability (51); then fluoridation (38) and infrastructure, including water (35).
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said setting rates increases had been part of a plan to manage the council's finances by capping its debt and balancing the books.
"The council's financial plan has set the rates increased for the 10 years at 3.8 per cent each year. Setting rates at this level is an important part of balancing the council's books by 2017 and taking the council out of the deficit I inherited," she said.
"The council couldn't do that unless the rates were set at this level. Having a consistent rates increase each year also provides certainty to ratepayers. This rates increase is lower than almost every year in the last decade."District Commander Waikato, Superintendent Win van der Velde, said Waikato's crime rate keeps falling, which meant fewer victims, something police strived for.
"Our strategy of prevention first, ensuring officers are out in the community with access to police systems through the latest technology, means we are able to patrol areas where crimes are most likely to happen to deter offenders and keep our communities safe."
Per head of population, the region's crime rate had never been lower in the past two decades.
"It's not just about making places safer, we want to ensure people feel safe, so working with local councils, businesses and other agencies is important to creating an environment and activities where people aren't fearful."
However, there were sometimes limits to what police could do.
"While the behaviour of a few may be undesirable to some of us, we are limited in some instances, if a person's actions aren't actually illegal," said Mr van der Velde.
To make the city safer, police needed the community's help.
"As well as residents and businesses taking care of the basics, ensuring doors and windows are secure; locking vehicles and keeping valuables out of sight; we rely on the public calling police to report crime and suspicious activity."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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