Regional council signals lower than expected rates rise

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 10:17 20/03/2014

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Waikato Regional Council ratepayers can expect a 0.3 per cent average rates increase this year.

The small predicted rates rise was revealed at a presentation by regional council chairwoman Paula Southgate and river and catchment services group manager Scott Fowlds to the Waikato District Council this week, shortly before the district council began its own discussion on its annual plan documents.

The predicted increase is down from an initial 3.6 per cent hike projected in its long-term plan.

At Tuesday's meeting at the district council's headquarters in Ngaruawahia, Ms Southgate said although there were "not a lot of big surprises" in her council's draft annual plan, one of the more contentious issues was likely to be a proposal to stop a $705,000 contribution to TBfree New Zealand at the end of the year.

"There are issues with the volatility of those costs," she said. "It interferes with our bottom-line rate. We expect to get quite a few submissions on that subject."

Waikato Mayor Allan Sanson urged the regional council delegation to think carefully about stopping its contributions to the organisation.

"I know it shows up in your rates but at the end of the day it is only going to be about 0.3 of a per cent. It's not going to make a lot of difference.

Deputy Mayor Dynes Fulton agreed. "I think it's sending the wrong signals," he said.

Among the issues the regional council was focusing on in its draft annual plan were the proliferation of alligator weed; the Possum Plus eradication project, which was particularly active in the Raglan and Port Waikato areas; and what was broadly termed Lower Waikato Catchment Projects, which included planned expenditure of $5.45 million.

District councillor Graeme Tait said the regional council needed to be more mindful of environmental threats such as koi carp and canada geese. "They are the worst pests we have got anywhere."

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