Avoid rates rise, urges Chamber of Commerce

Dougal McGowan.
Dougal McGowan.
Council spending will be a strong part of Otago’s economic recovery, but ratepayers should not carry the burden, the Otago Chamber of Commerce says.

Chief executive Dougal McGowan said businesses were ‘‘hurting’’ and should not face further disruptions while they try to recover from the financial impacts of Covid-19.

"Given the significance of the current financial situation on people and business, there is a need to re-consider alternative options around rates increases."

He had three suggestions in order to manage little or no rates rise, which he presented to the Otago Regional Council, during their annual plan submission hearings yesterday.

They were to rely on the balance sheet of council, sell down non-core or non-strategic assets and review what is essential and the way that we are delivering services.

Mr McGowan said while the wage subsidy scheme provided short-term relief for many business owners, the ‘‘real’’ impacts would be felt when the subsidy finished.

"Everybody started with hope .. . now youare seeing a lot of pain, particularly [for] small businesses."

Mr McGowan said the decisions made for the final annual plan would be important for the region and its economic recovery.

He urged the council to continue to spend and invest in infrastructure within the region.

"I was just in Queenstown . . . and maybe this is a chance to actually get some of the work done that we would never be able to do while they have [the influx of tourists].’’

He said council should reprioritise its existing budget, determining whether some activities are required, or if they could be funded differently.

"There is an opportunity to play a significant role in supporting emotional, financial and physical safety of the regions people during these turbulent times.’’

Mr McGowan said it would be a tough time throughout the region.

"Phone a friend in business. . . ask them how they are because it is pretty tough out there for many of them . . . I can tell you it will be appreciated."

The Otago Regional Council will deliberate the annual plan feedback during the Finance Committee meeting on June 3, and the final plan will be adopted on June 24.

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