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The Otago Regional Council is pushing ahead with a proposed 9.1% rates rise despite the unprecedented national lockdown and the predicted economic hardship ahead due to Covid-19, and despite the fact the majority of councillors are protesting the move.
In a letter to council chairwoman Marian Hobbs on Thursday, deputy chairman Cr Michael Laws and six other councillors called for the council to examine its priorities before proceeding with the consultation approved on March 11, before the new reality of Covid-19 hit New Zealand.
‘‘Given the current Covid-19 emergency and its associated economic, social and political effects, we strongly believe that the Otago Regional Council needs to re-evaluate its policy and financial priorities for the next 12 months,’’ he said.
‘‘We do so in the knowledge that the tourism economy in New Zealand has collapsed and that there will be no short-term recovery. The consequences will be particularly severe for the Otago region, especially the Dunstan districts. New Zealand’s primary export earner has effectively ceased.
‘‘We believe that any national or regional recovery will be based upon the agrarian economy and the production of food.’’
Ms Hobbs said yesterday unlike some councils around the country, the ORC had not had the time to convene an emergency meeting to make ‘‘last-minute alterations’’ to its plans.
‘‘In some respects, this timing has been unfortunate.
‘‘However, in another sense, it now enables our annual plan to be adjusted through the normal consultative process.
‘‘We will take on-board the feedback of the community, and the way we fund our work programme will be up for discussion again before the plan is adopted and rates are struck,’’ she said.
Online-only feedback for the plan opened on Thursday.
It was opposed by Cr Laws, and Crs Hilary Calvert, Carmen Hope, Gary Kelliher, Kevin Malcolm, Andrew Noone and Kate Wilson.
The letter to Ms Hobbs also called for the council to halt consultation on Plan Change 7, and said that ‘‘the plan should be entirely withdrawn’’.
‘‘Similarly, we need to review the fundamentals and logic that led to the Omnibus Plan Change and the [Regional Policy Statement].’’