Changes proposed to ORC rates, public transport and environmental funding

Future opportunities and challenges for our region are front of mind for Otago Regional Council as they plan for the years ahead.

It’s a balancing act, meeting the needs of current and future generations and building a stronger future for the region while working to keep costs affordable.

This careful balance is laid out in the council’s draft Long-Term Plan, which sets the direction for the next 10 years and identifies focus areas — strong and resilient communities, partnering with mana whenua, protecting the environment, addressing climate change and providing public transport.

While the Council takes the lead in proposing changes, it’s the first step in the process — people’s feedback will help to shape decisions and outcomes.

Councillors are proposing a significant focus on large-scale environmental project funding, public transport, and wide-ranging changes to how rates are calculated.

To build on existing services, increased public transport funding is proposed, with $315 million investment in Dunedin and around $194 million in Queenstown over the next 10 years.

Calls to extend the places public transport is offered have been listened to and investigation and trial of public transport is proposed for Ōamaru (on-demand); Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell to Queenstown; Balclutha to Dunedin (including airport); and Wānaka.

A new environmental fund is proposed for large-scale environmental work. This would allow important work to continue after government funding comes to an end. It’s proposed at least $500,000 in funding would be available in 2025-26.

Changes are proposed to 10 different rates to ensure they’re applied fairly and there’s a more workable and transparent approach. The changes don’t impact the level of service provided — they’re about how work is funded through rates, who pays and where. The proposal would mean some change for every property in Otago, although the impact for each would depend on factors such as where the property is located and the services provided for that area.

There’s also a new infrastructure strategy for ORC’s flood protection and drainage schemes which outlines how these key assets that help protect life and property will be maintained over the next 30 years.

ORC wants to know what’s important to you. What do you think about what’s proposed? What levels of service do communities need or want? Which options are affordable or preferable? Now is the time to say what you think the future should hold for Otago.

There’s more information and the opportunity to give feedback on the ORC website, where you can also find information about opportunities to talk to councillors and staff about our plans.

Feedback is open until 11.59pm Sunday, 28 April