City council may shelve 10-year plan preparation

Photo: ODT Files
Photo: ODT Files
The Dunedin City Council will consider shelving preparation of its long-term plan for a year.

Instead of completing a 10-year plan, the council might instead run an annual plan for 2024-25, then a nine-year plan process.

The possibility of a pronounced change in approach comes amid ongoing uncertainty about implications arising from the government’s intentions about Three Waters.

Looking after the city’s drinking water, stormwater and wastewater networks is the council’s largest cost centre, but long-term planning has been hampered by lack of clarity about what will replace recently repealed Three Waters legislation.

Acknowledging the uncertainty, the government has relaxed requirements for councils preparing 10-year plans.

The council is to decide this month if it will make use of this by opting for a delay or if it should press on, as it had to do when preparing the 2021-31 long-term plan amid uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors have already signalled a big rates rise for 2024-25 is likely.

Cost pressures, mounting debt and a large spend required for Three Waters have been themes of council long-term plan discussions so far and postponement would result in a term-defining process being pushed into election year.

Councils across the country are grappling with how water infrastructure upgrades might be financed and other cost pressures set to result in big rates rises.

A law scrapping much of the previous government’s water reform agenda — including the contentious move to set up 10 water service regional entities — was passed this week and is soon to receive royal assent.

Simeon Brown
Simeon Brown
Minister of Local Government Simeon Brown said the government had allowed councils to have much-needed flexibility, "enabling a range of voluntary options to help them complete and adopt their long-term plans".

Councils were being asked to lead the way with local solutions for water services, he said.

"This includes requiring them to provide water services delivery plans that outline how they will deliver on outcomes for water quality, infrastructure investment and financial sustainability."

The council is due to make a call on whether it sticks with a 10-year plan, or runs with the alternative option, on February 27.

A 10-year plan meeting scheduled for next week is no longer going ahead.

The council’s budget meetings will now be held on March 12-14, regardless of which option councillors choose.