Rates group concerned submissions ‘ignored’

Photo: ODT Files
Photo: ODT Files
A group calling for Dunedin rates rises to be curbed doubts the message has been received loudly and clearly by the council.

The Dunedin City Council proposed a rates rise of 17.5% and budgets were adjusted a little last month after public feedback, but the rates rise remained at 17.5%.

"It is deeply concerning to see that the council has essentially ignored our submissions and continued with the rates rise as originally drafted," the Reduce Rates Group said.

"It appears that many of the council are not interested in listening empathetically to a significant proportion of their rating base by providing affordable rates."

The group is to hold another public meeting tomorrow — this one aimed at helping elderly and low-income people.

The Reduce Rates Group was formed after the rates rise had been signalled, and public meetings were held in March and April.

"There were 200 or more people at both of the meetings and the high level of ill feeling showed the meetings were totally warranted," a spokeswoman said.

"The group has a steadily growing membership of several hundred people who also have similar concerns," she said.

Senior members of the group presented what they considered to be a clear and direct message during council annual plan submissions, she said.

The council has said the proposed rates rise was driven by cost pressures, Three Waters work and introduction of an upgraded rubbish and recycling kerbside collection service.

In March, Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said the 17.5% figure was distressing, but councils throughout the country were faced with difficult decisions.

"Our water infrastructure requires upgrades to plants, pipes and processes," he said.

"Like it or not, we are going to have to pay for it ourselves and we have to get on with the job."

There had also been a rise in interest costs and depreciation.

During annual plan deliberations last month, Mr Radich signalled to councillors the council should look to avoid exceeding a 17.5% rates rise.

The annual plan is due to be adopted this month and the rates would then be struck.

The Reduce Rates Group said some councillors were voted into office in 2022 because of concerns about "overspending" under the mayoralty of Aaron Hawkins.

"Essential infrastructure work should be the priority, and non-essential work and enhancements like the George St pavers and swings should be scrapped."

The council’s proposed capital programme of about $207m for the next year included about $80m for Three Waters — an increase of about $32m on what had been envisaged previously.

Designing and constructing a water supply main to Port Chalmers would be part of the programme.

Proposed waste management capital spending increased from about $11m in year four of the 2021-31 long-term plan to about $25m in the adjusted 2024-25 draft annual plan, while roading and footpaths had a reduction of more than $8.5m to about $40m.

Waste management work would include construction of materials recovery and organic waste facilities at Green Island, work that had been delayed.

As part of a question-and-answer segment for the annual plan, the council included a question about whether cancelling projects would bring rates down.

The council warned postponing work could lead to increased costs later or deteriorating infrastructure.

Tomorrow’s public meeting will be held at the South Dunedin Community Hall from 1pm.