ORC opts for zero rates rise

No general rate increase is planned by the Otago Regional Council in the coming financial year.

Last year's long-term council community plan listed a 2% rates rise for 2010-11, but the council's draft annual plan proposes no movement in the general rate.

However, the long-term plan's provisions for rates rises in targeted rating areas - including the Taieri, Clutha (drainage and flood protection works) and in Queenstown (new bus services) - remain.

The draft plan will be considered by the finance and corporate committee tomorrow and, if adopted, will go out for public consultation, with hearings in May.

It proposes a general rate take of $4.47 million, the same as the past financial year, which was a 1.2% increase on 2008-09.

The uniform annual general charge is proposed to be held at $12.70.

Corporate services director Wayne Scott said the "enhanced" investment returns and work on cost control within the council were the primary reasons the general rate could be held.

Higher than predicted interest income ($887,000 instead of $432,000) was available to help keep rates down, in part because of the deferral of the council's headquarters development plan.

The deferral also allows the special dividend from Port Otago of $12.7 million to be reduced to $6.8 million.

About $730,000 is budgeted for work in the Cumberland St to Dundas St reach of the Water of Leith, while work continues on finalising scheme estimates and on a revised implementation plan for the rest of the work.

Taieri ratepayers in the targeted flood and drainage scheme areas face rates increases of between 8.3% (lower Taieri) and 15% (West Taieri).

West Taieri liaison group members had not endorsed the proposed increase, suggesting instead work be paid for by the wider community rate or reserves until a rating classification review had been completed, Mr Scott said.

The Lower Clutha liaison group had endorsed the proposed rating level - an 11% increase - for the purposes of consultation.

The majority of targeted river management rates for the region were to remain the same, with increases for the Lower Waitaki River (33%) and Wanaka (10%).

Queenstown's new passenger transport services rate would be collected this year, after delays last year in confirmation of New Zealand Transport Agency funding.

About $526,000 will be collected from Queenstown ratepayers for extra bus services, scheduled to begin on July 1.

Increases are not proposed for other transport targeted rates.

Targeted rates to help fund the Forsyth Barr Stadium would remain similar to last year's, with slight variations due to the change in the number of rateable properties within Otago districts, Mr Scott said.

ORC draft annual plan
Proposals include:

• No general rate rise.

• Uniform annual general charge to remain at $12.70.

• Provision for flood protection works to begin on section of Water of Leith.

• Significant investment needed on Taieri flood protection and drainage schemes.

• New transport rate to be collected in Queenstown.

• Port Otago merger discussions with Lyttelton Port Company. $1 million included for provision of new ORC Taieri depot.

• Amendments to schedule of fees and charges.


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