Proposed ORC rates rise down from 21.3% to 18.6%

The Otago Regional Council has proposed paying transport deficits off over five years instead of three to ease the burden on ratepayers in the next few years.

Now, next year’s proposed rates increase will be 18.6% instead of the previously signalled 21.3%.

Consultation on the council’s long-term plan is due to begin next month and the plan is due to be approved in June.

At a meeting in Oamaru yesterday, councillors rejected the starting position of a 21.3% rates rise next year for consultation.

Along with others, Cr Kate Wilson said it was important to recognise the 21.3% rates rise proposed for year 1 of the plan was only an "average" increase.

Some ratepayers would be hit much harder, Cr Wilson said.

"Do I think 21.3% average [rates rise] is OK? No.

"But far worse underlying that is some really big rates rises, much greater than 21.3%.

"Averages are just a poor excuse for not telling a proper story.

"We can do better, but maybe we’ll just need to leave it to the community to tell us how to."

Cr Tim Mepham asked whether the public transport deficit, initially proposed to be paid off in the next three years, could instead be paid off in five.

"I think that we shouldn’t accept 21% as a rate increase full stop," he said.

Cr Kevin Malcolm said he agreed "100%" with Cr Mepham that a 21% rates increase was far too high.

"But we have had plenty of time to discuss that and ask the staff to review things and review work plans and the like.

"And we have come out with a position we are set to go out to consultation with.

"We are all squirming at the level of 21%, but I think we need to get this out and we also need to sit back and to honestly say to ourselves ‘what do we want chopped?’

"That is the only way we are going to make a huge difference.

"If we want it below 21% we need to make some tough jolly decisions at the appropriate time."

Councillors subsequently agreed to propose a five-year period to pay off deficits accrued in public transport over the past few years.

The council is due to begin consultation on its long-term plan after its March 20 meeting.