Rates rises concerns feature in LTP feedback

Photo: Supplied
Photo: supplied
Concerns about rates rises continue to feature in feedback to the Otago Regional Council.

But when asked about funding for large-scale environmental projects, submitters to the council’s long-term plan appear to want the council to open its purse.

An informal count shows twice as many submitters who responded to the council’s question on large-scale environmental funding options asked the council to set aside $2 million a year for major projects rather than what was proposed.

The council recommended $500,000 a year for the new environmental fund established because central government’s funding for such projects is coming to an end.

In total, the council received more than 400 submissions on its 2024-34 plan.

It has proposed an average rates increase of 18.6% next year, 11.2% the next year and 9.4% in the third year of the plan.

Two days of hearings begin today in Queenstown and Dunedin and 53 people have said they would speak to their submissions.

Predator Free Dunedin project lead Rhys Millar was among those calling for a $2 million a year investment in large-scale environmental projects.

"It is essential that funding of scale is made available to ambitious and well managed landscape-scale projects across the region, including Predator Free Dunedin, Southern Lakes Sanctuary, and others," his written submission said.

"Predator Free Dunedin is likely to receive future funding from PF2050 Ltd, and though this future funding is to be confirmed, what we do know is that any future funding will be reliant on securing at least a one-to-one ratio of co-funding.

"Having local co-funding of reasonable scale is essential for the sustainability of PFD and our ability to progress wider and more intensive predator control work.

"To stutter now would see the rapid unravelling of the enormous social and environmental impacts we have achieved."

Others were less supportive of any "wasteful" spending by the council.

"The rates burden is unbearable for many," one respondent said.

"Try to introduce some fiscal responsibility."

Another said it was "totally unfair" the council could increase the rates seemingly without restriction.

"Every other business has to live within their means, or make cuts, the ORC just whacks rates up, year after year," they said.

In a statement, the council said it received 128 submissions from the Dunedin area, 70 from Queenstown Lakes, which includes Wānaka, 24 from Central Otago, 18 from the Clutha and 12 from the Waitaki.

There were a further 152 submissions in which submitters did not say where they were from, the council said.

Council staff identified "major themes" of concern about rates rising, and both support and opposition to investment in public transport in Dunedin and Queenstown.

Council chairwoman Cr Gretchen Robertson said the council was pleased with the response it received during consultation.

Councillors will meet to make final decisions on May 29 and 30.