‘Significant’ rates rises discussed

Board chairman Norman Dalley.
Board chairman Norman Dalley.
Board member Gill Booth. PHOTOS: ARCHIVE
Board member Gill Booth. PHOTOS: ARCHIVE
Wanting to help their communities while minimising rates rises had community board members caught between a rock and a hard place last week.

All four of the region’s community boards met to consider a report outlining significant rate increases in their areas.

Teviot Valley Community Board (TVCB) met on Thursday morning and a longer than usual meeting ended with the board accepting the report from Central Otago District Council contract chief financial officer Vibhuti Chopra.

The report recommended to council that the TVCB grants fund be increased from $5200 to $10,200 in the 2024-25 annual plan despite warnings from Mayor Tim Cadogan and group manager community vision Dylan Rushbrook that applications for grants had not exceeded current funding and rates could only be raised for an actual need.

Board member Gill Booth said in light of coming rates increases and general financial hardship, there could be more demand for grants.

Chairman Norman Dalley said with the pending delegations review, giving grants would possibly be one of the few things left for the board to do.

Board member Mark Jessop said the extra $5000 would cost each of the 1140 rateable properties slightly less than $4 a year.

Mr Cadogan said council staff had worked hard to reduce the rates’ increase.

When they began working on the budgets in February the increase would have been 45%, not the 20% now anticipated.

"People say cut your cloth but we are down to our skimpies now," Mr Cadogan said.

The only option to reduce rates further would be to cut services and he was not sure what could go.

In 2015, bridge depreciation was cut to keep ratepayers happy and now there were bridges falling down around the district, he said.

Central Otago did not have assets to burn, and slashing and burning depreciation accounts would make the future [ratepayers] pay for today.

Councils all around the country were in the same position.

"Some will hide it ... I never in seven and a-half years as mayor thought I would see rates go up 20%-plus."

The board also agreed to stop mowing grass verges in Roxburgh.

Mayor Tim Cadogan.
Mayor Tim Cadogan.
CODC parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey said as far as he knew, Roxburgh was the only place left in the country where the council mowed the verges.

Stopping that would save $26,000, which could be used for tracks and trees, he said.

Mr Dalley said the big issue was his "back of an envelope calculation" suggested it was costing $400-500 an hour for the mowing, given it was done about eight to 10 times a year.

However, Mr Bailey said not to fixate on the number of times the mowing was done as it was done to a standard that depended on weather conditions.

Board member and Teviot councillor Sally Feinerman said there could be an opportunity for young people to have a side hustle mowing the verges for residents.

The Maniototo Community Board met on Thursday afternoon with just three members in attendance.

Contributions to the Ranfurly multisport turf, planned for the Maniototo Area School site, occupied most of the meeting.

Board member and Maniototo ward councillor Stu Duncan said he was not anti-turf but was concerned about ratepayers’ money being used for what was education funding issue.

Board chairman Robert Hazlett pointed out the board borrowed money to fund the Maniototo hospital.

Council group manager community experience David Scoones said the school board of trustees had advised they had about 70% of the funding needed and planned to sell three surplus school houses during the winter.

Mr Duncan said he did not think selling assets in the current climate was a good idea. He proposed any decision about funding should be rolled over the long-term plan discussions with the community and the board agreed.

At the Vincent Community Board meeting, Cr Tracy Paterson queried the charge in the annual plan for the Omakau Hall, which was subsequently removed from the 2024-25 annual plan as it was no longer available for hire.

The board also recommended changes to hazardous waste disposal fee and adjusted the proposed cost of 50 swims for adults and children at the Alexandra Pool.

In Cromwell, Cr Neil Gillespie questioned the inclusion the Cromwell Town Centre redevelopment when it it had previously been decided by the board to include it in the long-term plan.