Council not happy about 13.73% rise

Waitaki District Council chief executive officer Alex Parmley at the council meeting on Tuesday....
Waitaki District Council chief executive officer Alex Parmley at the council meeting on Tuesday. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
The Waitaki District Council has approved its new annual plan for community engagement, including a 13.73% rise in rates, but there are concerns it does not reflect the "dire circumstances" of its funding system.

In the council’s long-term plan, it estimated a 6.29% average increase in rates for the 2024-25 financial year, but when the council started budgeting it estimated closer to 26%.

The council approved its the engagement document for its long-term plan on Tuesday, which included the 13.73% increase. That means an average of $58.91 a week for each property you own.

Chief executive officer Alex Parmley said the rate rise was clearly "still higher than what people want" and the council needed to make it clearer how well it had done to reduce spending.

Water spending had been brought down 41%, roading by 19.7% and parks investment by 12%, he said.

Mayor Gary Kircher said the council had spent a lot of time bringing the increase down.

"People need to know we’re not happy that it’s [13.73%].

"We’ve got all of these cost pressures and levels of surface pressures that we need to meet.

"Things are such a challenge at the moment."

All councillors except Jim Hopkins voted to approve the document, which will be released to the public for feedback.

He believed it was not asking "the hard questions" and the council’s intentions and budgets should be clearer so the public could better understand the issues.

"I just feel utterly frustrated.

"We are in a dire circumstance and the document does not reflect that."

The document briefly details some of the rising infrastructure costs over the last three years.

Roads are 27% more expensive to build, bridges 38%, water supply systems 27% and sewerage systems 30%.

Because of the rising costs, the council had stripped back proposals and revised budgets to bring the rates increase down, the document said.

One of the biggest financial concerns for the council is water.

For 2024-25 it has budgeted $24.9 million on supplying water and $8.7m for waste water.

Looking ahead for 2025-2034, supplying water is expected to cost $323m and wastewater $380m.

It has budgeted $45.84m in rates.

Of that, $14.1m (31%) will go towards water and infrastructure, $9.2m (20.1%) for roads and footpaths, $7.3m (15.9%) to democracy, consultation and accountability, and $6.1m (13.3%) on parks and recreation.

Democracy, consultation and accountability includes the election, reviewing plans and bylaws, customer facing operations and more.

The remaining money will be spenton arts, culture and community (8.4%), heritage, environment and regulation (6.4%), waste management and minimisation (3.4%) and economic development and property (1.3%).

How much your rates will increase is based on your estimated property value, what type of property it is and what area it is in.

For example, those in Oamaru will pay three times the targeted rate for the new Network Waitaki Event Centre than those in Waihemo and Ahuriri.

There are also changes to specific services, such as in increase in cemetery costs.

It is not all bad, as it will be cheaper for children accompanied by parents to use the Waitaki Aquatic Centre and fees for audio books, DVDs and reservations will be removed from Waitaki District Libraries.