ORC rates rise less than 3%

A decision not to invest in Tarras Water's irrigation scheme means Otago ratepayers will only see a 2.97% increase in their Otago Regional Council general rates this year.

If the council had gone ahead with the investment, general rates would have gone up 5.34%.

''It means I save 79c on my rates I won't be paying towards the Tarras scheme. I'm very appreciative,'' Cr Duncan Butcher said.

At a council meeting yesterday, councillors agreed to the general rate increase and a programme of work for the next 12 months.

Chairman Stephen Woodhead said the work included the implementation of plan change 6A (water quality), the initial stages of work on the regional policy statement and adapting to the significant changes in public transport legislation.

Rates were also set for the range of targeted rates the council sets to fund work on flood and drainage schemes, public transport and air quality.

In total, $10.7 million would be collected by targeted rates, compared with $11 million last year, a 2.6% decrease.

The lower figure was mostly achieved by the decrease in the Wakatipu transport rate of $500,000, due to the town's bus service going fully commercial.

Cr Trevor Kempton said that achievement was a good example of a public-private partnership that worked ''phenomenally well''.

Cr Bryan Scott said it was a ''relief'' to adopt a rate increase of less than 3%.

The council accepted the recommendations from the hearing committee, including that on Hoopers Inlet, despite a last-minute appeal in the public forum from a resident.

Hamish Forrester asked the council to abide by its mission statement, what it collected rates for and its historic connection to work on the inlet, by accepting it had a responsibility for the inlet.

Cr David Shepherd, chairman of the submission hearing panel, said the panel had suggested Hoopers Inlet residents take action themselves or approach the council to set up a targeted rate.

The inlet had since been opened by the Dunedin City Council.

Cr Sam Neill, who was affected by the problems at the inlet, asked the council keep the lines of communication open with residents and the Dunedin City.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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