Fee rises deferral debate heated

The Invercargill City Council has decided to defer some of its proposed fees increases but only after some heated debate.

The majority of elected members yesterday adopted council’s 2022-23 annual plan, which included a 6.53% rates rise.

Deputy mayor Nobby Clark and Crs Allan Arnold, Ian Pottinger and Peter Kett voted against the adopted plan.

Both Crs Clark and Pottinger had previously voiced their discontentment with the increases in different areas of the plan, saying they believed staff did not work through all the possibilities first.

While the majority of councillors approved an increase level higher than the 4% forecast in the long-term plan, they decided to defer two proposed fees rises, which caused heated debate as part of the annual plan’s hearing and deliberation.

The first was the the annual rate for the residents of Cooper’s Creek — an off-the-grid micro-village at Otatara.

Since last year, residents have been having discussions with the council after the council increased its annual fee by 60% without prior consultation.

A further licence fee increase of 43% was proposed as part of the 2022-23 plan.

The combined increases would bring the village’s annual fees from $815 to $1855 from 2021 to 2023.

Yesterday, as part of the adoption of the annual plan, the council confirmed it had agreed to place any rise on hold until after discussions.

The second one was the dog registration fee. A rise from $50 to $60 a year for desexed dogs, and from $70 to $75 for non-desexed dogs was proposed.

Council customer and environment group manager Trudie Hurst said the finance team was under pressure and was unable to review the fees for this service.

"We can keep the dog fees at 2021 year’s [level]. The risk would be if there is potential budget overspend, or that means an increase on the future.

"That option is available and staff believe this is the best course of action for this year."

Councillours agreed to defer the increase for next year.

Cr Clark also queried the cost and timeline of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and the storage facility at Tisbury reserve.

Council leisure and recreation group manager Steve Gibling said once the annual plan was approved, work was planned to start by December with completion of construction in November 2023.

"The collection will start to be moved November or December next year."

Mr Gibling said if everything went to plan, the the museum would open early in 2027.




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