5 per cent rates rise, water charges close for Christchurch

What do you think of rates rise plans? Email matt.slaughter@starmedia.kiwi.
What do you think of rates rise plans? Email matt.slaughter@starmedia.kiwi.
A five per cent rates rise and charging for excess water use could be on the cards for Christchurch residents.

These are two of the proposals released today by Christchurch City Council, which has completed its draft Long Term Plan.

This outlines the city council’s proposed $13.1 billion budget for the next 10 years.

The draft plan will be considered by the city council on Tuesday and Thursday next week and, if approved, a consultation period for public feedback will be open from March 12 until April 18.

The proposed plan accounts for the economic challenges of Covid-19 and aims to save the city council $329 million in running costs over the next 10 years.

At a meeting between city council chief executive Dawn Baxendale, Mayor Lianne

Dalziel, city council staff and media on Tuesday, Baxendale did not deny the prospect that there may be job losses as a result of changes proposed in the LTP, but she said she believes these will be minimal.

Last year, the pandemic left the city council with a $99 million revenue shortfall.

An average rates increase of five per cent, or $142.25 a year, is being proposed for average valued residential houses ($506,608) to help the city council meet its budget.

Commercial property owners could see an average rates rise of 5.91 per cent and 5.83 per cent for rural property owners who currently pay land drainage rates.

Upgrading and protecting Christchurch’s water networks is a key priority of the draft plan. In the first three years of the budget, $486 million has been set aside for this.

Investing in roads and transport infrastructure is also a priority, $18.3 million a year for the first three years of the LTP would be spent on road resurfacing if approved.

In order to reduce the pressure being put on the city’s water infrastructure, households using more than 700 litres of water a day would be charged. This cost would be $1.35 per 1000 litres of water used a day.

The average water use in Christchurch is 234.8 litres of water per person a day, compared to 229.5 litres in Dunedin and 155.9 litres in Auckland.

By contrast, the majority of Selwyn residents pay a fixed charge of $235 a year, plus 50 cents per every extra 1000 litres of water used.

Information on how much water is being used would be sent every three months, starting from winter.

To free up money for the city council to spend on other areas it has prioritised, libraries could also be closed at hours of the day when they are used less frequently.

As well as this, the LTP has proposed a rate for vacant sites in the central city, to incentivise building on them, and a heritage rate to help fund the restoration of heritage buildings like the old Municipal Chambers.

A rate specifically to support The Arts Centre and its historic buildings has also been proposed, along with introducing a land drainage rate for all ratepayers.

City councillor Sam MacDonald told The Star yesterday he is not happy with the LTP proposal and did not want to see any rates rise at all.

“I’m not happy with it. I think there are things that could be changed. My view has been, particularly since Covid, that we should be doing everything we can to reduce the additional burden we put on ratepayers, and to be really blunt, we haven’t done that.”

Fellow city councillor Yani Johanson said he will keep an open mind when considering the draft plan and the most important thing is the public gives their views on it during the consultation period.

Meanwhile, in Wellington, a 14 per cent rates increase has been proposed.

City council reports on the proposed draft 2021-31 Long Term Plan can be found here.

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