ECan plans to hike rates by nearly 25 per cent

Ratepayers are facing another blow as Environment Canterbury proposes a rates hike of 24.2 per cent.

The proposed increase comes as ratepayers are already set to take on the brunt of Selwyn District Council’s rate rises of about 17 per cent. Christchurch City Council is proposing an increase of 13.2 per cent this year. 

On Wednesday, 14 regional councillors voted to send ECan's proposed Long-Term Plan - its budget for the next decade - out for public consultation on March 13.

Claire McKay and Deon Swiggs were the only regional councillors against putting the LTP out for public consultation in its current form.

Improved flood protection infrastructure, future-proofing public transport and better pest management drove much of the proposed work in the LTP, ECan said.

ECan is proposing spending $4.2 billion over the coming decade, with $346 million of spending in just the first year.

ECan’s rating example shows a $1.12 million property in Springston would have an increase of $117.62 and a total bill of $700.61.

Some higher-value rural property owners could be facing a four-digit rates rise on top of their district council rates.

A $12.5 million rural property in Dunsandel would have an ECan rates increase of $1108.67,  taking it to $6451.22.

District council projections forecast a rural property that has access to water races and access to a restricted water supply, with a capital value of $11.3 million to pay $17,772 this year – a $2611 increase from last year. By 2026/27 council is projecting rates to be up $22,266, an increase of 46.8 per cent.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury chair Karl Dean, who helps operate a dairy farm near Lake Ellesmere, said his main concern was whether the increase was justified.

“It won’t be the last rate rise –there will be more to come.”

He said the headline number from ECan was “unfavourable”.

“Until I sit down and go through it where they deem the increase necessary and find where the extra money is going, I won’t know exactly our (Federated Farmers) position.”

In Selwyn, ECan is proposing a new targeted rate to assist with flood management and protection, an issue highlighted by affected residents who have dealt with flooding and district councillors who last year put pressure on ECan to do better in its flood management.

The targeted rate by year three of the LTP will cost each ratepayer $14.16 and provide ECan with $400,000 to investigate and develop a forward work programme, complete initial work clearing out channels and flow paths, and conduct weed control and planting.

Springs Ward councillor and Eastern Plains Land Users Group chair Grant Miller said he was supportive of district-wide targeted rates for flood protection.

Miller said it is always a difficult process to reduce rates as many services are often needed and investment in services has likely been asked for by residents.

ECan chair Peter Scott said it was aware it is proposing a significant rates rise.

“To be frank, neither I nor my fellow councillors are completely comfortable with this, but like many other councils around the country we’re facing challenging times,” Scott said.

He said the proposals were not set in stone and were subject to public feedback.

“We’ve tried to find as many savings as possible, but as I’ve previously signalled a significant rates hike is likely as we try to balance rising costs and inflation with the community’s – and Government’s – growing expectations.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us, including around flood protection and meeting our public transport needs.

"We’ll continue to push for central government to come to the party, but funding will be tight. We’re walking a tightrope, just like you do with your household budget, and I hope you’ll see that reflected in the packages put forward.”

Dean urged farmers to get involved in the consultation and have their say on the plan. 

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– Additional reporting RNZ