Residents’ groups okay with rates rises

Photo: File
Photo: File
Residents' associations have shrugged off revelations of a 54 per cent rates hike over the next decade, despite one Christchurch city councillor likening his colleagues to "drunken sailors at a spending orgy".

The much-anticipated Christchurch City Council Long Term Plan was rubber-stamped today after spirited debate in the council chamber, with councillors split before approving the $13.6 billion budget for the next years.

Rates for the 2021-22 financial year will jump by 4.97 per cent; the council estimates the average increase for residential ratepayers during the duration of the LTP at $132.30 per year or $2.54 a week.

Right-leaning independent councillors James Gough, Sam MacDonald, Aaron Keown, Phil Mauger and Catherine Chu voted against the LTP and the rates increase, arguing the council should have made greater efforts to cut costs.

Keown offered the nautical reference when imploring colleagues to "stop acting like drunken sailors at a spending orgy", while Gough claimed the council was more focused on "cutting ribbons than cutting rates".

Marc Duff. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Marc Duff. Photo: Geoff Sloan
However, a survey carried out by The Star indicated residents' associations and community groups were philosophical about rates increasing as the city continues to recover a decade on from the Canterbury earthquakes.

"I think they've found a pretty good balance," said Greater Hornby Residents' Association chairman Marc Duff.

He said 15 groups in the area met to discuss the implications of the LTP when consultation opened in March and found some common ground.

"One of the overriding issues brought up at that meeting was it's really important that we don't target zero rates, but a rate increase that doesn't burden future generations.

"We could keep our rates down really low but the cost of doing that delays infrastructure and the costs that come out of that will be horrendous," Duff said.

"Residents are always looking for savings inside the council chambers but at the same time we've also got to address ... we've got roading issues and water issues and we can't fix those without rate increases."

The council identified $18 million worth of savings in running costs this financial year and an extra $27.3m in 2021-22.

An estimated $268m of operational cost savings had been factored in over the decade, lower than February's assessment of $329m.

About $1.4 billion will be devoted to transport infrastructure, including $241.2m for cycleway enhancements.

In a new development, Christchurch residents will be charged for excess water use from July, although penalties were not be issued for the first year.

Ratepayers who use more than 700 litres per day over a three-month time frame will be charged $1.35 for every 1000 litres over the cap.

Duff said the group forum was divided on the excess water charge.

"We couldn't find consensus on that. There is that concern, though, that you have someone who owns an apartment in town has got the same water level as someone who owns a property in Hornby, which doesn't seem fair if they want to keep the garden (maintained)," Duff said.

"It would have been nice if it was more balanced on how big your land is."

Avonside Community Group chairman Peter MacLauchlan said rates increases were understandable.

"They city took a hell of a hammering and unfortunately someone's got to pay to fix it," he said.

"It's a difficult job for them to do but I think they're a little bit liberal with their spending on some of the things they're doing. As long as they get the roads fixed I'll be quite happy."

Halswell Residents Association secretary David Hawke was loathe to discuss the rates increases.

"We've got people who couldn't care less about rates rises, others do. It's totally divisive so we leave it alone," he said.

"Our focus in Halswell is projects that recognise the growth-related issues that we have in our area."

Hawke said concerns included access to public transport, cycle routes and safety crossing busy roads but the council often "pulls the shutters down".

What in the Long Term Plan?
Projects to upgrade transport infrastructure, improve water networks and respond to climate change are the big winners in the city council's finalised Long Term Plan.

The city council approved its $13.6 billion budget for the next 10 years, after being consulted on since March.

Key features of the finalised Long Term Plan include:

  • $1.45 billion for transport infrastructure, including $931 million for roads and footpaths and $242.8m million for cycleways.
  • $2.35 billion for upgrading and protecting the Three Waters (water, wastewater and stormwater) network.
  • A new excess water use targeted rate for households that use significantly more water than average. This will be $1.35 for every 1000 extra litres used for those who use more than an average of 700 litres a day over a three-month period .
  • An extra $13.5 million for climate change and environmental initiatives.
  • An average residential rate rise of 4.65 per cent in the 2021-22 financial year, which equates to an extra $2.54 a week.
  • The decision not to decommission Wharenui Pool. Funding after 2022 is not guaranteed at this stage).
  • A $5.5 million grant for the Arts Centre , The decision to keep the Riccarton bus lounge.
  • A heritage targeted rate that will be used to help protect and preserve heritage buildings, including the Arts Centre and the Old Municipal Chambers.
  • Provision for the city council to sell a number of properties that it owns which are surplus to requirements.
  • The decision to retain library services where opening hour cuts were proposed, including the mobile library, Fendalton, Upper Riccarton, South and Linwood libraries and Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre.

 

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