'A difficult year': Uncontrollable costs blamed for 9.39% rates rise

Waimakariri district councillors at a Long Term Plan meeting on Tuesday morning. Photo: David...
Waimakariri district councillors at a Long Term Plan meeting on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
"Uncontrollable costs" have been blamed for pushing the rates rise up to 9.39 per cent in the Waimakariri District.

Rising insurance costs, depreciation and an uncertain economic environment have combined to increase the Waimakariri District Council’s projected average rates increase from 8.94 per cent to 9.39 per cent, chief executive Jeff Millward said.

Meanwhile, the Hurunui District Council has instructed staff to make some changes to its Long Term Plan in a bid to reduce its proposed rates rise to below 12.37 per cent after last week’s deliberations.

The Waimakariri District Council resumed its 2024/34 Long Term Plan deliberations on Tuesday morning, with Mr Millward and acting finance and business support general manager, Greg Bell, briefing councillors on the challenges it faced.

Mr Millward said the economic environment was similar to 1987, when interest rates were more than 20 per cent.

"We are facing the prolonged effects of inflation, so we have no option but to pass on our costs or to reduce our levels of service."

Over the last few weeks the council has been hit by a revaluation of its three waters assets, which had led to rising insurance premiums and higher than expected depreciation costs.

Mr Bell said there were some options for reducing the rates increase, including selling surplus land, borrowing more or cutting levels of service.

"There are no easy options at this stage in the process.

"We are very much in an uncertain environment and we don’t know what is going to happen with inflation and interest rates, with Government changes and there is uncertainty around the world.’’

Mayor Dan Gordon called on staff to investigate options for selling surplus land.

"We thought Covid was difficult, but we’ve had the unexpected high inflation and interest rates and all manner of things.

"It has been a difficult year."

The council consulted on managing the natural environment, flood resilience, community facilities and transport infrastructure.

Deliberations were scheduled to continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said councillors instructed staff to make some modifications to the Long Term Plan, in a bid to get the rates down.

"We understand the financial pressures facing our community and we have taken that into consideration.

"As elected members we want to ensure we have a plan in place which is deliverable but does not reduce our level of service.’’

Staff will report back to next Tuesday’s council meeting with a revised projected rates rise.

The council consulted on investment in roading, the development of the Queen Mary Historic Reserve in Hanmer Springs and rating for stormwater activities.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air