Councillors yesterday agreed to include a proposal to rate for the proposed Okara Park-based facility in the Council’s upcoming Draft Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP), which would give the community a month to comment.
The $39.3 million multi-use events facility at the centre of the proposal is a concept devised by the Northland Rugby Union, but is also being supported by the Whangarei District Council (WDC).
The Regional Council early last year sought public backing to make a $23.6 million contribution to a previous events centre proposal, but decided against doing so, in large part due to public concerns at the impacts on individual rates bills.
However, in June last year the Regional Council agreed to continue working with the Whangarei District Council and other interested parties to see if an events centre could be funded at less cost to the region’s ratepayers.
Regional Council Chairman Mark Farnsworth says the latest proposal would significantly reduce the amount of money its ratepayers would have to contribute towards an events centre, especially for the tens of thousands of ratepayers living outside the Whangarei District.
As proposed, ratepayers in the Kaipara and Far North Districts would be billed just $5.63 (including GST) annually towards the cost of the centre – roughly one-fifth of the $27 they would have paid under last year’s proposal.
Whangarei residents would pay more to recognise the greater economic and other benefits their District stands to gain from having the proposed centre in its backyard. As proposed, they would pay $33.75 (including GST) annually towards the centre for the next three years while the facility is built and established, that contribution then dropping to $28.13. The 2005 proposal would have seen ratepayers in the Whangarei District billed $54 annually.
Mr Farnsworth says partially funding the events centre would account for the bulk of a new ‘Regional Recreational Facilities Rate’ the Council is proposing to introduce.
However, as part of that rate, the Council would also levy an additional $5.63 (including GST) annual charge on each rateable property across the region, netting the Council another approximately $390,000 a year.
That money would be set aside to identify and develop other recreational facilities throughout Northland with an identifiable regional benefit, such as other sports facilities, boat ramps, walking and cycle tracks and possible involvement in, or contributions to, parks, camping grounds or reserves.
Mr Farnsworth says Regional Councillors will hold a special meeting within the next fortnight at which the Council’s Draft LTCCP – including the events centre funding proposal – will be formally adopted. The public will then have four weeks to comment.
In a bid to encourage as many public submissions as possible, Mr Farnsworth says the Council will next month send an eight-page summary of its Draft Community Plan – complete with submission form - to every home in Northland.
Final Regional Council support is conditional on an independent trust owning and managing the events centre facility and on the understanding the Regional Council will not cover any ongoing operational deficits.