Councillors at their monthly meeting in Whangarei yesterday adopted an extensive programme of work to be carried out over the 12 months from July 1 from a total operational budget of $25 million (excl GST).
Council Chairman Craig Brown says in adopting the 130-plus page Annual Plan, councillors were acutely aware that affordability was a common thread in many of the more than 220 submissions the council had received on its Draft Annual Plan.
Councillors had carefully weighed affordability issues against the need for proposed projects and in the end had collectively decided to proceed with most of them.
Among the two biggest influences on this year’s rates bill will be plans to redirect council’s investment income and flood protection projects in Whangarei, Kaeo and Kaihu.
Mr Brown says redirecting income will see council’s Service Rate increase on average $17.80 (including GST) annually for each of the next five years.
“This will both enable us to do more for our community and lessen council’s longstanding reliance on our investment income - much of it linked to our majority shareholding in the Northland Port Corporation - which typically subsidises roughly one-third of the average rates bill.”
Mr Brown says comments from submitters will be used over the next few months to help develop criteria to assess projects and processes for applications/assessments for funding from the reserve.
“Until those criteria have been approved by council, the redirected investment income will remain unspent in a reserve called the ‘Northland Investment and Growth Reserve’.”
Councillors also agreed to adopt a Whangarei Urban Rivers Management Rate to fund a $682,000 (incl GST) first stage of a Central Business District flood scheme which will include maintenance of existing river channels and bridges.
The new rate will see commercial properties in CBD flood area pay $247.83 (incl GST) over the next 12 months, residential properties in the area $94.19 and properties in the contributing water catchment $33.21.
Councillors also decided to establish a Kaeo-Whangaroa River Management Rate that will see $638,000 (incl GST) of work, including building a stopbank immediately east of Kaeo township and raising State Highway 10 east of the police station.
The new rate will be $74.53 (incl GST) for all ratepayers in the former Whangaroa Ward and includes river maintenance works in the area.
Work on Kaipara’s Kaihu River Management Scheme will also proceed to the next stage and over the next few months, council staff will work with the local Liaison Committee and each of the affected landowners over the scheme’s configuration, including spillway dimensions and locations.
A roadside weed control programme suggested in the Draft Annual Plan was rejected by the council in order to keep rates as low as possible. However, councillors have decided to cover a $130,000 (excl GST) shortfall left by the withdrawal of Government funding for the Enviroschools programme.
There are now more than 50 Northland schools in the popular programme, which encourages student-driven action based on sustainable management of resources across all areas of school life. The extra funding in this year’s Annual Plan will be used to fund the ongoing work of two Northland-based facilitators.
Mr Brown says council’s rates revenue – excluding targeted river rates – will increase by about 15% to $14.4M (excl GST) - and add about $25 (incl GST) to the average annual rates bill.
Overall (including river rates) the Council proposes to collect $15.6M (excl GST) in rates revenue across more than 85,000 properties Northland-wide. Returns from investments, fees and charges will account for balance of the Council’s expected $27.5M (excl GST) income for the 12 months from July 01.
Copies of the adopted Plan will be available early next month from all Regional Council offices, by phoning (0800) 002 004 or visiting the Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/annualplan