Zero average general rates increase tipped under Draft Annual Plan

12 Mar 2014

Better-than-expected investment earnings and another close look at its budget have the Northland Regional Council signalling a nil average general rates increase for the 2014/15 financial year.

Two years ago, when the council's Long Term Plan (LTP) 2012-2022 was adopted it had forecast an average general rates rise of 7.22 percent for the coming year. However, council chairman Bill Shepherd says councillors have just signed off on a draft that would slash that increase to nil.

"We're able to do this through a combination of careful cost management and better-than-expected returns on some investments."

Councillor Shepherd says the public will get the chance to have its say on the rates issue – and a raft of other measures outlined in the Draft Annual Plan (DAP) – when a month-long submission period begins on Monday 31 March.

He says for a ratepayer in the Whangarei district whose property has a $225,000 land value the nil increase would mean a total GST-inclusive rates bill of $240.45 for the year – or $4.62 a week.

A similar ratepayer in the Kaipara district would pay $207.84 in rates for the year ($4 per week) and in the Far North $186.57 ($3.59 a week). (All three figures exclude river management rates and the Kaitaia transport rate which are only levied on ratepayers in affected areas.)

Councillor Shepherd says despite the possibility of some sort of local government reform for the region, if this did occur it would still be well outside the 12 months the DAP covered and accordingly, the draft was very much 'business as usual'.

He says the regional council is forecasting total operational spending of $29.4 million during 2014/15, $14.8M of which (51%) will be spent on resource management, including legally required 10-yearly reviews of its regional plans for air, water and soil and the coast.

Another 16% ($4.7M) will be spent on transport activity, nine percent on river management ($2.7M), nine percent on community representation and engagement ($2.7M), eight percent on economic development ($2.4M), five percent on hazard management ($1.4M) and two percent ($700,000) on support.

"Our proposed capital spending for 2014/15 is $6.9 million. A detention dam designed to reduce the impacts of flooding in urban Whangarei will account for $3.3M million and Kerikeri-Waipapa River works $2.13M of this, both funded through targeted rates already established under our last LTP."

Meanwhile, Cr Shepherd says the regional council is also keen to foster stronger ties with tangata whenua and is setting up the Te Taitokerau Regional Maori Advisory Committee in a bid to improve Maori representation. "A working party will work with Maori to establish the terms of reference and membership for this important committee."

Councillor Shepherd says full details of the work the council is proposing for 2014/15 can be found in the Draft Annual Plan, which the public will be able to comment on from the end of this month until 3pm on Thursday 01 May.

A roughly 12-page summary of the draft plan – complete with a submission form – as well as copies of the approximately 150-page full draft will be available from all council offices or via the council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/haveyoursay during the submission period.