New Long Term Plan ‘boldest, most visionary’; NRC chairman

22 May 2018, 9:04 AM

A raft of new initiatives tackling water, pests and flood infrastructure have been agreed to by councillors and will be formally adopted shortly in what will be the Northland Regional Council’s ‘boldest and most visionary’ Long Term Plan, its chairman says.

Bill Shepherd says the council received more than 2200 submissions during an intensive month-long public feedback period on its latest 10-year plan, with councillors meeting to deliberate the submissions recently.

“My fellow councillors and I were really impressed by – and appreciative of – both the level of community interest in our proposed LTP (Long Term Plan) and the quality of the submissions received.”

Chairman Shepherd says councillors were also grateful for the selflessness displayed by many submitters, who backed proposals in the ambitious plan to spend more to clean up waters, protect native species and provide better flood infrastructure, knowing this would mean they faced bigger rates bills.

He says as well as 2200-plus submissions via a hardcopy submission form, emails, letters and the council’s online consultation portal, people had also shared their views in person at a series of ‘Have Your Say’ events held around the region and through social media.

“Thanks to this feedback and community support, we’re going ahead with plans to significantly increase our work in these areas.”  “While in most cases, we’ve stuck with what was outlined in the proposed plan, we have made some changes where there was support for us to do more and where we thought this was reasonable when weighed against rate increases.”

Chairman Shepherd says the LTP had been developed in response to demand from the community and central government, as well as council's desire to do more.  In his opinion, it was “the boldest and most visionary long term plan that council has ever proposed”.

Staff recommendations considered by councillors at their Wednesday 16 May deliberations meeting were the result of consideration of public feedback.

“Councillors, having now determined our response and completed deliberations, will go to our Thursday 21 June full council meeting to formalise these, with the new LTP officially taking effect from Sunday 01 July.”

Chairman Shepherd says councillors were acutely conscious rates increases would never be popular, but that had been weighed very carefully against community views council needed to ‘do more’ and make real progress in some important areas.

One of the main changes made during deliberations was an alteration to the way new flood protection infrastructure will be paid for.

“We’ve moved from the proposed 50/50 split between those affected by floods and all ratepayers in the region, to a 70/30 split, with all ratepayers covering the larger share.”

“During the consultation, it became clear that even with a 50 percent subsidy, some communities still wouldn’t have been able to afford their share of some of these vital schemes.  The new 70/30 spilt means that for just over an extra $2 per ratepayer across the region, the same schemes become much more affordable.”

Chairman Shepherd says councillors also listened to the feedback on flooding issues experienced by the community at Panguru, agreeing to bring the works forward to begin this year.

Other key changes as a result of deliberations included:

  • More funding for water quality initiatives, including developing a council-owned Far North poplar and willow nursery to assist erosion control, more environmental monitoring and an increase in council’s Environment Fund
  • Allocating funding to carry out kauri dieback response
  • Increased funding for Surf Lifesaving Northern Region to sustain the regional lifeguard service at six Northland beaches
  • A $2.50 increase in the Whangarei Transport Rate to allow a trial of bus services to the wider Whangarei district

Chairman Shepherd says collectively, the changes included in the new LTP will cost the average ratepayer about $70 extra (or another $1.35 a week) over the next year.

“However, the actual amount will obviously vary widely across the region, for example that $70 figure doesn’t include increases to targeted local transport or flood protection schemes.”