Have your say on Annual Plan

25 Mar 2022, 8:59 AM

The increased cost of a new council maritime vessel and moves to boost and improve the Whangārei CityLink public transport service are the key proposals the public is being asked to comment on via the Northland Regional Council’s 2022/23 Annual Plan.

Chair Penny Smart says consultation runs from Saturday, March 26 until Friday 29 April.

While the council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) had signalled a 13.79% rate increase the figure now proposed is a 13.89% overall increase for the entire region.

“For Kaipara and Far North ratepayers, the 2022/23 annual average increase remains at $48 per rating unit while Whangarei’s will be slightly higher at $65 due to the extra impact of the targeted transport rate, which adds $4.80 a year.”

Chair Smart says while the purchase of a new maritime vessel to replace the council’s almost 20-year-old vessel the Waikare was approved via the last LTP, the original estimate will now not be sufficient as design and build costs have more than doubled since then, increasing the budget by $1.7 million to $3.3 million.

“This increase is largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its influence on costs and supply chains. It has affected the cost of materials (particularly aluminium), the price of transporting materials to New Zealand, and labour costs.”

The maritime vessel is a key piece of council infrastructure, and the council says not replacing it is not a realistic option given the work it carries out and the aging nature of the current vessel.

The council had looked at the possibility of building a fully electric vessel, but that had been ruled out as it would not have the range to travel up and down Northland’s extensive coastline.

Similarly, hybrid technology for boats was still in development, and there would be an even larger increase in the build cost if this option had been pursued. However, the new boat’s hull is being designed for optimal performance, with fuel efficiency a key component.

Under the Annual Plan the council plans to borrow the funds in 2022/23 and repay them over 15 years.

“We’re planning to increase rates from the 2023/24 year to cover this repayment, and also to cover depreciation on the new boat so we can pay for a new vessel when the time comes. While this won't impact rates for this next annual plan, it will mean an increase of around $0.80c per rating unit starting in the 2023/24 year.”

Chair Smart says Whangārei ratepayers will face a small rise in rates to enable planned increases and improvements to the Whangārei CityLink public transport service to proceed.

These improvements, planned in council’s Long Term Plan, are impacted by the rise in operating costs of roughly 10 percent in the past few years due to diesel and wage increases.

Central government recently announced half-price public transport fares, however, this will not impact the cost of running the buses and is only for three months, ending before the beginning of this plan.