Officials give public a say on spending

By Alexandra Newlove

7 comments
Mayor Sheryl Mai.
Mayor Sheryl Mai.

Northlanders with concerns - or congratulations - about how their ratepayer dollars will be spent this year can speak up now.

All four Northland councils are entering their annual planning process, with Whangarei District Council expecting to adopt its 2016-2017 annual plan consultation document today.

WDC was making a marked effort to get out among its ratepayers this year, with a series of 12 public meetings, including a Have Your Say Event, where councillors and staff would sit with members of the public in small round-table discussions, Mayor Sheryl Mai said.

She said the evening - at 5.15pm on April 7 at Forum North - would be informal.

Draft documents indicated WDC would have a lower-than-expected rates increase, 3.9 per cent compared with the predicted 4.45 per cent, due to a low Local Government Cost Index inflation rate. This would reduce its budget, as would the blocked sale of the Old Boys Rugby Club, which WDC had expected to earn $10.3 million from.

This revenue loss would be balanced by delaying projects, including some work on the Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant and Hikurangi Sewer Network upgrade. Other "public facing projects" were being brought forward, including the conversion of a Town Basin carpark into a green space and $275,000 to be spent upgrading footpaths.

Far North District Council

Meanwhile the Far North District Council is taking a more understated approach. It adopted its consultation document - which can be accessed via its website - on March 9 and was accepting submissions between March 22 and April 22.

FNDC was finalising its documents and would release information on its budget and rates for the coming year within the week. It was also planning to hold "in person" feedback sessions.

Kaipara District Council

Kaipara-based residents are undergoing a final annual plan under government-appointed commissioners, before returning to "full democracy" at the October elections, as described by head commissioner John Robertson.

Mr Robertson said KDC would adopt its consultation document on April 26, with submissions closing May 13. He expected a rates increase slightly less than the 3.4 per cent rise predicted in its Long Term Plan (LTP), due in part to interest saving on the council's $74 million debt, after it was able to move about half this sum under the Local Government Funding Agency at much lower interest rates.

"Hopefully that's a pressure down," Mr Robertson said. "We're hoping to get some roading gains as we bring services in-house. The pressures up on rates will be continued litigation from Mangawhai Residents & Ratepayers Association and general catch-ups on infrastructure."

Northland Regional Council

Northland Regional Council will release its draft plan and consultation document on April 5, with submissions open for one month after this. Changes to the Local Government Act meant councils could now produce more "user-friendly" consultation documents, which highlighted any deviations from the Long Term Plan.

- WDC asked anyone wanting to attend the Have Your Say Event to register their interest by ringing 09 430 4200 or mailroom@wdc.govt.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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