Mayor Glenn Leach didn't grow up having to scrimp every penny.
"My family actually did very well through the 1950s and 60s," said Thames-Coromandel's cost-slashing first term mayor.
However, he was taught to trust his own mind, he said.
So when the council's economists told him at his first meeting about multi-million dollar projects in its 10-year plan and a projected 7.5 per cent average annual rates increase, he disagreed.
"We were heading into a brick wall at a million miles an hour.
"That's what happened in Kaipara [where residents face an average 31 per cent rates hike]. They had massive infrastructure projects and no growth. You've got to live within your own means."
The result is what is believed to be the biggest rates decrease in the country.
Ratepayers in Thames-Coromandel will pay on average five per cent less in rates in 2012/13 while Thames residents face a drop of nine per cent.
The cuts have been wide-ranging - from wiping millions off major projects to cutting council jobs and spending less on consultants. About $3m has been saved this year, said Leach.
Leach promised neither maintenance nor safety was being compromised.
The biggest cuts were wiping between $8m and $11m off upgrades to the Whitianga central business district. And only $3m will be spent on a water reticulation scheme for Thames south, down from $16m.
He thought the community were on board - he campaigned on a cost-cutting ticket, said Leach.