Pain will come before gain with Whanganui ratepayers set to face an average rates rise of 4.5 per cent this year.

The figure was revealed as the Whanganui District Council voted yesterday to put its draft long term plan out for public consultation.

It is the biggest rates rise planned for the next 10 years with average increases of 2.4 per cent a year expected over the following decade.

Residential property rates will rise by about 5.6 per cent or $140, bringing the average residential rates bill up to $2650 for 2018-2019.

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Rates for farms will rise 0.5 per cent or $22 on average while commercial rates will rise by an average of $90 or 0.9 per cent.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said this year was always going to be a big year for rates - partly due to the new wastewater treatment plant becoming operational - but it had been brought down from what was once going to be 12 per cent rise.

"I think this is a good plan. I think the important thing to do now is to hear from the community," he said.

Councillor Kate Joblin said the plan struck a balance.

"This plan hits the sweet spot of being prudent but forward thinking. I hope this community has a view and lets us know that view through the consultation process," she said.

The impact of forestry harvesting on the district's roads, the revitalisation of Whanganui's port and improvements to stormwater infrastructure are three areas of focus for the council over the next decade.

It plans to hit exotic forestry properties with a 59 per cent rate ($712) rate increase to deal with the impact logging is expected to have on the district's roads.

Councillor Alan Taylor was pleased the plan focused on important issues such as stormwater and roading.

"If you don't have resilience ... you won't have a city and you won't have a district. These things are pretty critical, everything else follows."

Councillor Helen Craig said while each councillor wanted a two per cent rise it could not be done this year.

"Whatever part we cut, it would be a major part of our community that would be really upset.

"We are nowhere near what it could have been and that definitely is down to the effort of this council, the staff and the chief executive who have revolutionised this organisation."

Council debt will hit $113 million in June this year but the plan aims to pay off $30million in a decade.

Public consultation begins on Monday and Mr McDouall said council planned a number of initiatives over the coming weeks.

The document will be made available to the public from March 19 and public submissions are open until April 19.