Bay of Plenty residents have until Monday to have their say on the regional council's proposed annual plan for the 2019/20 financial year. The plan asks questions on climate change and transport as well as whether the council should help fund rescue services like the Coastguard and Surf Life Saving New Zealand. It also sets out the regional council's portion of rates for the next financial year and reveals just how much those might be. Zizi Sparks reports on what the regional council has planned for Bay of Plenty residents.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council 2019/20 Annual Plan asks four questions on three key topics.

Regional safety and rescue services

The council is asking for feedback on how it should support charities that provide regional safety and rescue services such as Surf Life Saving New Zealand and Coastguard in the Bay of Plenty.

It asks to what extent the services should be funded.

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"We are considering changing our approach to how we provide funding to these charities and we are seeking early public input into our decision making," the consultation document says.

The options are: the status quo, to increase funding to a roughly $0.25 per household targeted rate, or to centralise the funding, replacing that provided by local councils and resulting in a roughly $3.10 targeted rate.

Rescue services like coastguard could receive funding under the proposed plan.Photo / File
Rescue services like coastguard could receive funding under the proposed plan.Photo / File

The changes would not happen until the 2020/21 financial year as it would require an amendment to the Revenue and Finance Policy.

Search and Rescue New Zealand chief executive Carl Mconie said the organisation fundraised just over $1 million per year nationally.

"The cost benefits from $1m equates to helping six people's lives. Last year we helped 678 lives.

"We also get $1.7m from the Lotteries Board and a little bit of fundraising on a national level, then all the groups do local fundraisers.

"When regional councils identify us as potential recipients of funding we say go for it. I implore and applaud regional councils getting involved at a regional level."

Outfitting volunteers with clothes, equipment and electronics costs at least $3500 per person.

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Mconie said regional funding would also help them remove the admin burden from volunteer staff and help with training.

Carl Mconie, Land SAR chief executive. Photo / File
Carl Mconie, Land SAR chief executive. Photo / File

The proposal includes all regional safety and rescue services including Coastguard and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

Transport

The regional council is also proposing trialling fare-free, or reduced fare, buses for Tauranga school students next year.

It would cost $2.2m to trial free fares over the 2020 school year and would mean a transport targeted rate increase of $22 per Tauranga household.

One of the regional council's Rotorua representatives, Lyall Thurston, said Tauranga had "major, major problems".

"The infrastructure has never kept up with the speed of development and population growth over there. So without any apology, there's a focus around transport issues pertaining to Tauranga in the plan."

But Thurston said the council was also addressing Rotorua issues like lake and air quality.

Regional councillor Lyall Thurston. Photo / File
Regional councillor Lyall Thurston. Photo / File

"While people here [in Rotorua] may say there is too much focus on Tauranga, I can tell you people in Tauranga and the Western Bay believe we've put too much focus on the lakes and air quality issues.

"I believe Rotorua is well-served by the regional council, there's a good representation."

Rotorua residents will be affected by a proposed rates increase to fund a one-year trial for tertiary and commuter services from Rotorua, Whakatāne and Katikati to Tauranga, and from Murupara to Rotorua starting in 2020.

Under the proposal, a bus would make one trip on each route per day aimed at students in smaller centres attending tertiary campuses in Tauranga or Rotorua.

Introducing the services would depend on funding from NZTA and tertiary providers and would cost between $70,500 and $105,000 per route.

Thruston said they had been told people felt marginalised and disadvantaged by the cost of public transport to access tertiary education and that was why the proposal was included.

Toi Ohomai's Student Pulse president Emire Khan-Malak welcomed the proposal.

"A lot of students do travel from these outlying areas and they are all appreciative of the support from the regional council and Toi Ohomai.

"They are able to pursue their careers by doing the courses they need to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Toi Ohomai student pulse president Emire Khan-Malak. Photo / File
Toi Ohomai student pulse president Emire Khan-Malak. Photo / File

"Even support the commuters also as they use the services to get from one destination to the next and it certainly helps everyone."

Climate change

In the proposed plan the council asks what residents want to be prioritised when it comes to climate change action.

It asks submitters to rank four focus areas in order of priority: reducing the council's carbon footprint, considering climate change during decision making, looking at services the council provides and working on the region's response to climate change.

The regional council has recognised climate change as one of the region's strategic issues.

"However, it is clear we need to do more."

The plan predicts climate change impacts for the Bay of Plenty including a 1.1C temperature increase by the 2040s, more hot days above 25C, and warmer winters resulting in fewer frosts by the 2090s.

It estimates rainfall levels will remain consistent but there will be a change in seasonal patterns. As well as an increased flooding risk due to sea level rise.

The cost

Overall the regional council's proposed expenditure has decreased from $187m in the Long Term Plan to $182.7m in the draft annual plan.

Planned operating expenditure has increased from $134.6m to $135.5m so operating revenue will also increase from $131.5m to $132.5m.

Rates revenue makes up 42 per cent of the money that fund the operating expenditure.

The plan proposes an average 6.5 per cent rates increase for the coming year and proposes the council spend $47.3m on capital works and $135.5m on operations and borrow $90m by the end of the financial year.

The rate increase is 1.2 per cent more than the 5.3 per cent forecast in the Long-term Plan last year.

Under the draft annual plan, the regional council's portion of the rates would be $440 in Rotorua, $247 in Kawerau, $744 in Ōpōtiki, $401 in Tauranga, $324 in the Western Bay and 636 in Whakatāne.

This is made up of both general rates for all areas and targeted rates relating to the urban river scheme, air action plan, transport, civil defence and Rotorua lakes.

Of the $132.5m planned income for the financial year, $27.5m comes from general rates and $27.9m from targeted rates.

Planned operational spending
- Integrated Catchment Management $22.7m
- Flood Protection and Control $13.1m
- Resource Regulation and Monitoring $13.3m
- Transportation $27.6m
- Regional Development $2.4m
- Regional Planning and Engagement $13.8m
- Emergency Management $2.6m
- Technical Services $10.7m
- Corporate Services $29.3m
Total: $135.5m

Planned capital expenditure
- Integrated Catchment Management $8.7m
- Flood Protection and Control $19.9m
- Resource Regulation and Monitoring $0.3m
- Regional Development $0.4m
- Technical Services $1.2m
- Corporate Services $16.8m
Total $47.3m

To read and have your say on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council draft Annual Plan 2019/20 go to www.boprc.govt.nz/annualplan.