Hawke's Bay Regional Council is proposing another step up in the environmental work it accelerated in 2018, by investing an extra $10.5 million on the services it delivers to the Hawke's Bay region and $14.7 million on infrastructure and capital projects in 2021-22.
The consultation document for the 2021-31 Long Term Plan outlines the increased investment on the Regional Council's must-do work programme, as well as six proposals to enhance the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change, that the Council will consult on.
Regional Council chair Rex Graham says the community has let them know that protecting and restoring the natural environment of our region is an urgent priority.
"Recent law changes and increased community expectations, particularly around freshwater reform, also contribute to the need for significant investment and activity increases over the next 10 years," he says.
The task before us is huge and we can't do it alone, he says.
"Our plan proposes an overall rate increase of 19.5% for the 2021-22 year. While on the face of it this is a big increase, we are coming off a low base and several decades of under-investment. On average, this would see a weekly increase of around $0.94 cents for residential, $3.60 for commercial and $4.49 for rural ratepayers, noting that rating affects each property differently."
"This year's total rate increase comes from deferring last year's rate increase due to COVID-19 (8.5%) and this year's rate increase of 11%," says Mr Graham.
Ratepayers can see how the proposed rate increase will affect their property by looking at the Regional Council's online rates calculator.
Funding for the Regional Council's work comes from a mix of sources such as fees and charges for consents, subsidies and grants, investments, borrowing and rates. Fees and charges are being consulted on as part of this plan.
The Council's proposed increase in investment takes advantage of funding already secured from the Government's COVID-19 stimulus package.
"We acknowledge that doing more puts more pressure on rates, so to reduce the impact on ratepayers, we propose to continue to borrow for capital projects – and also to cover operational costs for the next four years. We borrowed to defer last year's rate increase (7.3% or $1.8 million) to provide immediate relief to ratepayers."
"The Council has a strong balance sheet and we propose to use this to address the big environmental issues facing our region now, rather than kicking the can down the road. We need to be courageous and face up to the environmental debt our society has created by investing in the future of our children and grandchildren," says Mr Graham.
The Regional Council's 'must do' programme of work will see a $9.7 million increase in operational investment this coming year. 23 new staff are needed this year to increase the service delivery for the Hawke's Bay's environment.
Ratepayers are being asked for feedback on six proposals:
· Right Tree Right Place
· Future water use
· Upper Tukituki gravel
· Clive River dredging in 2030
· On-demand public transport
· Ahuriri Regional Park
There are more details in the consultation documents online, visit hbrc.govt.nz.
Public consultation on the Long Term Plan runs from 1 April to 2 May 2021.