We received 2886 individual public submissions on the Draft 2021-31 Long Term Plan on Friday, April 9. That weekend, my fellow councillors and I read through each one of those submissions giving us invaluable feedback on what our community wants Council to focus on for the next 10 years.
We then listened to members of the public speak to their submissions over two days, before holding a meeting to discuss how these submissions could and should impact the Long Term Plan. On Thursday, May 12 we took the community feedback, examined all our options and made decisions on the final shape of the 2021-31 Long Term Plan.
Climate change and sustainability were a major focus in the submissions. We've responded to this by increasing the contestable fund for community waste minimisation projects and clean-ups, and allocating extra funding for Council's own initiatives, such as district-wide bike security infrastructure.
We also heard that housing and sustainability were two areas where our community wanted to see the council doing more. We agree. Housing pressures are increasing, so we've added an extra $2 million for senior housing, increasing the total allocation to $4m. We've also added new funding for a housing strategy, which we'll develop in support of the housing sector and central government.
The outcome also provides extra funding for seniors housing, reducing waste, bike security, and community grants. These are being added to Council's Long Term Plan in direct response to your feedback.
The council also agreed to go ahead with other key proposals including central city improvements to James and John Sts, increased transport spend on our unsealed road network, and funding to support local event facilities, including the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and the proposed Forum North theatre.
While the Oruku Landing Conference and Events Centre development was supported in our original deliberations, some of the conditions our public consultation relied upon have not been met. This means the project will not be going into the 2021-31 Long Term Plan, however it is possible Council may consider the proposal in future.
Another exciting theme in your feedback to us was the overwhelming sense of appreciation for the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and a desire to see it keep evolving.
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Through deliberations, and in response to community submissions, Council committed to a further 0.5 per cent increase to the 6.5 per cent rates increase in year one proposed in the Draft Long Term Plan. This brings the total increase for the 2021-22 financial year to 7 per cent.
This year's rates rise is a one-off, to cover the shortfall from the council's smaller rates increase following the Covid-19 lockdown. The rates increase for the remaining years of the Long Term Plan remains 4.5 per cent.
While we aren't able to deliver on everything our community asked for, what we are putting forward is a responsible, balanced and future-focused plan. We were hugely grateful for the huge level of interest and significant help in shaping the next decade in Whangārei – thank you to everyone who submitted on this plan, you really have made a difference.
Whangārei District Council's Long Term Plan will be put forward for adoption by Council on June 24.
Changes to the 2021-31 Long Term Plan following council deliberations:
• Housing strategy ($150,000 in Year 1)
• Contestable grant funding increase (additional $100,000 per year)
• Additional $2m for new council delivered senior/pensioner housing
• Old Municipal Building repair and enhancement
• District-wide bike security infrastructure ($1m)
• Carpark for new Ruakaka Recreation Centre ($1m)
• Whangārei Art Museum air conditioning unit upgrade (estimated $365,000)
• Additional $50,000 for Raumanga playground development
• Cat de-sexing, microchipping and registering programme subsidy ($15,000 in years 1-3)
• "Gomez Park" proposal grant funding ($30,000 in year 3)
• Seed funding for 800-1000 seat theatre at Forum North (year 8-10)
• Oakura Wetland Project grant funding ($30,000 in year 1)
• Whangārei Art Museum operational funding ($200,000 in year 1, $100,000 in year 2 and $50,000 in year 3)
• Predator control for Parihaka Scenic Reserve ($50,000 per year)
• Additional $5.9m for replacement of the Semenoff Stadium roof
• Te Karearea budget increase of $70,000 per year (inclusive of $40,000 per year set aside for Hikurangi Repo)
• Contestable funding for community waste minimisation projects and community clean ups ($200, 000 per year)
• Waste minimisation budget ($75,000 in year 1 and then $200,000 for the remainder of the 10 years).
• Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei.