Whangārei residents are facing a 6.5 per cent rates rise as Whangārei District Council puts together its roughly $3 billion budget spend for the next decade.
The rates rise is for 2021/2022, the first year of budget plans in the council 's Draft Long Term Plan (LTP) 2021-2031.
"This is the most important thing that we do in a triennium (current election term). We set a long term plan for the future direction for the next 10 years," Sheryl Mai, Whangārei Mayor said at WDC's first meeting of the year on Thursday
The 6.5 per cent rise will be followed by nine years of consecutive annual 4.5 rates rises from 2022/2023 to 2031/2032.
The council is planning $1 billion in capital spending, $1.9 billion in operational costs and $2.2 billion in operational revenue over the next decade's draft LTP.
Rates form a key council funding component for this LTP foundation budget which guides how spending unfolds in each year's resulting annual plan.
"None of us likes increasing rates," Mai said.
She said the proposed increase had been arrived at as the best option for the district to meet its community's expectations and build towards the future.
Mai said the coming year's increase covered the shortfall from a smaller increase in this current year, when the council cut its rates rise to take pressure off families and businesses following Covid-19 lockdowns.
The 6.5 per cent rates rise will mean next year's residential rates going up to about $2300 (from $2130) for an urban residential property worth about $290,000. Rural rates for a typical property with $2.6 million land value would go to $9000 from about $8500.
A commercial property with a $500,000 land value would go to $9500 from $8900.
The council wants to remove discounts for a single beginning-of-the-year up-front rates payments.
WDC is also proposing a 2.4 per cent increase in its fees and charges for the coming financial year - adding 20 cents to the cost of its blue council rubbish bags as part of this.
The council on Thursday
formally adopted its 50-page LTP consultation document to go out for public feedback from Monday
until April 1.
Mai said the council wanted to hear from its community on the proposed rates rises – and more - as part of finalising the new LTP which would be adopted on June 24.
"Do we have the priorities right, are we on the right track," Mai said.
WDC is also wanting to up its targeted wastewater rates by 6.5 per cent next year and 4 per cent for each of the following two years after that. It is also proposing water rates will go up by 2.5 per cent annually.
Rates funding will be added to with more council debt over the next 10 years as WDC borrows more than it did in its previously. Its peak $341 million borrowing during the next decade will be almost 50 per cent higher than previously.
Key areas WDC is seeking feedback on include spending on transport, climate change and sustainability.
Another area is what and how to fund various social gathering place options.
Proposals for this encompass an and/or mix of the following: WDC's debt-funded $23 million for its part in the $97 million events centre featuring in the lower Town Basin's proposed $220 million Oruku Landing (with rates-funded $4 million annual operating costs - and council commitment via its ratepayers to underwrite cost overruns); WDC rates-funded $5 million for the Hihiaua Cultural Centre on the Town Basin; WDC debt-funded $12 million theatre improvements for the city's existing Forum North (with $750,000 rates-funded operating costs each year); a new WDC debt-funded $55 million 1000-seat theatre on the old Forum North site after the council departs for its new Civic Centre (with rates-funded $4 million annual operating costs).
Whangārei ratepayers can find out more about the LTP in the coming month. Fifteen public LTP meetings are being held around the district. These began in Waipū this week and will also be at Forum North, Hikurangi, Kamo, Ngunguru, Ōakura, Onerahi, Ōtangarei, Ruakākā, Raumanga, Ruatangata, Parua Bay, Pātaua, Poroti and Tikipunga.
There will also be a first-time one-off WDC LTP family fun day at Pohe Island on March 27.