Tauranga City Council's draft Annual Plan is back in front of the public but the plan's operational budget has been slashed by $11 million after Covid-19.
Consultation on the original plan, based on a pre-Covid-19 world, finished on May 3 but public submissions and deliberations were put on hold as the country went into lockdown. But for the democratic process to work, it's vital that everyone has a say.
"It's really important for us too, that we don't just hear from the strong lobbyists that know our processes and know-how to come in and know how to get their groups together – often that is one or two demographics," Tauranga City Councillor Heidi Hughes said.
"This was set to go and there was a relatively large rates rise in it at that time because things were going really well, we had some big projects, some big growth items on there that needed to be funded. And then Covid hit and the whole game changed."
Tauranga City Councillor Jako Abrie said: "Those pressures and changing circumstances meant that we had to do our first draft annual plan and then take another look at things with the impact of Covid on Tauranga, on ratepayers, on our residents."
The council's bottom line has also taken a hit.
"Council lost a lot of revenue that it would otherwise be relying on for its budgets. The libraries, parking… all those small things that add up went on hold just like it has in everyone else's business really," Hughes said.
A proposed rates rise had previously sparked much debate but has been significantly reduced.
"The plan is suggesting an average rate take increase of 4.7 per cent," Abrie said.
"But what that means for the average person depends on how valuable their property is. For 50 per cent of household ratepayers they'll see an increase of 44c per week or less. For the big commercial players, say Zespri or the Port of Tauranga, they're going to see quite a significant increase in their rates."
Abrie said one of the biggest changes of the revised plan is to the 'Uniform Annual General Charge'.
"In the past that was $475 per year."
"Whether it's a small granny flat or a large commercial enterprise worth hundreds of millions of dollars, they both paid that $475. We've decided to reduce that from 10 per cent to 2 per cent. So lower value properties effectively get a reduction in the rates that they're having to pay but that's picked up by those higher-end, higher-value properties."
Council is asking the public to give feedback on the proposed plan by July 1, before submission hearings begin on July 2.
"You can just write a few words around what it is that's important to you and all of that gets captured," Hughes said.
"We really want to hear from you, particularly if you think your submission is not going to achieve anything or you have some complaints about what the council is spending its money on. Because unless we hear from you we won't be able to consider your views and your thoughts," Abrie said.