Rotorua economic development projects and recovery are set to get a $29 million boost in the next two years if recommendations made by a council committee are adopted.
The recommendation was made yesterday during the first day of a Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee to deliberate on the Rotorua Lakes Council Long-term Plan 2021-2031.
The Long-term Plan (LTP) sets out what the council is proposing to achieve over the next 10 years and how that will be funded.
The plan's consultation document was open for consultation last month and sought feedback on the level of investment proposed for the Aquatic Centre, a Community Safety Plan, fees and charges and rates affordability including a proposal to lower the uniform annual general charge.
It also asked for feedback on topics such as economic development and climate change.
The consultation document identified council's preferred options for each of these and yesterday the committee recommended the council includes each of the preferred options in the final plan which is due for adoption at the end of June.
The council's preferred option for the Aquatic Centre was a full redevelopment at a cost of $28.3 million.
It would include a range of new facilities including a bombing pool and a cafe and would mean a contribution from the council of nearly $17.9m and a rates increase of $8.09 per individual each year. The balance would be secured through external investment.
Councillors Raj Kumar and Peter Bentley were the only committee members to oppose the preferred option.
Both said they would prefer investment in the centre but not to the same extent. This alternative option would cost the council $17.4m.
"When we first mooted doing option three the world was an entirely different place," Bentley said.
"We made the decision based on the fact everything was rosy in tourism, we made the decision based on there being only 200 homeless in the city."
Councillor Sandra Kai Fong pointed out the cost difference between the two options to the council was $500,000.
A funding boost for a community safety plan divided committee members but they voted 7-6 to recommend including council's preferred option in the final plan.
The preferred option was to boost investment in community safety by $500,000 to $1.14m and this was supported by 29 per cent of submitters to the plan.
Almost 44 per cent supported increasing investment in community safety by $750,000 instead.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said community safety had been a "fundamental issue" during the 2019 election campaign.
"This, along with housing, are the two issues that are the blot on our landscape."
Chadwick supported the preferred $500,000 as throwing more money at the issue wouldn't necessarily solve the problem and the council could always review the investment in the future.
Shirley Trumper, who represents the rural community, said she wouldn't support the preferred option because the rural community did not believe it would help them.
Investing an additional $500,000 would increase rates by $17.20 a year or $0.33 a week while $750,000 would increase rates by $25.80 a year or $0.50 a week.
The committee also unanimously recommended the council adjust fees and charges for some user-based services. This was the preferred option in the consultation document and supported by a majority of submitters.
In consultation, the council also proposed decreasing the uniform annual general charge, the fixed portion of the general rates, by $50.
This was supported by about 38 per cent of the 289 submitters while almost 45 per cent preferred to reduce this by $75.
Lowering this charge would see general rates shift back to the proportions of the district's capital value and rural ratepayers would need to pick up some of this cost.
All committee members but rural ratepayer representative Trumper supported the preferred option.
Trumper said the decrease would lead to an estimated $1.3m deficit to be picked up by rural ratepayers.
"It's not an equitable drop at all ... I can't support this because 60 per cent of the rural people that have put in feedback want the status quo."
The consultation document also included a section on economic development.
The committee moved to support the outcomes in a Draft Economic Development Strategy and to move ahead with committing $29m towards economic development - made up of $9m in 2020/21 and the remainder in 2021/22.
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson fully supported the proposals.
"This is one of our key wellbeing issues for our community. As of last week, MSD had 10,000 people on the Jobseeker benefit in Rotorua. If that's not convincing I don't know what is. We need to get behind economic development and create jobs."
Committee members also discussed the council's Homes and Thriving Communities Strategic Framework and climate change and agreed to supports outcomes in the council's Climate Change Action Plan which will be implemented during the first three years of the LTP.
In feedback on the consultation document, submitters supported climate change action initiatives like adopting a low-carbon urban design policy, investigating kerbside organic waste collection and promoting public transport.
Deliberations continue today when the committee is expected to discuss its infrastructure strategy, Lake Tarawera Reticulation Sewerage Scheme, Westbrook sports precinct and proposed rates.