Horizons regional councillors have voted to trim a projected rate rise from 5.95 per cent down to 1 per cent.

They settled on that figure in a 7:5 vote at a council meeting on April 29 - the second to be held remotely by video conference.

Councillors who wanted a nil rate rise said incomes are falling or predicted to fall and unemployment is rising and predicted to rise further. But others said council work must continue and costs must not be deferred.

When the impact of Covid-19 began to show, the councillors asked staff to change the draft 2020-21 annual plan to reach a nil rate rise.


Chief financial officer Adrian Smith said they did this by not increasing staff salaries, using reserve funds and swapping budgets.

Tararua councillor Allan Benbow had initially wanted a nil increase, but changed to 1 per cent when he considered an inflated $200,000 cost for bus transport and increased Total Mobility use, and the prospect of dipping into reserves to pay insurance.

He also wanted allowance for some staff salary increases.

Palmerston North's Jono Naylor agreed the extra transport cost should be met by rates, and wanted to keep the council active. Fiona Gordon, also from Palmerston North, wanted to ensure water quality, biodiversity and pest management work could continue.

Whanganui's Nicola Patrick said revaluation of Whanganui properties would mean an overall 1 per cent increase could translate to a 12 per cent increase for Whanganui people. It would cost her an extra $1 a week.

Vehemently against any rate increase were Rangitīkei's Bruce Gordon and John Turkington. Gordon said it would not be palatable to the public.

"We can slow down the whole business. We don't need to carry on as we are."

Turkington said unemployment of more than 10 per cent was predicted, and 30 per cent of forestry workers had lost their jobs. Any rate rise would be perceived as negligent and lacking in empathy.


Whanganui's David Cotton agreed. He said farmers in his road had lost $30,000 to $40,000 in income this year.

In Ruapehu the pandemic will hit the ski season and farmers are also hurting, Weston Kirton said.

"Any rate increase is going to be a kick in the guts for them."

Horowhenua's Emma Clarke agreed, and preferred a 0.49 per cent increase suggested by council chairwoman Rachel Keedwell, which would cover the transport increase.

Keedwell said the council didn't have many reserves and most of the region's local authorities will have some level of rate increase. She doubted the economy would improve quickly and said deferring payments could mean a scramble to catch up later.

She voted with Naylor, Patrick, Benbow, Wiremu Te Awe Awe, Sam Ferguson and Fiona Gordon for a 1 per cent rise.

She asked councillors to get feedback on it from people in their districts. It will be approved or changed at the next full council meeting in May.