Horizons Regional Council proposes making big changes in the coming year, increasing its workload and increasing rates by 8 per cent.
The council met last week to approve its Long Term Plan consultation document. The plan proposes spending more for extra work on water quality, climate change, biodiversity and consulting iwi.
The cost will increase rates by up to 8 per cent a year over the next three years. The council's debt is also projected to rise.
The document was approved for release, but it left councillors uneasy about the increased rates take.
Nicola Patrick said those new work streams were important, and the water-quality work would be backed by Government funding.
"It's not easy to be a councillor in terms of rate increases that are higher than inflation, but actually I do stand behind them."
The council had no choice about whether to do the water-quality work, councillor Sam Ferguson said, because Government has said it must.
Fiona Gordon was especially happy with the increase in both the quantity and quality of biodiversity work, which she said had been a "poor cousin". It was also "well past time" for Horizons to spend more on engaging with iwi and she was pleased there was "a brand new contestable fund" for community action on climate change.
Councillors Bruce Gordon, Weston Kirton, David Cotton and John Turkington were less happy with the proposed document. They encouraged residents to read it and make submissions.
Gordon said the region's rates wouldn't go up as much as the general rate increase of about 73 per cent proposed by the Otago Regional Council, but the increase would be close to 30 per cent over three years.
Ruapehu residents would be "grumpy", Kirton said. Farmers would have to work on water quality, and urban people would get less benefit than farmers. Added to that, property revaluations may increase Ruapehu rates by an extra 10 per cent.
"We have got a lot of hard selling to do to convince Ruapehu people that what we are doing is in their best interests."
Turkington said the council would need to prove it could work effectively and efficiently, and should look for investments that would reduce the rates burden.
Nobody was happy about the proposed rates increase, deputy chairman Jono Naylor said, but the alternative was to do less work. He urged people to make submissions, and to do more than "complain".
"If people do want their rates to be lower, they need to give us a good steer on what they want us to do differently," he said.
There was no alternative to the change, councillor Wiremu Te Awe Awe said.
"We want all of these things, and there is only one way to do it - deepen our pockets."
The proposed plan is out for consultation until April 23, with submissions to be heard on May 11-13.