Government requirements and priorities from new councillors will increase the workload of Horizons Regional Council in its proposed 2021-31 Long Term Plan.
The council takes $47 million in rates and will have a total budget of $80.4m this financial year.
A proposed rate rise of 8 per cent would lift rates to $50m if councillors approve the plan.
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.
Some of the work includes water quality and climate resilience infrastructure projects for which the council has accepted government money for while agreeing to pay 25 per cent of the cost.
Other areas of spending includes $556,000 for a climate change action plan, more funding for working with iwi, and updates to the One Plan in response to Government's Essential Freshwater package and a rule change for intensive farming.
If the plan is approved the council's rates take will rise to $71m by 2028. Its debt, projected to reach nil in 2028, would instead peak at $93m in that year.
It would still be within the council's debt ceiling of 175 per cent of total revenue.
The biggest changes are climate change as a separate activity with its own budget, and the freshwater and climate resilience work mainly funded by the Government, Horizons chairwoman Rachel Keedwell said.
"It's a lot of little things, adding up to a big change for this council."
New councillors and a new chair have definitely influenced the change, she said, but so has public awareness.
"It's a logical follow-through on what the community is wanting to see."
Councillors were unanimous in approving the plan for consultation.
Whanganui councillor David Cotton doesn't agree with everything in it, but said it is the view of the majority of councillors and he respects democracy.
He did agree that the council should take government money to improve the infrastructure that protects against flooding.
The region budget of $36m includes $5m to cease farming on land adjoining the Rangitīkei River, from the Bulls bridge down to the sea. Horizons is to fund $1.1m of that.
Instead of building stopbanks to protect from flooding the river will be given room to spread out, and the land will be planted to slow floodwaters.
"It's actually quite a change in the way that we handle managing rivers, working with nature a little bit more than trying to engineer it," Cotton said.
In the Matarawa flood control scheme, $387,000 has been put aside to begin automatic diversion of all the stream's water during a flood. There's no guarantee it will prevent flooding in Whanganui East, and it still has to get resource consent.
The council does need to work more closely with iwi, Cotton said. He supports consulting iwi about whether they want a Māori ward - but believes the time allocated will not be long enough.
Consultation on a Māori ward was the suggestion of fellow Whanganui councillor Nicola Patrick. The region has 26 iwi and she said Māori wards are more complex for a regional council than for smaller councils.
The council needs to find out how people on the Māori roll will be affected, she said, and there will be other ways to involve iwi in decision making.
Patrick has been a champion of work on freshwater, climate change and biodiversity, and is pleased they get more emphasis in the proposed plan. She would like more biodiversity spending in future, and hopes young people will latch onto a $50,000 contestable fund for climate change action.
The rate increase would mean she would pay an extra $21 this year, and she believes the spend will be good value. The council's website has a calculator, where people can find out how much extra they would pay.
Under the proposed plan Whanganui will get an improved bus service running between Aramoho and Castlecliff next year, at a cost of $170,000 in a targeted rate. Whanganui District Council is also to contribute funding.
Councillors hope residents will read the plan and either make submissions or talk to them. It is online at https://haveyoursay.horizons.govt.nz, and will be sent to region mailboxes. Submissions close on April 23.