Northland’s four local authorities – Far North District Council, led by Mayor Moko Tepania; Whangārei District Council led by Mayor Vince Cocurullo; Northland Regional Council, chaired by Tui Shortland and Kaipara District Council, led by Mayor Craig Jepson – all plan big rates rises for the upcoming financial year
Ratepayers across Northland are facing big rates rises as all four territorial local authorities are planning hikes of between 5.3 per cent and 11.4 per cent as the cost of living crisis deepens.
Northland Regional Council (NRC) is topping the bill, proposing an increase of as much as 11.4 per cent.
Whangārei District Council (WDC) comes next with an up to 10.9 per cent increase. Far North District Council (FNDC) is proposing an 8.63 per cent lift and Kaipara District Council (KDC) 5.34 per cent.
The councils’ increases are all higher than initially forecast and committed to just two years ago via their 2021-2031 Long Term Plans (LTP).
Far North Kahika (Mayor) Moko Tepania said his council’s increase was largely due to increased inflation.
“In response, the council has reassessed spending line by line in an effort to keep the total rates increase to a minimum while continuing to deliver core services to residents.”
FNDC is proposing a rating policy change to “better enable housing development” on Māori freehold land, he said.
“The proposed rates remission policy will allow Māori freehold landowners to apply for reduced rates for a set period it they intend developing their land to provide housing,” Tepania said.
“Legislation already requires the council to enable housing development on Māori freehold land through the suspension of rate payment, but it is up to the council to decide what criteria landowners must meet to benefit from this offer. Our proposal sets out clear rules on what landowners must do to be eligible for rates remission and for how long that remission will last.”
FNDC residents and ratepayers can have their say on the proposed council rates increase until April 24, via its Annual Plan public consultation at www.fndc.govt.nz/annualplan.
Meanwhile, WDC, which originally scheduled a 7.9 per cent hike for 2023/2024 in its 2021–2031 plan, now wantd to lift that to up to 10.9 per cent.
Three per cent of the proposed 10.9 per cent increase would go to boosting roads funding and dealing with Cyclone Gabrielle and other severe weather events. WDC is also proposing the LTP’s original 7.9 per cent increase, which it says will mean needing to “manage any reductions in service delivery” and is likely to create financial pressures in future years.
Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo said Cyclone Gabrielle compounded council-wide financial challenges.
“Council did not take lightly the decision to propose a rates increase beyond the 7.9 per cent that was originally set as part of its Long Term Plan 2021-2031,” Cocurullo said.
“We are very aware of the pressures being faced by households and businesses across our district. Our challenge as a council is that one of our main sources of income is from our ratepayers – who along with council – are all feeling the pinch and the impact of spiralling costs.”
WDC residents and ratepayers can have their say on the council’s proposed rates increase via its April 5 to May 5 Annual Plan public consultation at www.wdc.govt.nz/Whats-new/Have-your-say/Current-Consultations/Annual-Plan-2023.
Meanwhile, NRC’s proposed rates increase of up to 11.4 per cent compares with a forecast rise of 9.2 per cent in its 2021-2031 LTP.
NRC chairwoman Tui Shortland said inflation was now nearly double what had originally been budgeted for the coming financial year.
She said NRC’s already in place plans included growing the council’s climate change adaptation and community resilience work, tsunami siren network upgrades, more biodiversity and biosecurity work and a CityLink bus services increase.
NRC was next year no longer rating for Whangārei’s proposed $64 million Oruku conference and event centre, which was being supported “through other avenues”.
The regional council’s 11.4 per cent hike is one of three options it is putting forward for public consultation. Another is its preferred 10.2 per cent increase. This would provide another $830,000 annually for recruitment and wages “in a changing employment market”, plus $270,000 annually including for improving remote working technology. It would also enable an extra about $500,300 annually to assist NRC’s Tāiki ē strategy supporting iwi, hapū in partnering with council in its environmental mahi.
The 8.9 per cent option is the LTP’s Oruku centre-adjusted figure.
NRC residents and ratepayers can have their say until April 21 on the council’s proposed rates increase, via its public consultation at www.nrc.govt.nz/your-council/have-your-say/mahere-a-tau-annual-plan-202324.
Meanwhile, KDC’s draft 5.34 per cent increase compares with its 2021-2031 LTP forecast of 3.92 per cent.
Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson said the council would decide its final 2023/2024 rating increase this week.
”And I am confident that, if anything, we will be going lower than that 5.34 per cent,” Jepson said.
He said he had campaigned on prudent council management and keeping costs down when he became mayor – as the council and its community headed into the difficult financial times ahead.
The council’s draft 5.34 per cent proposed increase was a manifestation of this.
Councils are not always required to consult on their coming year’s Annual Plans, this in part dependent on what they are planning to do and how much funding this might vary from forecast LTP predictions.
Jepson said KDC would likely not be needing to do so for its coming 2023/2024 Annual Plan rates increases.
■ Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air