Rates in Far North could rise almost 17 percent

State Highway One through Mangamuka Gorge has been badly damaged by torrential rain.

Road damage has contributed to the proposed increase, the council says.
Photo: RNZ

The Far North District Council is meeting to debate a potential rates increase next year of almost 17 percent.

The council said the proposed increase was due to unprecedented road damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle and other extreme weather events, as well as the coalition government’s move to cancel Labour’s Three Waters scheme.

The council’s consultation document stated the new government’s plan would allow local communities and councils to decide how to manage their water and wastewater systems – but it also meant the cost of upgrading the Far North’s ageing wastewater systems would return to being a ratepayer responsibility.

As a result the council had been forced “back to square one” as it rewrote its financial plans.

Inflation and the global after-effects of Covid-19 were other factors in the soaring cost of providing council services.

The council’s proposal was to hike rates by 16.5 percent in 2024/25, then by 7.1 percent and 3.8 percent in the following years.

Councillors would also debate, for the third time, whether to bring in a district-wide rating for water and wastewater projects.

If passed, that would mean the costs of all water, sewage and stormwater schemes would be spread over all ratepayers in the district.

Currently each town in the Far North pays for its own water and wastewater infrastructure.

Some small communities, however, struggle to afford the multi-million dollar costs of upgrading or replacing their failing sewage treatment plants.

The online-only meeting to debate the 2024-27 Long Term Plan got underway at 1pm.

Long term plans usually cover a period of 10 years but councils in areas badly affected by Cyclone Gabrielle were given the option of devising a three-year plan focussed on recovery.

Last week neighbouring Whangārei District Council set a 17.2 percent rates increase for 2024/25, the highest in that council’s history.

Its previous record was 9 percent in 2015/2016.

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