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Whatever it takes to reduce rates burden

Gisborne District Council needs to take a positive, entrepreneurial approach to reduce the burden on ratepayers — even if the ideas seem off the wall, Rick Thorpe told the Gisborne District Council long-term plan public meeting.

Mr Thorpe spoke on behalf of the Tairawhiti Residents Association (TRA) in his submission.

The TRA believed the council’s DrainWise project needed more priority, certainly more than the millions being spent on the wastewater treatment plant, he said. It was illogical to improve the wastewater treatment plant without fixing the problem.

“Why should a private person fix their drains when the council drain on the road floods?

“GDC has to make sure its system is working.”

The DrainWise project is to work with property owners to help fix problems with wastewater and stormwater drains.

The big issue was how to fund private properties to fix their stormwater, Mr Thorpe said.

There could be various funding options including targeted rates, council-controlled organisations or interest-free loans — anything that would mean GDC went in and got this thing sorted, he said.

Mr Thorpe said TRA would like to see DrainWise prioritised first, wastewater treatment plant second and the wetlands that supply water to the horticulture sector third.

“Water is very much restricting the ability for horticulture to expand,” he said.

Mr Thorpe asked if GDC was trying to do too much at once. TRA supported monthly reporting to keep track.

“We are very keen for a review of the council’s operating expenditure.

“We need to have confidence that the council is being run efficiently.”

He was also concerned about the lack of allocation for road maintenance. It was $32 million now and would go up to only $38 million by 2028. Considering log tonnage would double from three million to six million, this was not enough.

Roads were the big item and GDC needed to look much closer at how they funded them — making the forestry companies wear some of the cost, for example.

The capital cost of roads was subsidised 65 percent by the National Transport Fund and ratepayers made up the balance, he said.

GDC could no longer afford to be so generous and needed other ways to fund their infrastructure improvements and maintenance.