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No change to rates rise

After an exhaustive three days of submission hearings and line-by-line review by councillors, the rates increase facing Gisborne ratepayers next year does not change.

This is despite the addition of projects costing $362,000 to the first year of the 10-year plan. The 2018/28 plan will be presented to the council for final adoption next month.

The largest changes saw $100,000 added in year one of the draft plan to the Waingake Bush regeneration programme and $100,000 of capital expenditure for the first stage of remedying long-standing flooding problems for Te Awapuni Moana Trust on its land in the Willows Road area.

Staff have been instructed to provide details of how these can be funded from within existing budgets.

The council has added $212,500 in operational expenditure, with $100,000 of this for an initial “knockdown” of pests in the Waingake Waterworks Bush. The plan now calls for annual expenditure on pest control in the city’s water catchment bush of $50,000 a year for the next nine years of the plan.

Council funding of $58,000 a year is added to the community facilities strategy, and an extra $4500 a year for Surf Life Saving New Zealand. The lifesaving addition, however, was less than the $23,400 extra asked for.

Another $50,000 is budgeted for next year towards investigating alternative use and disposal of the city’s wastewater. Over the 10 years of the draft plan, an additional $725,000 is now budgeted.

An extra $150,000 was added for capital expenditure.

As well as the $100,000 capital expenditure for the Awapuni/Willows Drainage Project, $50,000 of additional capital expenditure will go towards the crematorium.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said she was instructed to ensure none of the additions would affect the final total rate increase of 4.89 percent.

The council had given staff a direction that the rates would not be changed.

The $100,000 for the Awapuni project was towards obtaining resource consents for the drainage scheme needed there. It would come from within the existing capital budget.

The $58,000 was the council’s contribution to the community facilities strategy, $33,000 was for seed funding for feasibility cases and $25,000 was its contribution to the implementation of the strategy.

This was all money that would have to be found within the budget where possible.

“I have got to bring back options as to how these will be funded but the direction is that I need to prioritise how that will happen,” she said.

Part of that discussion would be whether the council continued with the community grant scheme at the present level. There was $131,400 available in this fund.

When the final recommendation to approve the plan was put, Brian Wilson said he would not vote in favour unless the extra money that had been added was met from within the existing budget.

Amber Dunn said the proposed increase was not sustainable. The council had to find ways to progressively bring these rates down over the next three years.

Karen Fenn said she would like to see this sorted so that by 2019 the council was in a better position than it was now.

Mayor Meng Foon congratulated councillors for the effort they had put into preparing the long-term plan, which he said was bold and visionary but financially prudent.

They had met the test of staying within budget.

The general WTF (What’s the Future)Tairawhiti campaign response had been positive right throughout the district.

It had been a great team effort from governance and staff as well as the public.

“We are going to move in leaps and bounds into the future, achieving stuff that will be recognised beyond the years,” said Mr Foon.