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Good news on rates estimate but controversy possible on LTP

Opinion Piece

News that the vast majority of ratepayers will not face a huge increase in their rates will be welcomed as Gisborne District Council starts its lengthy estimates process for the 2017/18 financial year.

The estimates allow for a total rates collection of $54.4 million in 2017/18, a small 1.97 percent increase on this financial year.

Chief executive Judy Campbell told the Future Tairawhiti committee that improved mapping technology has enabled her to say categorically that 96 percent of ratepayers will pay an increase of 3 percent or less. Even better, there will not be a long tail of people facing much larger increases as has sometimes bedevilled the council in the past.

The council was helped by the legislation amalgamating the rural and urban fire services that has relieved it of an annual bill of $613,000 for its rural fire service. This windfall, which represents just over one percent of rates, has been absorbed into other operational expenses enabling the council to stay within its parameter of a total rates increase of not more than 2 percent.

However, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before the council gets to the point of formally striking a rate in June this year. That includes the process of consultation with the community which will extend from March 20 to April 21 and cover the whole district with 30 “cuppa” meetings. Because this is the third year of the ten-year long-term plan (LTP), the council only has to consult on changes to that plan that are included in the draft annual plan.

There are still some potentially controversial subjects in that list on which the public will want to be heard. These include the increased cost of the Lawson Field Theatre project, bringing forward the timing of the Waipaoa Flood Protection Scheme upgrade, and potential changes to the inner harbour project.

Two curly ones will be whether or not to refurbish the Peel Street toilets and what should happen to the James Cook Observatory on Titirangi/Kaiti Hill. There is plenty of food for thought there.