A rate rise of 4.3 percent predicted in the Waimakariri District

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By David Hill

Rising inflation, Omicron and government reform loom as storm clouds for the Waimakariri District Council as it prepares to present its annual plan.

Council staff have proposed a rates rise of 4.3 percent average across the district, in line with the 4.2% signalled in last year’s 2021/31 Long Term Plan.

Speaking at Wednesday morning’s opening session for the council’s 2022/23 annual deliberations, chief executive Jim Harland said the council is in a strong position as faces uncertainty on several fronts.

“The operating environment, according to Standard and Poor’s, for us is very stable, so we are getting the same credit rating we’ve had before long-term and A-1+ short-term, a stable outlook.

“Omicron is kind of like the phoney war. We know it’s there, but we can’t see it.

“As an organisation we are doing everything we can to prepare for it, but we don’t know how it’s going to work because we haven’t been there before.

Pressure on staff from the government’s reform agenda around Three Waters, the revised Resource Management Act and climate change reform is likely to take a toll this year, he said.

The proposed rates rise takes into account the Local Government Cost Index set by BERL, which is between 2.5% to 2.9%, a 1% increase to fund an earthquake loan and .8% towards MainPower Stadium loan repayments, chief financial officer Jeff Millward said.

Mr Millward said the council is aware of the impacts of rising costs on ratepayers, with Consumer Price Index inflation now at 5.9%.

“The primary reason is the cost of housing which is affecting the average consumer, there is a restriction on supplies and the pricing has gone haywire.

“Economists are predicting the real take home pay for people is reducing and it will do for the next three for years, so a fair bit of risk sits in our numbers.

But Mr Millward predicts the impact on rates will be softened over the next few years by the ongoing population growth in the district, with 4800 new homes predicted to be built during the life of the 2021/31 LTP.

The council will consult on three key areas in the annual plan, including roading, the Kaiapoi stormwater and flooding improvements, and the Kaiapoi Community Hub, where extra funding is sought.

In the roading space, extra funding is sought to meet some of the shortfall from the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s contribution towards roading projects in the district.

The annual consultation document will also highlight upgrades to the Rangiora Airfield, and extra funding sought for the Ashley Gorge Water Supply and for protecting significant natural areas.

Councillors were scheduled to continue deliberating today and tomorrow (Thursday, February 3).

The 2022/23 annual plan will be consulted on between March 4 and April 4, ahead of planned hearings in May.