ECan proposes an average rate increase of 24.1 percent

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By Adam Burns, Local Democracy Reporter

Environment Canterbury is proposing an average rate increase of 24.1 percent which has been described by one councillor as “ridiculous”

Claire McKay, a North Canterbury constituent councillor, says the increase is far too steep for ratepayers amid extensive cost of living concerns.

The average rates increase of 24.1 per cent for ratepayers is being recommended by the regional council in a bid to tackle the “impacts of climate change”.

It is part of a proposed $264 million worth of activities for the upcoming financial year.

ECAN opened up its draft annual plan for consultation a fortnight ago with options on a two-year trial of free, or reduced bus fares, recovery from the May 2021 Canterbury floods and redistribution of flood protection rates in the Ashburton district.

The draft plans also calls for feedback on a future levy to fund action in response to climate change.

“It’s ridiculous…if it was 12 per cent you could justify it in the current circumstances,” she says.

“What does concern me is since that draft (plan) has been put together, we know we’re looking at a higher inflation figure in the next quarter and probably the middle quarter before we’ve even got started.”

She was one of two members, alongside Megan Hands, to vote against the document going out for consultation, although there was some concern elsewhere around the table about the size of the increase.

In North Canterbury, residents are facing increases of between 18 to 26 per cent, including an average increase of 21.5 per cent in the Waimakariri, 23 per cent in the Hurunui and 18.5 per cent in the Kaikoura districts.

Rural communities in North Canterbury are set for an overall average 19 per cent increase, compared to 23.25 per cent for urban ratepayers.

North Canterbury ECAN councillor Grant Edge believes it was an investment which needed to be made.

“The world has to reduce its carbon emissions and the biggest emitters are transport,” he says.

“The groups we’re targeting for the free [bus] fares, they’re disadvantaged lower income groups of people.

“If we don’t start doing things now, it’s only going to get worse.”

He urged people to start thinking more about public transport rather than cars.

Ms McKay agreed more people needed to utilise public transport but says there has been a notable absence of central government support for a proposed targeted fare structure, “despite its message public transport was a key tool for reducing emissions”.

“I challenge this [council] table to pause, reflect and consider this huge impact, in the face of the real-world challenges, including economic signals that our communities are already being significantly impacted and stressed,” she said, at the February 24 meeting.

“This is not even remotely affordable for our ratepayers and communities.”

Consultation on the draft plan closes April 3.