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Quake damaged . . . The Cob Cottage Museum at Waiau, one of many amenities damaged in the town, following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. FILE PHOTO

By ROBYN BRISTOW

The Hurunui-Kaikoura 7.8 magnitude quake last November impacted “significantly” on the Hurunui District Council’s debt.

The known cost for the initial response to the disaster and repairs has been estimated at $23 million.

While much of this will be refunded through a mix of government subsidies, insurance and other funding agencies, there will still be a substantial shortfall for the council to fund through rates.

The internal debt is forecast at $6.5 million as at June 30, 2017 reducing to $3.5 million by 30 June 2018.

The council adopted its annual plan last week, approving a six percent general rate increase.

The plan highlights changes to the council’s 2015-2025 Long Term Plan because of the “unforeseeable damage and the associated costs” from the quakes.

The unplanned increase in debt has meant several projects being delayed until the 2017-2018 year – Amberley’s new deep well water source ($250,000), Amberley’s sewer network modelling ($61,711), Cheviot’s water main intake upgrade (395,527), Hanmer Springs disposal project ($3,632,596), Hanmer sewer network modelling ($61,711) and the Waikari sewer upgrades to meet new resource consent requirements ($604,369).

Mayor Winton Dalley said during budget deliberations the council was particularly concerned about those suffering hardship due to the long term financial effects of the drought, business downturn, and loss through the earthquake, along with the ongoing business uncertainty for those affected by State Highway 1 closures.

“We appreciate that paying rates will be difficult for some and I urge you to contact us to discuss any difficulties you are having sooner rather than later.

“You may be eligible for a rates remission / rates relief, or other assistance through our earthquake recovery plan.”

He said the earthquake had definitely complicated matters, but the Annual Plan 2017/18 was still on track in the main and the anticipated rates increase had not been exceeded.

“The council has tried to balance its continued focus on affordability and sustainability of services while also understanding the importance in carrying on and ensuring the community expectations continue to be met.”

A total of 13 briefing session had been held in different towns across the district to ensure people had a say in the annual plan. There was also extensive advertising of the plan’s proposals and briefing sessions were included in local papers, libraries and social media.

As a results there was over 100 submissions which were all considered at a special meeting.

“A huge thank you to all of you who did submit on our proposals, especially to those of you who took the time out of your day to come in and speak to your submission. We appreciate the time and effort this takes.”