Rating strategy worries mayors

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By DAVID HILL

North Canterbury mayors are not amused by the rates increase proposed by Environment Canterbury (ECan).

The regional council proposes a rates increase of up to 24.5 percent this year as part of its 2021/31 Long Term Plan.

The decision has left local mayors concerned that the rates bill could have a severe impact on ratepayers already reeling from the effects of Covid-19 uncertainty.

ECan plans to entirely fund its work programme up-front without resorting to loans, which is considered standard practice for councils.

At present, ECan’s rates are collected alongside each local district council’s rate demand.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon is calling on ECan to reconsider how it funds its projects.

“Like most businesses and organisations, the Waimakariri District Council debt-funds its projects. It’s exactly like a normal loan you borrow up-front and repay over time.

“This ensures inter-generational equity after all, the next generation is a beneficiary.”

Borrowing allows for rates smoothing and ensures rate increases are lower and “aren’t so unsympathetic to communities already finding tough times”, he says.

“At the moment borrowing is the right move. Interest rates are remarkably low, and the necessary work can be undertaken without significantly burdening households already struggling during Covid-19.”

While her council has yet to discuss ECan’s proposed rates rise, Hurunui Mayor Marie Black says she agrees with

‘‘We need to be mindful of the impact on the mum and dad ratepayers who bear the brunt of these decisions.

‘‘It certainly begs the question of why you would have such a significant increase when we are coming out of austerity, with the overall impact of Covid still unknown.’’

Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle said he would like a similar rates rise to get through the rojects his district needs, but he realises there would not be the support. Now is not the time to burden ratepayers, he says.

As all three district councils collect ECan’s rates as part of their rates demand, there is a concern the rates rise will reflect on them.

‘‘We are not looking forward to those big rate numbers coming up on our rates bill, so it’s up to the community to have their say, which is their right,’’ Mrs Black said.

The Waimakariri District Council is proposing a rates rise this year of 3.95%, while Hurunui is proposing 8.49%.

The Kaikoura District Council has only just begun work on its Long Term Plan.
ECan’s draft Long Term Plan is available online for submissions by visiting haveyoursay.ecan.govt.nz.