By David Hill
The Waimakariri District Council has signed off on its latest annual plan, confirming an average rates rise of 1.5 percent.
The 2020/21 annual plan was approved at a council meeting on Tuesday, June 16, with councillors joining with chief executive Jim Palmer in praising staff on their efforts in completing the document two weeks ahead of the June 30 deadline, amid the pressures of Covid-19.
“This is a report that brings together nearly 12 months worth of work,” Mr Palmer said.
“We were taking submissions and forming a view and then we had Covid-19. But given the timing, it was good that we had the engagement under way before the lockdown and we were able to extend the timeframe and take a considered position.”
Mr Palmer noted other councils had signalling they would not meet the June 30 deadline as they struggled with the implications of Covid-19.
Mayor Dan Gordon said the council had taken “a pragmatic approach” in keeping the average rates rise down to 1.5%, through rates smoothing and deferring some capital works projects to next year’s 2021/31 Long Term Plan (LTP).
“I’m pleased we didn’t indicate we would get to zero percent because there’s implications if you do that, as other councils are finding out.”
But Mr Gordon said the real work would begin as the council moved on to the LTP.
Deputy Mayor Neville Atkinson said delaying projects was not ideal.
“Next year will be the time to sort things out and decide what we are going to do and when we are going to do it, but we need to make sure that it’s realistic.”
Cr Kirstyn Barnett noted the inflation pressures the council worked with was estimated at more than 2%, making a 1.5% rates rise a good result.
“This is a wait and see budget, because we don’t know how Covid-19 is going to impact on New Zealand and globally and we don’t know what support there is going to be available from government, so we need to be agile.”
Cr Philip Redmond described the annual plan as a “balanced” budget, but he regarded 2021/22 with “some trepidation”.
Cr Joan Ward said there was “a big opportunity” with the recovery, as there were several major projects in the pipeline where the council could assist in protecting local jobs.
Cr Paul Williams was the only councillor who voted against the annual plan.
“I don’t think we did enough out of gaining more efficiencies. Rates smoothing, which we have done, effects the following years. But we do have an advantage with the LTP coming up.”