Our challenges - Our response | Ō tātau tauwhāinga - Tō tātau whakautu
These are the challenges that we must consider when deciding on the work we need to do, what we should spend and when we deliver.
Our population is 53% Māori, compared to 16.5% for the rest of Aotearoa.
Our responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi), Local Government and Resource Management Acts form the basis of our partnership with Māori.
Meeting the expectations set out in these documents means changing how we think about our future, what we do and how we do it.
Our plan is to:
- work closely with mana whenua to make sure they have the support they need to participate in decision making
- introduce Māori wards
- support mana whenua to access funding for key projects
- promote and work towards co-design models such as for Māori by Māori
- create joint management agreements and partnerships that deliver on Māori interests and aspirations.
For more information see Tairāwhiti Regional Spatial Plan
The Government is proposing a major reform of Three Waters services. This could see publicly owned organisations taking over the management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.
We’re also required to implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. This is a new approach to managing our water that involves the whole region and strong partnerships with tangata whenua in decisions about the wellbeing of our water, Te Mana o Te Wai.
The Government is expected to decide on its approach to the Three Waters reform in mid-2021.
While we don’t yet know the final shape of the reform, Council will continue to work with the Government to explore future options for the delivery of Three Waters services.
Any decisions taken will only come into effect in 2023/24.
Either way, our community will continue to have their Three Water services delivered. We’ll work with you to help us decide on the best approach for our district.
For more information see the Three Waters Review
The Government is moving at pace with its programme to reform the way water services are delivered across New Zealand. This is because the challenges facing this infrastructure sector are large and complex.
The Government’s starting intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities with a bottom line of public ownership. The exact size, shape and design of these entities is still being worked through, but we know that the timeframe for the reform is ambitious – over the next three years.
Gisborne District Council’s role in the reform process
For our part, Council is a stakeholder in the process, alongside all other asset-owning councils, and Tangata Whenua as the Crown’s Treaty Partner. www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme describes the reform programme in depth.
To date, Councils voluntary participation in the reform process has involved, attending Government-set engagement sessions, signing an MoU (see next paragraph for more information) and collating and sharing with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) detailed asset information – through a Request for Information process (November 2020 to February 2021).
There will be an opportunity to opt out of the reform process
We're aware that the Government intends to offer Council an opportunity to make an "opt out" decision (of the proposed new Water Service Entities) in late 2021. But at this stage we don’t have any information about what that might involve.
Information available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website describes the Water Entities model in the context of economic regulation.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Council signed a MoU with the DIA in November 2020 to participate in the first stage of the Three Waters Services Reform Programme.
This report to Council describes the process
Government Tranche One funding for water infrastructure projects
The agreement included the granting of $11.04m to Council to spend - as it decided in its report on 3 main water infrastructure projects. Report to Council on projects to be funded by the three waters reform stimulus grant
- These are:
$7.5m towards the $34.8m Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade (WWTP). (With Council funding the rest).
- $3.29m to investigate options for safe water supplies for rural townships and implementation of improvement works to the Ruatoria township supply and a top up water supply for Muriwai.
Council also decided to allocate $250k from the $11.04m funding package for modelling options for amalgamation of water operations and the appropriate governance structure to manage any new model.
A main condition of the funding is that each of these projects must be completed by 30 March 2022. There is no opportunity to change the funding allocations.
Planning for Three Waters Infrastructure in the meantime
Three waters services are shown in the Financial Strategy and the Infrastructure Strategy of the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan. This is because any changes - resulting from the reform, including whether Council delivers them or not - will be reflected in the next LTP in 2024.
Why is the reform process included in this consultation document if it’s not part of the LTP consultation?
This information has been included because it's reasonable that the community might expect to be able to read about the process that Council is currently involved with in regards to the nation-wide reform of three waters services.
Any comments received from the community during this submission period, on the subject of three waters reform, will help to inform future submissions to the Government – as the reforms continue to roll-out.
Planning for a resurgence of Covid-19 is now part of everyday life. During lockdown, we took actions to make sure the Tairāwhiti community had the support they needed. We:
- kept our rates at 3.26% as opposed to our forecast increase of 4.89%
- provided a rates relief budget of up to $1m to assist those who couldn’t pay
- made parking free, which reduced our income by $600k
- obtained Government funding of $23.7m to create and support employment programmes to get our people back into work.
We’ve developed our own COVID-19 response and recovery plan with our community partners. We’ve also supported the Government ’s plans for COVID-19 so that we’re ready for another community outbreak or lockdown. These plans guide us:
- Rau Tipu Rau Ora, our region’s Response and Recovery Plan
- National Resurgence Response Plan
- Ministry of Health COVID-19 Resurgence Plan
- Our Regional Resurgence Plan
For more information see Rau Tipu Rau Ora
Climate change is the most significant long-term issue facing our region.
- temperature rises and increased fire risk
- severe and more frequent storms (with major impacts on our steep hill country and coasts)
- damage because of erosion to infrastructure such as roads and pipes
- risks to water supply (drinking, stock water, irrigation) through droughts
- sea level rise, coastal erosion and floods, affecting homes and recreation
- new diseases and pest species.
Over the course of this LTP, we have a number of projects planned:
- risk assessments and planning to prepare for the regional impacts of climate change in particular, along our coastlines
- working to protect against increasing floods through the Waipaoa Flood Control Climate Change Resilience Project
- continuing the Waingake Restoration Project which will protect the city water supply and improve the district’s biodiversity
- reviewing the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan to manage the use of our natural resources
- reducing emissions from our waste through implementing the Waste Management Minimisation Plan
- developing and implementing regional and council mitigation plans to move to a low emissions — less pollutive way of life.
For more information see the NIWA Regional Climate Assessment
One of the main reasons we all agreed to the 5% increase in our last LTP (2018) was to take better care of our roads and water. We had three main goals:
- improve the quality of our roads
- start flood protection works on the Waipaoa River stopbanks
- provide for the UV disinfection phase of our wastewater treatment plant.
However, our population is growing faster than predicted in 2018 and we need to develop more options to provide for growth in the medium and long term.
We received over $84m of Government funding into our roads to support our region — such as the investment from the Provincial Growth Fund. In addition, the Tairāwhiti Redeployment Programme let us improve the condition of our roading network after severe flooding in 2018 and 2020.
Over the next 10 years we propose to continue a steady level of investment to ensure that we deliver what we need to. This includes:
- providing new infrastructure to support housing development to the west of the city
- starting construction of the UV disinfection plant of our wastewater treatment (phase 2) and remove mortuary waste
- starting work on our wetlands wastewater treatment (phase 3)
- replacing ageing pipes earlier
- improving demands for water from 2025
- maintaining our roading network and preparing for climate change
- upgrading our Olympic Pool complex
- improving management of historic landfills including the Waiapu landfill
- undertaking planning to inform infrastructure decisions, such as whether and where the wastewater and water supply network should be extended.
For more information see our draft 2031 Infrastructure Strategy
What’s our plan for rates?
He aha tō tātau whakarite mō ngā rēti?
To help us finish the work we’ve already started, we’ve set a 6.5%* maximum cap rates increase for the first three years of our plan.
Then from 2025 this will decrease to 5%*.
A 6.5% increase in rates income from 2022 - 2024, or 5% increase in rates income from 2025 onwards, does not mean all properties will receive this amount of rates increase on their bill. The impact on individual rates varies from property to property.
Check the proposed rates for your property
We’re still feeling the effects of underinvestment on our roads, wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems from when we kept rates to 2%.
Our 5% rates increase in our 2018 LTP allowed us to make huge progress on our ten year plan, but we now face some new challenges and need to make new decisions.
To ensure that we continue to make Tairāwhiti a place that we’re proud to live, work, play in - and visit - we need to set rates at an affordable level to do the essential work we need to do, while also preparing for the unexpected.
Over the next ten years, we estimate that we’ll need $1.25b to cover operating costs from all our income sources (rates, borrowing, dividends and grants). Of the $1.25b, 60% is from rates.
What’s our plan for borrowing?
He aha tō tātau whakarite mō te tono moni?
Borrowing will allow us to keep rates at an affordable level.
We plan to increase borrowing to 130% of our income from the current level of 100%.
We can borrow up to 175%, but we want to leave some headroom in case of an emergency or major event.
Our 130% debt level is still low, compared to the average debt level for unitary councils.
We borrow money to fund our significant projects. This enables us to take advantage of low interest rates, do the work quickly and then pay back the debt over time. While taking advantage of low interest rates has risks, we manage this by keeping our debt levels at a responsible level. This gives us headroom if interest rates rise. Borrowing more now will help us get our big projects back on track.
Significant projects such as upgrading our pipe network, the stopbanks on the Waipaoa River and our roads are projects that we can do now and they’ll support our future generations.
We expect to reduce debt levels back to normal in 10 years.
Councils borrow money for projects that have a long lifespan.
It’s not fair for us to pay now for the full cost of a bridge when it has a 80-year lifespan.
Borrowing money and then paying it back over a long period spreads the load over the generations that will benefit from using it.