Healthy water, land, people and future are the focus of Three Year Plan

Friday 15 December, 2023

Council’s budget for the next three years will prioritise projects and initiatives that contribute to the healing of the region’s environment and people.

The strategic framework for the 2024 – 2027 Three Year Plan, including Council’s priorities, was adopted at yesterday’s Council meeting, alongside draft borrowing limits and rates increases.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz says the adverse weather events have impacted this region’s water, land, people and future.

“As a region, we’ve had to dramatically shift the focus after the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, and so Council’s investment over the next three years must be focused on planning, services and activities that support recovery.”

Priorities for resilient waters, resilient transport and effective regulatory functions were developed by councillors over a series of workshops, and will be used to set the direction for activities Council will deliver over the next three years.

Due to the extreme weather events experienced in this region, the Government passed special legislation to enable Council (and seven other councils also affected) to replace its ten-year Long Term Plan (LTP) with an unaudited Three Year Plan (3YP) for 2024-2027.

This morning’s Council meeting discussed the unavoidable rates rise that will be decided on by Councillors next year.

To maintain Council’s business-as-usual services there needs to be a 7.9 percent increase in rates, this does not account for any growth or anything extra.

On top of that there will be also needs to be a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase to cover recovery costs including woody debris, sedimental removal and the FOSAL (Future of Severely Affected Land) voluntary buyout of Category 3 properties…( impacted from the North Island weather event). For most, this would equate to around $60 to $80, collected under a Uniform Annual General Charge. There will be a portion of what we collect for woody debris clean up, that will be targeted to forestry – around an average increase of $1,300 and pastoral farming of $91 per year.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz says the alternative of not increasing rates would mean further hardship for our region.

“At the same time, we understand there are many households who cannot afford these rates rises at all.

“However, as a region, we need to all invest to bring Tairāwhiti back to being a place where people want to come and for our whānau to enjoy.

“Any increase in rates is so we don’t fall behind as a region compared to the rest of the country.

“We need to focus on healing our water, land, people to make our children and community proud in the future.

”What we’re doing today is building a framework.

There will still be several meetings in the New Year to discuss where the rates increase will fall.”

Mayor Stoltz says over the years 2015 to 2018 there were two percent rate rises.

“We’re now paying for that.

“In 2018, we also started seeing more extreme weather events. And when a bridge goes or a road goes we have to find money for that to reconnect our communities.

“We want our kids and grandkids to have better infrastructure – we need to be brave and look to the future.

“Our job around the table is to set the direction and give our staff the vision and putea (money) to do that.”

“External and uncontrollable costs like interest and inflation are impacting negatively on budgets,” says Mayor Stoltz.

“The scale and cost of work following Cyclone Gabrielle put additional strain on Council’s already stretched resources. While we have received funding assistance from government toward recovery efforts, it won’t meet the full costs of recovery.”

“Comparatively however, most Council’s across New Zealand are seeing proposed rates increase in the double digits.”

Following the decision, the draft Financial Strategy and draft budget estimates for the Three Year Plan can be completed and presented for Council approval early in 2024.

Community consultation is planned for March and April, before Council adopts the plan on 27 June 2024.

Mayor Stoltz says it’s important to consider the implications for our community.

“This includes potential impacts on community wellbeing, health and safety, and even future costs.

“The focus on our roads, water services and wood debris management will be a primary focus, this also has to be balanced with legislatively driven work and maintaining service levels across Council to keep things functioning.

“We also need to consider how we can keep things as affordable as possible for our community.”

The debt cap has been set at 175 percent of income.

To find out more about our Three Year Plan.