Council Seeks to Balance Growth and Affordability in its 10-Year Budgets
At its next meeting on Tuesday 12 December, Mackenzie District Council will confirm the budgets for its draft Long Term Plan for 2018 to 2028, which will go out for public consultation in March next year.
Mackenzie District Mayor, Graham Smith, said the district had seen unprecedented growth in recent years, which has brought with it a range of benefits and challenges for the district’s community.
“The Mackenzie District is one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand, and in recent years we have seen a steep increase in the numbers of both national and international visitors. Our agricultural sector has also been strong. This has created significant benefits for our community, including population and business growth, and a significant overall increase in property valuations.”
While the district was experiencing the benefits that came from tourism and economic growth, Mayor Smith said it had also brought some challenges which the Council had been grappling over the last 12 months in preparing its draft Long Term Plan.
“We’ve seen increased activity across all of our Council functions - including building and resource consent processing, planning and monitoring, along with increased pressure on local infrastructure such as public toilets, roads, parking and waste management. In addition to this, there has been an extended period of low interest rates and a reduction in investment income which we use to offset rates.”
He said the Council must increase its investment in core services and infrastructure to meet the needs of the community over the coming years, while also ensuring the district can continue to sustain the growth that was making the district prosper.
“There is a price to pay for growth, and if we don’t invest in maintaining core services and infrastructure to meet demand, there will be an impact on the benefits it brings and the quality of service we can deliver to the community over the longer term.”
To meet this need for increased investment, Mayor Smith said the Council is forecasting in the draft Long Term Plan average rates rises of 8 per cent per annum for the first five years of the plan, and 7 percent per annum after that.
“As a Council, we have worked incredibly hard to keep the forecast rates rises down while trying to support the district’s growth, which has meant making some tough choices – including limiting the draft budgets for improvements to the roading network and for new capital projects. It’s essentially about sustaining business as usual and managing risk, while investing in what we believe are high value but affordable projects for the community.”
He said Council would consider increasing budgets for key infrastructure, such as roading, if the community indicates it is prepared to pay more through its feedback during the Council’s consultation process next year.
“Ratepayers will also have to consider the impact increased rateable values will have on their rates bill. While higher values are great news for property owners on one hand, on the other it does mean paying higher rates. This is particularly significant for ratepayers in the district’s townships, where values have increased far more substantially than in rural areas. They will most likely see annual increases higher than 8%”.
“I want to encourage all our ratepayers to read the Long Term Plan consultation document when it comes out in March and to take the opportunity to give their feedback to the Council. We’ve worked hard over the last 12 months to develop a draft plan we think will best serve the Mackenzie community, so we’re keen to hear what the community thinks.”