Issue #940

LWB Issue 940

Taking a little longer on the Long Term Plan

by Mayor Glyn Lewers

Earlier this month, Council formally deferred its Long Term Plan (LTP) process by up to three months.

This decision was not taken lightly. It was necessary following the coalition government’s formal direction at the end of last year to bring planning and delivery of three waters infrastructure back onto councils’ books for Years 3-10 of the LTP. Under the former Labour government, councils were legislated to only include three waters for Years 1 and 2. 

This is significant. As a Council, we’ve spent countless hours working with staff to figure out how we’re going to do this. And I’ve got to be frank, we’re looking at these figures and preparing for some uncomfortable conversations and very tough decisions around priorities and what this means for rates increases. 

Councils across New Zealand are all in the same boat and the waters are choppy – affordability is going to be a challenge for all of us. To put it into context, three waters makes up close to 60% of the Council’s capital expenditure programme. That’s a huge chunk and means we simply will not be able to afford to deliver many of the projects we had previously hoped. It will affect our ability to invest in important community facilities and services. The sad part is we need these facilities and services more than ever before to maintain wellbeing, resilience and connection in our growing communities.  

Costs are increasing across the board but revenue is not keeping pace. There is a huge body of work underway to investigate alternative funding sources. As Mayor I continue to actively lobby Wellington on the affordability challenges we have been working so hard over many years to address. While a visitor levy (which 81% of those voting in the June 2019 local referendum supported) might still be on the table, it looks more likely to be collected and allocated at a national level, meaning it may not benefit us in the ways we need. There’s still a lot of uncertainty but what we do know is that we can’t just keep taking extra rates from the same people, year on year. Something’s got to give. 

While we’ll be consulting on the draft LTP and adopting it later than usual we’ll still be opening applications for community grants in April. We’ll need to tighten our belts here too but it’s always an important opportunity for Council to provide support to the fantastic community efforts happening right across the district. Staff will be in touch with community groups to share more about the process and details on alternative funding opportunities that may also be available. 

We’re hopeful that the coalition government will begin to up the pace on discussions for local government revenue streams. In the meantime, we need to play the hand we’ve been dealt and do what we can to reprioritise our investment programme and limit the impact on ratepayers as much as we can. The draft 2024-2034 Long Term Plan will be out for consultation towards the end of June – I really encourage you all to consider what’s proposed and take part in the process.


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