Media release - Proposed rates freeze

4 May 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 

Council announces proposed rates freeze

Westland District Council has proposed to freeze its rates at current levels for the 2020/21 year to help ratepayers manage their costs as they work through the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their homes, jobs and businesses.

“Keeping rates affordable in these uncertain times has been Council’s biggest concern in developing the Draft Annual Plan 2020/21,” says Mayor Bruce Smith. “Council decided that freezing rates was the best way to give people certainty. Very few people will see changes in their rates bill this year.”

The Mayor noted that for those people who do see changes in their rates bill, it will be because they have added a council service, such as a water connection during the year, or changed to a different rate type as a result of closing a business.

Chief Executive, Simon Bastion advises that Council has taken a number of steps to freeze rates at the same rate factor as in 2019/20, including cancelling the planned Emergency Contingency Fund Rate, deferring previous year’s capital expenditure loan payments and reducing operating expenditure in areas such as staff training and new hires.

“Reduced rates will not be sustainable over the long term,” warned Mr Bastion. “Council will have to make some difficult decisions about rates in the next Long Term Plan to meet our obligations to maintain and improve our levels of service, and increase resilience against natural hazards and for our infrastructure network. Council is also clear that if the community asks for additional funding in this financial year they will have to pay for it in the next financial year, from 1 July 2021.”

While Council plans a zero rate increase, there are still a number of topics that it is seeking the community’s views on through the Draft Annual Plan Consultation Document. These are capital projects that will not impact on the 2020/21 rates and requests from community groups.

The Consultation Document and Draft Annual Plan are now available on the Council’s website for public feedback. Consultation will run from 8am, Thursday 7 May to 5pm, Sunday 7 June 2020. A hearing for those who would like to speak to their submissions will be held on Thursday 16 June 2020, and Friday 17 June if there are a large number of speakers.

Key consultation items include:

  • To prepare for future Civil Defence Emergencies, Council will purchase shipping containers containing Civil Defence supplies to be placed at five strategic locations throughout the district. Council wants to know if communities prefer a basic option that can be customised for the community or a luxury option that is standard in each community.
  • Council has researched further options for the Hokitika Wastewater Treatment Plant following confirmed cost of tendering by Westland Milk Products. Council would like the community’s opinion on the different options available.
  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Community Associations have applied for additional funding for each community’s Township Development Fund. The money would be applied to the fund in 2020/21 and charged as a rates increase in 2021/22 on top of any ongoing increased funding. Council would like to hear from the communities if they agree with this funding.
  • The Westland Sports Hub at Westland High School in Hokitika could be vested to Council and become a community asset. Payments insuring the structure would be included in the Hokitika Community Rate. Council would like to know if the community wants the structure to become a Council asset.
  • Ross Community Society has asked Council to release funds from the Ross Endowment Land Fund to pay for repairs to the Ross Community Gym and Squash Courts. This is an opportunity for the community to tell Council if this is how they would like to use the funds.

 

Council has also provided information about new capital projects for providing resilience to the community and to improve the health and safety of Council’s Three Waters assets and elderly housing units.

Members of the community are encouraged to make submissions on the key consultation topics and other items of interest to them. Submissions can be made electronically on our website: https://www.westlanddc.govt.nz/draft-annual-plan-202021-submission-form, or by downloading the submission form that can be emailed to consult@westlanddc.govt.nz, calling our customer service desk to give your submission over the phone on 03 756 9010, or in writing to your local community representative. Please contact Sarah Brown on 03 756 9010 or sarah.brown@westlanddc.govt.nz for details for your community representative.

 

ENDS

 

Media enquiries to:

Emma Rae, Strategy and Communications Advisor

Emma.rae@westlanddc.govt.nz

Summary: 
Proposed rates freeze