Waikato Regional Council has today formally adopted its 10 year plan and confirmed an average 0.4 per cent increase in rates revenue from existing ratepayers in 2015/16.
“This plan achieves a good balance between affordability and making sure we move forward to become a stronger region,” chairperson Paula Southgate said after the council meeting.
“It’s also particularly pleasing to see a clear focus on protecting our precious coastal areas and other natural resources.”
Clarence Susan from Audit New Zealand told the councillors he would be issuing an unmodified opinion on the regional council’s 2015-2025 Long Term Plan.
He said the council’s plan is a “good basis for accountability to the community, the information and assumptions are reasonable and all the disclosures required are clearly in this document”.
Mr Susan added that the consultation document, released by the council in March this year, “clearly set out the issues and options available to the community” and “overall we are happy that the changes that have followed through to the final document are a fair representation of the numbers”.
The plan for 2015/16 will be delivered on rates revenue of $80.158 million – a 0.4 per cent increase in this revenue from existing ratepayers. Under this long term plan there will be a 0.3 per cent drop in 2016/17, with a rise of 1 per cent in 2017/18.
During today’s meeting, the regional development fund’s scope and criteria were also agreed. The council heard that, prior to receiving funding proposals for consideration, an independent group needs to be formed and a procedures manual finalised.
Councillors also discussed the funding source in light of independent legal advice that the council should not proceed with its decision last month to remove the rates subsidy over 10 years without further consultation with the community.
During last month’s deliberations the council had decided funding for the regional development fund would be by way of returns from the investment fund, after subsidising rates and allowing for inflation-proofing. However, it was decided the rates subsidy would be phased out over the next 10 years.
As a result of the legal advice, the council today voted in favour of the preferred option in the consultation document. That will see the annual rates subsidy reduced over the first five years of the plan by approximately $250,000 per annum. This will have no impact on rates as the reduction in subsidy will be offset by efficiency savings built into the budget.
Over the plan’s 10 years it is expected $18.9 million would be available to inject into regional-scale projects with intergenerational benefits.
The 2015-2025 Long Term Plan will be available online from this Friday, 3 July at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/ltp