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Published: 2016-02-05 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council will ask the public if they are happy for it to collect a rate to support surf life saving, Coastguard and rescue helicopter services in the region when it consults on its annual plan in March.

The council will ask for feedback on three proposals to collect a regional rate on behalf of local councils of between $2.07 and $3.74 (including GST) per property. One of the proposals does not include funding for the Philips Search and Rescue Trust and Auckland Helicopter Trust air ambulances.

The decision was made by councillors during almost two days of budget talks on the 2016/17 Annual Plan this week.

Council chairperson Paula Southgate said there had been a robust process undertaken in collaboration with the Mayoral Forum prior to agreeing the three options for a possible regional services fund.

“A number of councils in the region have already been funding these services, but they’ve asked us to collect a regional rate so there is an equitable contribution to services available to everyone in the Waikato,” Cr Southgate said.

“It’s hoped that by having a central collection point we can ensure local government funding in the region is invested well. It could also save the local councils and volunteer organisations time and money processing multiple funding requests,” she said.

But it was important to hear what people in the Waikato thought of the proposal. “We want to know if people are happy for us to collect a rate for these organisations, so I strongly encourage people to share their opinions with us when consultation begins in March,” Cr Southgate said.

She added: “It’s really important to councillors that the money collected goes to providing on-the-ground services by organisations in the region and we’re proposing an accountability and reporting framework to ensure this is the case,” Cr Southgate said.

“We also want the money to be used in a way that saves lives – not on such things as buildings – so we’re proposing criteria to control how the money is spent.”

The three proposals have been referred to the Mayoral Forum – comprising mayors and the regional council chair – for endorsement when it meets on Monday, 22 February.

Meanwhile, Waikato Regional Council has maintained a tight focus on costs for 2016/17.

The council has signalled it intends collecting about $80.5 million in rates revenue in the next financial year – this equates to a reduction in rates revenue from existing ratepayers of about 1.3 per cent. 

The decrease is driven by lower inflation, more rateable properties due to regional growth, and the removal of the Lake Taupō protection and TBfree rates. However, not all ratepayers will see a decrease in their rates bill – for some, their invoices will increase as a result of the property revaluations undertaken in the past year by local councils such as Hamilton.

The annual plan consultation document will be confirmed at a meeting on Thursday, 10 March. More details on the regional services fund proposals will be available at  when the consultation begins on Friday, 11 March.