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Council hears community, alters course

Published: 30 May 2024

Napier Bluff Hill Early Morning June 2019 8

Napier City Council’s proposed rates increase has been cut from 23.7% to 19.95%, through labour cost reductions and reducing the proposed Resilience Rate.

Around 65 individuals or groups attended Council hearings on Monday and Tuesday to share their views on proposals in the draft Three-Year Plan. Today Council considered this feedback, which covered the six topics presented to the community during the consultation, and other issues raised by the community.

Rates decrease – labour costs and Resilience Rate

The lower rates increase for 2024/25 has been achieved partly by reducing labour costs by 1.75% of rates. Labour costs were originally 11.7% of the proposed 23.7% increase. These costs will be reduced by holding full-time equivalent staff numbers at their current level of 760.

Mayor Wise says Council heard from several submitters about their concern with the increase in labour costs.

“Our decision to reduce the labour cost increase reflects the community’s request to explore organisational efficiencies. That said, we can’t afford to reduce our ability to deliver on essential projects and services.”

The rates reduction has been further achieved through lowering the proposed Resilience Rate to 0.45% for 2024/25, 1% for 2024/26 and 1.5% for 2026/27. For 2024/25, the rate will be ringfenced for emergency management activities and the Joint Coastal Hazards Strategy. The criteria for the rate’s use in future years will be decided on during the annual planning process each year.

“I know that 19.95% is still a large increase compared to our increases in previous years. We need to take a big step forward to get us into a healthy position, and from there we can move on with more moderation,” says Mayor Wise.

“With this 19.95% increase, we’re making up for lost time. We can’t leave a situation like the one we have inherited. We must put resources into essential infrastructure to ensure firm foundations for our future.”

Stormwater rate for Rural Residential properties

Many submitters spoke about the proposed addition of the targeted Stormwater rate to their Rural Residential properties. Council agreed to the officers’ recommendation to roll back the proposed new Stormwater map to the original map.

“This will alleviate pressure on Rural Residential ratepayers who are already facing significant rates increases, even without the addition of the Stormwater targeted rate to their properties,” says Mayor Wise.

The future of Council housing

As proposed, Council agreed to shift its focus to delivering retirement housing only and fund this through selling some social housing villages, noting that no tenants will lose their home.

“This decision balances financial sustainability and the wellbeing of our tenants and vulnerable communities in our approach to Council housing,” says Mayor Wise.

Fees and charges

Council agreed to increase some fees and charges beyond the consumer price index increase as proposed. Alongside this, officers were directed to review Ocean Spa’s fees and charges, with a view to introducing a discount for residents and Supergold card holders in time for 2024/25.

“It’s important that we continue to move towards a commercial operating model to ease the burden on ratepayers, but Ocean Spa is very popular with our residents. We want to balance our new commercial approach by providing a discount to locals, so they won’t be priced out of the facility,” says Mayor Wise.

Other consultation item decisions

Decisions on other consultation items adopted today include establishing a council-controlled trading organisation to manage a commercially focused investment portfolio; loan-funding the deficits of some Council facilities as they transition to being financially self-sufficient; and restrengthening the Library Tower for Council office accommodation.

“In the Three-Year Plan we are committing to being more commercial in our thinking. We want to be more of an enabler, rather than a deliverer of services. The proposals we agreed to reflect that approach.”

Emerson Street project

Council debated the submissions made in opposition to the Emerson Street project. Staff were directed to investigate external funding opportunities to contribute to this project.

“Essential infrastructure upgrades are programmed into the Emerson Street project. If we must dig up the street, then this is an opportunity to achieve great outcomes for the accessibility, user-friendliness, and security of Emerson Street at the same time.

“It’s also about economic stimulation. By creating a space where people want to be, they are likely to spend more time and money in our central city.”

Mayor Wise says Council is thankful for all community feedback.

“We considered all submissions, including those who chose to make a written submission but not speak to Council. Thank you to everyone who took the time to make their voices heard.”

The Three-Year Plan community consultation took place over March and April. 837 submissions were received, an increase of 127 on the last Long Term Plan consultation.

The Three-Year Plan 2024-27 will be adopted at Council’s meeting on Thursday 27 June.

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