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Rigorous debate reduces Waitakere rates increase

2 July 03 – Press Statement

“Rigorous debate” reduces Waitakere
rates increase by $1.15million

After a month of intense work and “rigorous debate”, Waitakere City Council has adopted an Annual Plan that will reduce its proposed rates rise by 1.8% or over $1.5 million.

This will translate into a rate rise for the average property, of just $1.71 a week.

The draft plan published in April, had proposed a 5.8% average residential rates rise plus external levies for next year, for a total rise of 6.48%.

However, after receiving 2400 submissions and reviewing budgets, Councillors insisted that the figure could be reduced. As a result, the Council today adopted an Annual Plan for 2003/04 in which the increase is just 4% before levies – saving 1.8%.

This figure increases to 4.8% with levies added and will see the average residential rate increase by $89 for the year.

These levies, which are outside of the Council’s control, include those for Auckland War Memorial Museum, MOTAT and Auckland Regional Transport Network Ltd.

While there is a small rise, on average, in the Council costs and regional levies component of the rates bill, the total bill for the average Waitakere property should show a small decrease compared with last year. This is because it will not include Auckland Regional Council rates which are now collected by the ARC itself. The impact of this change, however, will vary.

The Council will collect $89.9 million in rates for 2003/04.

The Annual Plan (budget) 2003/04 forms part of the Council’s inaugural Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) which outlines the City’s priorities for growth and development for 10 years ahead and how that should be paid for.

The LTCCP is developed in consultation with the community and endeavours to bring certainty about the city’s future direction. This will also give a measure of predictability to each Annual Plan and budget from this year onwards.

Under new local government legislation, Councils are required to prepare an LTCCP by 30 June 2004. Waitakere is one of the few Councils in the country, however, to complete a long term plan now - most others have opted for transitional plans which look only at the next financial year.

About 1500 of the 1942 public submissions to the plan, were delivered by the Citizens Against Privatisation group, which, among other things, supports the Council’s position not to commercialise water services.

Key features of the budget for next year are:
- major expenditure on library books ($1.05 million)
- $7.5 million towards the Civic Centre and Waitakere City Library projects in Henderson
- $7.33 million on stormwater infrastructure
- $887,000 to renovate the “Henderson Valley Studios” (film studios)
- $1.1 million on new footpaths and footpath repairs.
- $4.13 million on parks (paths, drainage, toilets etc).
- The Uniform Annual Charge for rubbish will be reduced
- Other new roading projects - $4.46 million

Among the projects pruned from the budgets was planning for development in the north west of the City

Two key decisions were around rubbish and water. The Council has reduced the solid waste uniform annual charge (UAC) paid by all properties and increased the price of the official Council rubbish bags by 20 cents, to $1.20.

The final calculation of the decrease in the UAC has not been completed at this time. The increase in the bag costs is to offset increased landfill disposal costs. Because the $1.20 is a user-pays charge, however, residents can control the amount that rubbish costs them. The UAC, meanwhile, will continue to pay for inorganic and recycling collections.

The costs of rubbish bags in Waitakere is still lower than those in neighbouring North Shore ($1.30) and Rodney (up to $1.95).

The Council also decided to stay with its present system of charging for water (which is funded through user charges) until a full assessment of water services (which is required by law) is undertaken in 2006.

In the meantime, water conservation programmes will continue and the Council will also look at issues such as subsidies, rates remissions or other assistance for those on low incomes.

The 4% rates rise for 2003/04 for Council costs compares well with others in the Auckland region. North Shore’s average increase is 4.65% and Manukau City rates will increase 5.6%. Auckland’s average rate rise (residential and commercial) is 2.5% and its residential rate will increase 5.4%.

Councillor Janet Clews was chair of the special committee which reviewed the plan. She says some hard decisions had to be made and there was rigorous debate.

“Unfortunately we can’t do everything that we would like, or that the community is asking for,” she says.

“We have to balance the needs and wants of the community against the huge costs of depreciation (around $27.5 million for 2003/04) and the general costs of building new roads, footpaths and community facilities in a rapidly growing City.”

“But overall we have a sensible, affordable, programme of work that will deliver on-the-ground projects for our citizens- and that’s what we were aiming for.”

Cr Clews is also pleased that the Council’s own internal costs have been kept to an absolute minimum.

“Staff responded to Councillors’ demands to reduce the projected rate rise and worked extremely hard to get the Council’s own costs down,” Mrs Clews says. “At the same time I’m pleased that we are continuing with many important projects in key areas.”

*The average residential rate in Waitakere City is currently $1293 a year (or $25 per week).

ENDS

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