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Positive moves for city while rate increase low

Positive moves for city while rate increase stays low

Increased security measures for the central city, a cutting edge three bin kerbside collection system, and a stepped up refurbishment programme for community housing have been given the go ahead in the Christchurch City Council's Annual Plan 2008/09 approved today.

The positive initiatives will be achieved while still keeping the rates increase to below Long Term Council Community Plan 2006-16 (LTCCP) projections

Residential rates are set to increase by an average of 5.1%, significantly lower than the increase predicted in the LTCCP.

In adopting the Plan and amendments to the LTCCP, the Council has committed the necessary funding for the new kerbside collection system, to be introduced next year, and increased security for the central city with more security cameras and night-time patrols.

Other expenditure approved in the Plan includes a further $1 million for the planned Graham Condon Pool in Papanui to take the pool from six to eight lanes, and $100,000 for urgent maintenance on historically significant Grubb Cottage in Lyttelton.

The kerbside system will be funded by a combination of a general; rates charge based on capital value and a new targeted rate. The new uniform targeted rate will be charged for the full system and there will be a 75% part charge for properties using an outlying depot-based service and user charges in the CBD.

Rates for residential properties will increase by an average 5.1% which includes the fixed annual charge for the kerbside system. The average increase for businesses is 8.3% plus an $82 fixed annual charge for the kerbside system where it operates. For rural properties the average increase is 3.1% which includes the costs of the new collection system.

Mayor Bob Parker was delighted that the Council could introduce positive new initiatives while keeping the rate increase to below predictions.

"Ratepayers have sent the Council a clear signal that rates had to be set at a sustainable level. Householders are under pressure from increases in the cost of living, including hikes in the prices of fuel and groceries, and the impact of high interest rates.

"We will be judged on how we provide the services that our residents value, while at the same time making sure that rate increases are affordable," he said.

"We are focussing on basics - roading, water, sewerage, rubbish must run well. Council services should function well and be accessible to our citizens. We should not be doing anything that is not needed."

The Council has approved the installation of tram tracks in Cashel Mall during the refurbishment of the Mall since there is a significant saving in laying the tracks while the Mall is already being worked on. However, a decision on the extension of the tram route has been delayed, for further investigation into the length and course it should take.

Funding of nearly $1.5 million has been devoted to improving central city safety. Nearly $1 million will be spent on 25 further crime prevention cameras in the Central Business District, in addition to the 14 already in place. The Council will also fund the Safe City Officer programme at $450,000 a year to help reduce actual crime in the Central City after dark, and to improve perceptions of crime and safety in the city.

"This is a really positive move for Christchurch and will be another factor in helping reach our aim of becoming New Zealand's safest city," Mr Parker said.

Capital works totalling $256 million have been approved in the Plan, up from a proposed $230.7 million reported in the draft. The increase is partly due to $1.1 million in Council community housing refurbishment and maintenance. The Council plans to refurbish 270 units in the 2008-09 year compared with 120 in the previous year.

A number of fees and charges relating to Council-provided services have been changed both up and down, generally as a result of direct cost-recovery for the service.

The Council adoption of the Draft Annual Plan and amendments to the LTCCP follow three months of consultation, hearings and Council deliberations.

There were 795 submissions on the Plan and the LTCCP, and of those, 80 submitters, both individuals and organisations, were heard by the Council over a four day period.

A large number of the submissions related to the extension of the tram route and the variation to the City Mall plan to allow for the operation of trams.

Other proposals that attracted a number of submissions were rates, the capital works programme, the targeted rate for the new kerbside waste minimisation collection system, fees at early learning and recreation centres, and housing rent increases.

* The Annual Plan is how the Council annually updates the LTCCP forecast for the fiscal year commencing 1 July, using the most up-to-date financial and project information available. The LTCCP shows what the Council will be doing over the 10-year period of the LTCCP, why it is going to do these things, and what the costs will be.

* The rates levied are based on the revised property valuations for the city which were released late last year. However rates do not increase by the capital value change. Instead, the proportion a property-owner pays of the overall rate-take might alter slightly depending on the increase in their property's value compared to the city average.

* The commercial sector rate increase is higher than the residential because following the 2007 revaluation of the city, the increase in valuations for the commercial sector was by comparison on average much higher.

* There are relatively fewer commercial ratepayers in 2008/09 than in 2007/08 compared with residential, which could suggest fewer will be paying more. However, looking across a five year period the number of commercial ratepayers has grown 14.6% while the number of residential ratepayers has grown by 8.6%. Thus the "average" commercial ratepayer could be said to be better off.

* Rates differentials are designed to reflect different general rates for different property uses. Property used for business is charged at a high general rate by capital value based solely on the Council's decision that roading costs are caused more by business that by other sectors. Fifty four per cent of the roading budget is allocated to business. All other costs funded by general rates are allocated by straight capital value. Rural (farming) properties are charged 75% of the residential general rate on the basis that the Council provides fewer services to farmland. Residential (other) properties are charged the base rate.


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