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Environment Canterbury: A practical solution for bus users

Long-Term Plan 2018-28 deliberations return a practical solution for bus users

At the Environment Canterbury Council meeting today (Wednesday 23 May), the Councillors deliberated on the submissions received on the draft Long-Term Plan 2018-28, and in particular the community input regarding the proposed changes to the public transport service.

“Since we put the draft plan out for consultation at the end of February, we have been hearing from the community. The majority of formal submissions covered the public transport options that we had asked for specific feedback on, although many of those submitters also made comment on other aspects of the plan,” Environment Canterbury chairman Steve Lowndes said.

“We received support for the Healthier Homes Canterbury loan initiative, the new Climate Change Integration programme, and requests for additional funding to support community groups in the biodiversity and protection space.

“Council would like to thank all those people who made a submission. The amount of work that goes into putting together a submission is not insignificant in many cases, and the effort is very much appreciated by the Councillors. Many submissions covered items that are already underway or included in the proposed budgets – but this feedback is just as important, so we know what is important to the community and therefore what needs to stay in if we have to consider what we can do less of in order to accommodate a new request.”

At the Deliberations Meeting the Councillors reviewed the solution developed to address the issues raised by the community in response to the proposed public transport options.

The solution is a modification of the six routes proposed to be disestablished – with frequency changes, the combining of two routes, extension and re-routing of others.

“People told us that they didn’t like any of the options put forward in the draft plan to address the financial position of our public transport network. They also told us what they needed from the network. It is this information that was gold for Council when it came to designing the solution, which goes a long way towards addressing the financial needs and the community needs,” Cr Lowndes said.

“Staff have read all the submissions, and they attended the three days of hearings, listening to the comments from the submitters and guidance from Council on where we wanted this to land. What we ended up with is a new solution that we are confident will satisfy the majority of submitters.”

By adopting the new solution, the financial result needed will not be realised as quickly.

“Many submitters, including those who do not take the bus, said they were happy to increase rates to retain the services. To deliver the new solution we have looked at targeted rates and we are also budgeting for a 2.5% increase in revenue from public transport fares**”.

Information on the public transport changes can be found on the metro website.

As part of the public transport deliberations, Council agreed to include $250k each year for the first two years of the Long-Term Plan for trials of innovative new ways to deliver the service; and to restore the Total Mobility subsidy to $35.

During the deliberations, Council also agreed to add additional funding for catchment liaison committees, Banks Peninsula pest control and environmental hubs, reflecting Council’s desire to see a step-change in effort in biodiversity.

They also agreed to reduce the budgeted amount for river rating reserves in order to allow for the public transport and other changes, while keeping the year one rates increase under 5%.

To deliver the Long-Term Plan 2018-28, with the changes requested by the community and accepted at the Deliberations Meeting, will require an indicative rates increase of 4.9%* in year one (2018/19).

To achieve this, revenue from general rates will need to increase by 5.2% and from targeted rates by 4.6% (from 2017/18 revenue). Following Council’s instruction today, staff will calculate exact rates income to achieve the activity in the Long-Term Plan.

“We started the process back in February with a draft plan that required a 4.5% total rates revenue increase. All the information and requests we received brought this up to a potential increase of 7.5%, so these deliberations required Council to consider what we could and should support by way of changes, what we could fund differently or phase over a longer time frame, and what we were unable to support – so that we could bring that 7.5% back down to within an acceptable rates increase figure.

“I am very happy with what we have managed to achieve for public transport in response to the wishes of the community, as well as the other areas we have supported with additional funding or by making changes within existing allocations, while keeping below the 5% increase mark,” Cr Lowndes said.

The final Long-Term Plan 2018-28 will be adopted by Council on 21 June 2018.

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