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Council Balances A Tightrope As Draft Long-Term Plan Goes Public

Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) is getting ready to have a challenging conversation with the community about its work plan and budget for the next ten years.

As part of the development of the Long-Term Plan 2024-34, details of a draft consultation document and supporting material have been published in the agenda for next Wednesday’s Council meeting (February 28).

Download the full Council agenda 28 February 2024 (PDF File, 74MB)

It lays out different options for delivering the three core services that the Council is responsible for: Environmental Regulation and Protection, Community Preparedness and Response to Hazards, and Public Transport.

Council Chair Peter Scott said this is the community’s first chance to see what might be on the table, although the proposals are not yet final and are subject to public feedback.

“I admit, many people switch off when they hear the words ‘Long-Term Plan.’ But you need to understand we’re talking about our budget. This is an essential piece of work that provides visibility around how ratepayers’ money could be spent.”

Climate change resilience – including flood protection infrastructure, future-proofing public transport, and better pest management and biodiversity outcomes, underpin much of the proposed work.

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Scott said Councillors have been judicious in their approach, spending many hours dissecting the various options.

“We’ve tried to find as many savings as possible but as I’ve previously signalled, a significant rates hike is likely as we try to balance rising costs and inflation with the community’s – and Government’s – growing expectations.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us, including around flood protection and meeting our public transport needs. We’ll continue to push for Central Government to come to the party, but funding will be tight. We’re walking a tightrope, just like you do with your household budget, and I hope you’ll see that reflected in the packages put forward.”

The proposed work plan could come with a $346 million price-tag for the first year alone, requiring a 24.2 percent increase in revenue the Council collect from rates. However, the actual amount each property pays will vary - depending on where it is, its value, and the services it receives.

For example, a property in urban Christchurch with a CV of $820,000 could expect to pay an extra $136.27 for services provided to it, compared to the 2023/24 year. A property in rural Ashburton with a CV of $4,760,000 could expect to pay an extra $523.99.

Scott says public feedback will be crucial to inform Council’s decision-making.

“Are we prioritising the things important to you? If you wanted reduced costs, which services would you be happy to see cut back? If you don’t think we’ve got it right – tell us. If you think we’ve hit the nail on the head – tell us that too.”

If councillors choose to adopt the consultation document next Wednesday, it will go out for public consultation in mid-March, when people can make formal submissions.

Until then, Scott encourages everyone to have a look through the draft document so they can start thinking about the options being considered.

“Remember, this is your money. How we spend it, and what your community gets for it, will be up to you.”

A further statement will be issued following Council’s decision on February 28.

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