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Communities Respond To Otago Regional Council’s Long-Term Plan

“We’re incredibly grateful to those who read the proposals and gave us their feedback on our Long-Term Plan in person, online and on paper,” says Council Chair Gretchen Robertson.

Following public events across Otago promoting the opportunity, the council received 128 submissions from the Dunedin territorial area, 70 from the Queenstown Lakes District area, which includes Wānaka and Queenstown, 24 from Central Otago, 18 from the Clutha District and 12 from the Waitaki area. There were another 152 submissions where people did not identify which area they came from.

“The task of communicating and ensuring everyone knows about this is a big exercise for any council, let alone a Council that covers such a large geographical area. The opportunity to comment on our Long-Term Plan comes around every three years, and we’re pleased this number of people got involved,” Cr Robertson says.

Major themes of public submissions included concern about rates rising, and both support and opposition to investing in public transport in Dunedin and Queenstown. 

There appears to be more support for introducing the proposed target and general rating splits for Flood and Drainage services. Extending the general rate component of these costs across the region was also favoured.

For and against views were also shared on proposals for new rates being introduced to fund activities such as navigational safety and catchment management plans, and on the ORC’s financial strategy and rating changes, with some people’s rates proposed to reduce, others to go up, under a raft of new rating categories.

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The proposed average rates impact for all Otago households combined would see rates increases of 18.6% in 2024-25, 11.2% in 2025-26 and 9.4% in 2026-27.

“Understandably for many at this time, the cost of providing services, the size of rates bills and affordability is a concern for people. While some also submitted it was still important to continue looking after Otago’s water quality, air and environment as a whole,” Cr Robertson said.

Interest was high in public transport, with significant commentary around whether the council should stop, change or pause the amount proposed to be spent on public transport in the region.

Submitters were also interested in proposals associated with transport trials in the likes of Wānaka and Oamaru. Some asked for the reintroduction of train services in Otago and others supported a bus service between Balclutha and Dunedin.

People asked for more frequent and reliable buses, extended service hours and expanded routes to underserved areas such as Outram and Dunedin airport.

People felt investment was needed in Queenstown’s public transport systems due to traffic congestion to reduce emissions and to extend service hours.

They also wanted public transport to support local activities, such as swim clubs.

A new environmental fund put forward because Government’s funding for such projects to protect the environment is coming to an end – received broad support.

Many favoured funding the new dedicated environmental fund for large-scale projects that would be over and above the Council’s grants scheme such as the annual ECO Fund.

Large-scale environmental projects funded under this new proposed scheme might include pest management and water quality projects, aimed at maintaining the environment gains made when the funding was provided by the Government.

Public hearings for 53 submitters wishing to present their views in person will take place on May 20 and 21 in three locations around Otago. These are May 20, QLDC Council Chambers 11-2pm, and Philip Laing House, Dunedin, all day.

After the council has considered all submissions, it will meet to make final decisions about the consulted proposals on 29 and 30 May. The final Long -Term Plan will then be prepared for Council adoption on 26 June.

Implementation of the Plan begins 1 July 2024.

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