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Canterbury Ratepayers Face 17.9% Rates Hike

Canterbury households are facing a lower than expected rates rise after the regional council found savings, including delaying some transport projects.

After two days of deliberations last week, Environment Canterbury pulled back its proposed average rates rise from 24.2 percent to 17.9%.

Acting chairperson Craig Pauling said there were some tense negotiations, but he was pleased with the outcome.

The councillors voted on 15 main resolutions, with several resulting in close division among the 16 councillors, he said.

‘‘Even though it was tense throughout, there was good support at the end and people felt there was some good give and take in the room,’’ Councillor Pauling said.

‘‘The feeling in the room was, ‘we have done all we could have’.’’

Environment Canterbury councillors David East (back, left, Christchurch North East/Ōrei), Claire McKay (North Canterbury/Ōpukepuke), Tutehounuku Korako (Ngāi Tahu), Iaean Cranwell (Ngāi Tahu), Joe Davies (Christchurch North East/Ōrei), Nick Ward (South Canterbury/Ōtuhituhi), Deon Swiggs (Christchurch West/Ōpuna), Paul Dietsche (Christchurch South/Ōwhanga), Grant Edge (front, left, North Canterbury/Ōpukepuke), Greg Byrnes (Christchurch Central/Ōhoko), Vicky Southworth (Christchurch South/Ōwhanga), Craig Pauling (Christchurch West/Ōpuna), Peter Scott (South Canterbury/Ōtuhituhi), Genevieve Robinson (Christchurch Central/Ōhoko), Ian Mackenzie (Mid-Canterbury/Ōpākihi) and John Sunckell (Mid-Canterbury/Ōpākihi). Photo: Supplied by Environment Canterbury
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More than 1300 submissions were received on the draft Long Term Plan, with 153 making oral presentations during the hearings, which were held over four days.

‘‘We tested the water with some bold options in our consultation and the response demonstrated there were mixed views, with some saying we needed to deliver more, while others identified we could make savings or prioritise work,’’ Cr Pauling said.

Savings were made by delaying some of the proposed public transport projects, including delaying work on a mass transit business case until year 2 and postponing bus route improvement work until year 3.

‘‘It makes sense to delay this work so we have a better idea of where the Government and Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) are heading,’’ Cr Pauling said.

‘‘Some councillors thought we should be more cautious, but if we don’t put it in the plan, we don’t get anything from Waka Kotahi.’’

Around three-quarters of submissions supported the council increasing its spending on ‘‘river resilience’’, including flood protection, and pest and weed control.

The council is proposing to invest $25 million a year, over the next 10 years, to boost flood protection.

There was strong support for a district-wide rate for river resilience in Selwyn, and the council was considering similar options from the Ashley Rakahuri River and other rivers in South Canterbury.

Cr Pauling said it would need support from the community, local councils and ultimately central Government.

‘‘Over the last five years we have been getting more and more requests for how we might move forward in addressing our rivers.

‘‘It is recognition that rivers are important to everybody.’’

He said river resilience was a national issue, as disruption to bridges on major routes could affect the whole country.

‘‘Room for rivers’’ was an important conversation and could be achieved by buying land, such as Environment Canterbury buying land beside the Ashburton River.

Another example was the Waimakariri District Council’s land purchase on Lineside Road, beside the Cam Ruataniwha River.

‘‘By acquiring the land we can do something great for the community,’’ Cr Pauling said.

Council staff will now finalise the Long-Term Plan before it is audited by Audit New Zealand and adopted by councillors on June 26.

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