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Core Services Focus Drives Ashburton’s 11% Rate Rise

Ashburton District residents will face an 11.8% average rate increase when the long-term plan is signed off later this month.

Mayor Neil Brown said 11% was an acceptable result considering the average rate rise across the country was sitting at 15% and Ashburton aimed to keep its increase around 10%.

“It’s high, but inflation is certainly not our friend, interest rates are kicking in and it’s all biting.”

The rates increase in 2024/25 is 11.8%, with a forecast 10.1% and 11% the following years.

More than 1500 submissions presented a wide range, and polarising, views for councillors to consider, with four days of hearings and five days of deliberations to finalise the plan.

A common thread from the community through the process was to make savings where possible and focus on core services like roads and water, Brown said.

“We dropped the frilly stuff and focused on what was needed.

“We had some good comments come through the submissions which gave us food for thought and we’ve changed our minds after we've listened to them.”

Some tough decisions were made that might not please everybody but they were made in the best interests of the district, he said.

The plan has $67.6 million budgeted over the next ten years on road upgrades, $33.9m on drinking water infrastructure, and $22.6m on wastewater.

Those figures alone make up the bulk of the rate increase in 2024/25.

From what the council consulted on it has added $200,000 to tackle water quality issues at Lake Hood and an additional $500,000 per year for shingle roads that pushed the increase up to 11.8%.

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Of the big decisions, the simplest was introducing a green waste bin to the kerbside collection service.

The others required more debate.

Councillors couldn’t support spending $3.1m on either outdoor pool option – as well as the around $400,000 operating costs for a four-month operation.

Working with the Tinwald Reserve Board on an alternative for the Tinwald Pool site is “the best solution for that community”, Brown said.

“It’s now going to the community to say what they want to turn that site into.”

Councillors had to be brave with the decision for a managed exit of stockwater services by 2027, with a working group to help find alternative delivery options, Brown said.

Pushing the stadium extension out two more years to start in 2030 means it will go through two more long-term plan processes allowing future councils to re-evaluate its cost and timing.

After a lengthy debate on the future of Balmoral Hall, the decision was to retain it for two years before being either sold or demolished, while the adjacent land will be turned into a shingled car park.

The outlier was a mini-golf course to be constructed for up to $400,000 at the EA Networks Centre, to be paid for from the reserve contributions fund.

The final plan is set to be adopted on June 26.

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