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Sewerage Scheme Decision Drives Up Rates Rise

More than 1 per cent has been added to Rotorua’s draft average rates rise, taking it over 11 per cent.

Rotorua Lakes Council says this was mainly driven by its decision to have general ratepayers cover a bigger share of the cost of a rural sewerage scheme.

Other notable decisions included giving the green light to plans and funding for a new skatepark – a project it had considered shelving.

The council considered 14 proposals in two days of Long-term Plan 2024-34 deliberations, and the final meeting on Monday covered how decisions would impact the plan overall.

Among approved proposals were spending $9.9 million over three years on an Inner City Masterplan; continuing to explore leasing arrangement opportunities for council pensioner housing; increasing the council’s contribution to the Tarawera Sewerage Scheme from $825,000 to $1.485m and seeking more external funding; and a raft of changes to roading funding.

Councillors agreed to contribute $650,000 in year three of the plan towards a new skatepark at Kuirau Park, to give the Rotorua Action Sports Charitable Trust time to raise the rest of the funding for the $2.5m project.

More aquatic centre upgrades would be pushed to year two of the plan and $200,000 would go towards a preliminary design for a revised scope, exploring partnership and other funding options, and consulting with the community.

Councillors directed chief executive Andrew Moraes to negotiate with the Department of Internal Affairs to allow redirection of $2.5m of government Be Better Off funding towards wastewater or core infrastructure work.

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If this did not happen, the council approved it to be spent on the revised aquatic centre plan.

Councillors also approved a plan to charge short-term accommodation owners fitting certain criteria the council’s business and economic development targeted rate.

The changes would result in an increase of the proposed 10.24 per cent average general rates rise to 11.42 per cent in year one.

Corporate services group manager Thomas Collé told councillors at the Monday meeting this was mostly driven by its Long Term Plan decisions around the $56.2m East Rotoiti - Rotomā sewerage scheme.

They last week voted unanimously to pour $5.424 million more into it to spread a greater share of the cost across all ratepayers, easing the cost to owners of properties being connected. The decision would cost all district ratepayers an extra $15.50 a year for 25 years, and drop the up-front cost for households in the scheme to $22,486.

Other capital projects moving into year one of the plan were also a factor.

Collé said the council’s borrowing capacity had narrowed.

Debt would peak in 2029, leaving it $38m below its internal debt limit, compared to a $50m gap in the plan it consulted on. It would be $111m below its external limit.

A final plan will be adopted June 26.

- LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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