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Coronavirus: Rotorua Rates Freeze On The Table

1. Rotorua Lakes Council building. (File) Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post [via LDR: single use only]

A rates freeze will be considered by Rotorua Lakes Council as part of its “focus on continuing to cushion the impact of Covid-19”. A 4.7 per cent targeted rates rise for essential services will also be considered.

A proposed annual plan, presented by council officers to elected members on Monday, had also included ongoing rates relief, a council statement said.

The annual plan will be subject to public consultation before ultimate approval by the council on July 9.

Part of the proposal included a recommendation to establish a $29 million fund for partnership projects that focused on employment and stimulating the economy.

“It is envisaged some of these could include projects that emerge from the business sector groups set up to develop strategies as part of Rotorua’s Build Back Better economic recovery plan,” the statement said.

A $1m fund was also proposed to support community initiatives from community groups, clubs and not-for-profit organisations.

“Additional networks and costs for essential services like sewage, water and waste will require an average 4.7 per cent targeted rates increase.”

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the proposed plan recognised and responded to the challenges faced by the council and Rotorua and provided flexibility to address new challenges and opportunities that may emerge.

“People are hurting and will need new and ongoing support and assistance, from [the] council as well as [the] Government.

“Our annual plan needs to recognise that and will focus on our commitment to cushion the impact of Covid-19 and implement the Build Back Better economic recovery strategy we have adopted.”

Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers member and councillor Reynold Macpherson said his group was “thrilled to bits” about the proposal to freeze rates.

“Our campaign hit the spot in the Covid context. It is a victory for all ratepayers.”

The council statement said considerations for the annual plan included the need to “maintain organisational capacity” to respond to new and emerging challenges in the face of uncertainty, “while continuing to fund renewals and maintain assets, protect [the] council’s ability to provide essential services, continue to upgrade infrastructure and provide needed services and support”.

The council estimated a shortfall of about $4.5m as a result of the impact of Covid-19 and proposed “prudent use of debt to cover operational shortfalls”.

Monday’s meeting was the fifth and final forum held to provide direction into development of the plan for the next financial year.

The forum was attended by the mayor and councillors and by the chairs and members of the rural and lakes community boards and Te Tatau o Te Arawa chair.

Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who chaired the forum, said elected members agreed to release an early indication of what is being proposed, given the urgency of the need to respond to Covid-19.

“We wanted to give the community an indication before then of what we’re considering for the coming year so they can understand the thinking behind the plan and the decisions we need to make.”

ANNUAL PLAN PROCESS TIMELINE
May 19 Proposed annual plan community consultation document goes to full council for approval
May 21 - June 17 Community consultation and engagement
June 30 Decision-making recommendations made and proposed to the council, based on feedback
July 9 Annual Plan adoption and setting of rates

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