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Waikato district communities have their say on proposed 13.75% rate increase

Stick to essential spending and keep rates low. 

That’s the overwhelming feedback from Waikato district communities following hearings on Waikato District Council’s draft 2024/25 Enhanced Annual Plan. 

Waikato District Council proposed a 13.75% increase in general rates revenue required for the next financial year. 227 submissions on the draft 2024/25 Enhanced Annual Plan were received, with 50 submitters requesting in-person hearings. 

The number of responses received this year was higher than in previous Annual Plan consultations, which acting chief executive Tony Whittaker said was to be expected given the cost-of-living crisis impacting everyday New Zealanders. 

156 specifically commented on the proposed 13.75% general rate revenue increase, which the vast majority (149) opposed. 

“We’ve heard loud and clear through the consultation and submission process that people in our communities are experiencing financial stress, particularly families and those on fixed incomes, and the unaffordability of rates is a real concern,” Whittaker shared. 

“At the same time, our Council have also heard that there is dissatisfaction with services being provided by the Council. People want more from the Council for less money. So while the Council is being asked to focus only on absolutely essential spending with no “nice to haves,” and reduce or delay projects as much as possible, there is also a clear expectation that we deliver quality water, roading, waste management and community services,” he says. 

For the smaller number who supported the increase, general comments indicated an understanding of the reasons behind the higher proposed rate increase and a desire not to further delay infrastructure maintenance and renewals. 

“We’ve also received feedback that the government’s rate rebates scheme should be extended to support those who do not meet the current eligibility criteria but will struggle to pay their upcoming rates bill. We’ll pass that feedback onto the Department of Internal Affairs and get as much support as possible from Central government to reduce the burden on local ratepayers,” he adds. 

Other themes during the hearings included requests to fix roads and stormwater systems, limit spending on outdoor spaces, and dissatisfaction with how rubbish and recycling are funded. 

The Council will deliberate from 4 to 6 June 2024, when they will review and discuss submissions.  

By law, Councils must review their Long Term Plan every three years. This year, central Government gave Councils the one-off option to delay their 2024-2034 Long Term Plan as part of the “Local Water Done Well” legislation and instead prepare an ‘Enhanced Annual Plan’ for the 2024/25 financial year. 

The 2024/25 draft Enhanced Annual Plan proposed an increased general rate revenue requirement of 13.75% for the district to maintain current service levels and deliver essential infrastructure projects. 

Consultation on the proposed rate increase closed on 26 April 2024. 

The Annual Plan is due to be adopted by the end of June 2024, and will come into effect on 1 July 2024.