Council prioritises transport, freshwater, biodiversity and biosecurity spending

Environment Canterbury proposes an increase in expenditure in the priority areas of public transport, freshwater management, biodiversity and biosecurity, documents for this Thursday’s council meeting show.

The documents, made available on the Council’s website today, show an increase of 8.9% in total rates revenue*. The bulk of this is made up of 3% for public transport ($3m), and 3.5% for increased spending in freshwater management ($3.2m) and biodiversity ($0.8m). The Council proposes to reduce spending on air quality work, as domestic heating programmes have resulted in significantly improved air quality across the region.

“No Council wants to increase rates, and the Councillors have debated long and hard on this one. This proposed increase in rates is in line with public transport and pest management consultation we carried out last year, and will give us the ability to deliver in these and other priority areas of work,” Chairman Steve Lowndes says.

The Council’s Long-Term plan, most recently updated last year, indicated a likely 5.1% increase in rates funding for the 2019/20 year. The council papers say that since then, consultation on public transport and pest management indicated ratepayers wanted more spent in those areas, which is reflected in the proposed increase. The 3% increase for public transport will increase frequency of service and attracts supporting funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency, enabling delivery of the first stages of the Regional Public Transport Plan, consulted on last year. Most of that 3% would be met by a Christchurch urban targeted rate.

Last year’s consultation on the Regional Pest Management Plan indicated ratepayers wanted more spent on pest management. The Long-Term Plan 2018-28 signalled an investigation into the feasibility of expanding the Banks Peninsula Community Initiative Programme rate.

This investigation has been undertaken and we are now proposing that this rate be replaced with a new Pest-Free Banks Peninsula (PFBP) rate to apply to all rateable properties in the Port Hills, Banks Peninsula and Kaitorete Spit. This would be combined with general rates, at a proposed ratio of 50% PFBP rate, 50% general rates.

A number of changes to the Council’s Fees and Charges and Revenue and Financing policies will be consulted on, which includes the proposed Banks Peninsula pest rate. Other proposals include a water data fee associated with compliance monitoring of water data, though the council would need to decide when to implement it. Harbourmaster’s fees are also proposed to increase, including swing mooring fees, covering the actual cost of providing them. A non-compliant incident response charge to recover costs of responding to incidents caused by non-compliance is also proposed.

“Council will discuss the draft annual plan and policy changes again on Thursday, before agreeing on a final set of documents to be made available for community feedback between 18 February and 19 March.

We are very much looking forward to hearing what people have to say. We have looked at the numbers and, for example, a $570,000 Christchurch property would attract a further $25 per year to enable us to move forward on the work in the plans. But the Councillors are acutely aware that any increase in rates must be palatable to the community, and we want to know if the public supports the move to accelerate activity or not,” Lowndes says.

The Council papers for Thursday’s meeting can be viewed here.

* This is the increase in total revenue from targeted and general rates combined. It is not what all ratepayers’ rates will increase by as ratepayers pay a combination of targeted and general rates depending on where they live and the value of their property. Click here for a rating table showing the impact of the proposed increases on a range of sample properties across Canterbury.