Council signals changes to address climate resilience, social equity, rates affordability

Community feedback received during the consultation phase of the draft Annual Plan | Mahere ā Tau 2022/23 provided the Environment Canterbury Council with strong guidance as the Council considered changes to its draft plan at a meeting this week.   

The draft Annual Plan, which was subject to public consultation in March this year, highlighted three topics for public consideration – proposed changes to the bus fare structure, flood recovery and protection and future funding for action in response to climate change. 

The Council received 2807 submissions, with 110 of those submitters also sharing their views with the Council in person.  

Chair Jenny Hughey said, “Submissions received from our community were a very important consideration during Council deliberations this week.  

“Developing an Annual Plan is a substantial job for a Council, but we have just had two days of robust discussions so Council can prepare to adopt its final Annual Plan in June. 

“An important consideration for Council has been the changing economic and social environment in which we operate, and the ability of the community to pay for everything that needs to be done.  

“There is a lot to take into consideration and I am very pleased with the agreement from Council to respond to the climate emergency and address emissions through agreeing a new fare structure for public transport.   

“It is a balancing act.  We have kept social equity at the forefront, through agreeing on a new public transport fare structure and finding ways to reduce the rates increase as much as possible, while not taking our eye of the huge task ahead of us in the region”. 

Hybrid public transport fare option 

The range of public submissions on the public transport fare structure prompted Council to ask staff to bring back an alternative ‘hybrid’ option, to satisfy goals of both social equity and equality, affordability and emissions reductions.  This hybrid option presented received unanimous support.  It will mean from February 2023 Community Services Card holders, those aged under 25, tertiary students and Total Mobility card holders pay a $1 flat fare, and all other customers a $2 flat fare. 

Council also approved a resolution to extend free travel for SuperGold Card holders, to include all travel after 9am. 

Flood funding approved 

Regarding flood recovery and protection, Council approved borrowing of up to $12.2 million to fund the costs of the regionwide May 2021 floods. In the interests of rates affordability, the borrowing would be repaid by general rates over a 10-year term as proposed in the draft Annual Plan 2022/23. 

The increase in community awareness of climate change generated submissions in support of the proposal for further investigation into a climate change levy.  

Boost for Waitaha Action to Impact fund 

Council also agreed a decrease in the Me Uru Rakau region-wide planting programme – a reduction from the draft Annual Plan 2022/23.  However, it resolved to add an extra $300,000 into the Council’s contestable Waitaha Action to Impact fund, which is available to community groups. 

The resolutions approved by the Council this week will guide staff in preparing the final Annual Plan | Mahere ā Tau 2022/23, which will be considered for adoption at a public Council meeting to be held on Thursday 16 June 2022.