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Published: 2015-03-13 00:00:00

The public’s voice is now being sought on a new 10-year plan that will play a key role in shaping the Waikato region’s future.

Yesterday Waikato regional councillors unanimously adopted the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan Consultation Document setting out the council’s proposals, rates implications and levels of service.

Council chairperson Paula Southgate said: “Over the next 10 years major changes will impact on our environment and lifestyle, and our plan looks at how we can tackle these challenges together.

“It’s important to us that we continue providing good service and value, keeping costs down for ratepayers today and tomorrow.

“We’re proposing to do a lot of really great work to improve water quality and protect our coastal and marine areas,” Ms Southgate said.

Other key proposals in the 10-year plan for public consideration include:

  • the establishment of a regional development fund to support regionally significant projects which build and strengthen a vibrant regional economy. The council is proposing that money for the fund comes from a portion of the council’s investment fund returns, after subsidising rates and allowing for inflation-proofing.
  • declining a request from TBfree New Zealand to collect a rate on its behalf for vector possum control work. While the council supports the intentions of the work, the council believes there are alternative collection methods available to TBfree New Zealand and a targeted council rate is no longer the most appropriate mechanism.

Also, the plan proposes an increase in the uniform annual general charge (UAGC), meaning an increase in this flat rate for all properties in the region. However, the overall impact of this increase will vary depending on property value, as the new proposed UAGC charge will pay for services previously funded by rates based on property value.

Ms Southgate said it was very important for people to have their say on the proposals.

“We’ve tried our best to make it easier for people to get involved in decisions on the region’s future. In the past we’ve prepared a 200-plus page draft long term plan and summary, but this year we’ve produced an easy to read 16 page document that will be delivered to households across the region,” she said.

The consultation document and other supporting material will be available online from this Saturday, 14 March at Submissions on the plan close at 4pm on Tuesday, 14 April and can be made online, via email or letter.

“Councillors appreciate and value community feedback when making final decisions, so I strongly encourage people to tell us what they think of the various proposals,” Ms Southgate said.

As earlier advised, under the proposed plan the council’s works programme for 2015/16 will be delivered on a rates revenue of $80.1 million. That means our rates revenue from existing ratepayers is going up by just 0.2 per cent. There will be no rates increase in 2016/17, with a rise of only 0.5 per cent in 2017/18.

Across the region, it means 60 per cent of ratepayers will either have a rates decrease or an increase of just $10 per annum.