Council adopts 2023/24 Annual Plan
Published on 28 June 2023
A big day in Council this week saw the discussion and adoption of the 2023/24 Annual Plan and the setting of rates for the financial year ahead..
A large amount of work goes into the production of an Annual Plan by the Governance Team and Council staff. With the challenge to reduce rates below the 9.3% that was forecast in the 2021-2031 LTP, in a year where the community and Council are impacted by interest rate increases and higher costs of living, Council is pleased to be able to deliver an average rates increase of 7.95% while holding service delivery commitments to meet community needs.
This included the addition of the Maheno Water Scheme into Council’s operations, which is a new activity and therefore a part of the overall rate increase. This followed the request from consumers on the private scheme for Council to take over the operation of the scheme, and the new rate will be borne by those consumers.
A key item of interest for the community, the Waitaki Sports and Event Centre, was considered as part of the Annual Plan Adoption paper. During the engagement for the 2023-24 Annual Plan, the community were invited to share their views on whether they wanted Council to hold the commitment to the Centre at $10 million, increase the funding commitment to $15 million, or stop the project.
Council deferred making a decision on this at the 30 May Council meeting to the 27 June meeting, in recognition of needing more information before such an important decision was made on behalf of the community to ensure that the best decision was made – for now and for the future. The benefits of the facility had to be weighed against the ongoing costs of running the facility.
Council has agreed to increase the funding to $15 million. Of this, $10 million will be loan-funded over 20 years, and the remaining $5 million is be funded from sources that do not have a rates impact. One of those sources will likely be the RMA Reserves Fund which currently has a balance in excess of $2m.
Increasing Council’s funding commitment from $10 million to $15 million will enable the Waitaki Sports and Events Centre Trust to pursue funding support from external funding agencies to guarantee the delivery of the new facility.
Speaking in support of increasing Council’s contribution, Cr Jim Thomson said “We tend to, when we sit around this table, focus a lot on costs. I think this is an opportunity to focus on investment, we’re investing in the future of our young people…this shouldn’t be a question of should we or shouldn’t we? This should be a question of how do we make it happen?”
Deputy Mayor Hana Halalele also spoke in support of the $15 million option, noting the number of families who have to travel long distances out of the district every weekend to support their children’s sporting activities, saying “We could offer that opportunity here in our community, I understand the challenges in terms of cost but I also want to advocate for the wellbeing of the community”. She urged her Council colleagues to consider the legacy that they could leave by unlocking the funding to ensure the centre could achieve its full potential.
Mayor for Waitaki Gary Kircher agrees “There is no doubt that the Centre will be a huge asset to our community and bring many wellbeing and economic benefits and opportunities to our wider district. There is a real need for a facility of this scale, and we know that this will help keep families in our district, and attract new families to move here.”
“We are excited about turning the Centre into a reality and building a facility that we are all going to be proud of, and enjoy for many years to come. We have agreed on how our Council can fund this without all of the cost being covered by our community via their rates, which is important during this challenging time. We look forward to exploring the opportunities the centre presents and welcoming the community to it when it’s completed”.
Another item confirmed during the Annual Plan adoption paper was the parking fees for Oamaru from 1 July 2023. Council will offer 1-hour free parking daily through the winter months and paid parking after the free hour will increase to $2 per hour.
Council also reconfirmed the commitment to the Oamaru Visitor Centre of $100,000 for 2023-24 to allow them to continue to deliver their information service to visitors to the region.
There is a big programme of delivery ahead in the 2023/24 Annual Plan across Council, with some great work being done and some new projects committed to. Council looks forward to delivering the work and activities to our residents to continue in our vision for making Waitaki the best place to be.