Time for tough decisions

Published date18 April 2024
Publication titleClutha Leader
Clutha has a proud record of containing rates, with no other council I am aware of maintaining a rates cap of 4% for over a decade

I can assure you that politically, and operationally, we are doing all that is within our power to navigate this extraordinary and fast-moving issue.

The nucleus of today’s council structure is exactly the same as it was in the 1960s, when New Zealand transitioned from the night cart to rudimentary settling ponds. Unfortunately for the financial sustainability of everyone, the new regulations and environmental standards are unrecognisable from those days. Councils are now stuck, once again, to the limited old tools, trying to fend off Wellington’s barrage of costs that are about to be imposed on communities, from the likes of water regulator Taumata Arowai.

To quantify the issue, our district is predicting we will have to undertake $427million of capital works over the next 10 years. We are expected to perform the impossible, dividing that obscenely large amount between 6947 urban and 4410 rural rate units. The dominating factor is, as always, the requirement for new and expensive upgrades to Three Waters infrastructure.

The new regulator has an insatiable appetite to lift the standards, leaving councils enfeebled. Either we do the upgrades required when consents dictate, or Taumata Arowai takes us to court and then we do the upgrades as well as pay the fines.

That’s not a choice, but it is the reality all councils are facing. Unfortunately, it will be through this lens that all of council’s operations and spending must be considered during the long-term plan consultation we are conducting across the district.

Our auditors have just completed their scrutiny of the information we intend to present, and it is reassuring as we face prioritising and making the hard decisions, that we are finally armed with the facts, which are confronting enough. This is not the time to be distracted by Facebook...

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