Decisions made on Long Term Plan consultation

10 Jun 2024, 9:12 AM

Following a month-long consultation, a day of hearing submissions and subsequent deliberations, Waitomo district’s elected members have decided how they will shape the district through Council’s Long Term Plan 2024-2034 (LTP).

From 16 April to 17 May, Council presented six proposals to the community asking for feedback on Council’s preferred options. The proposals were: Funding the future of our Rural Halls, Te Kūiti flooding remedies, Elder persons housing, updating the Stormwater Rating Area, introduce a targeted or differential rate on the District Roading Rate, and simplifying the rates structure.

Council received a total of 132 submissions, with a number of these being from outside the district.

Mayor John Robertson says elected members have carefully considered what Council needs to do in the next 10 years to improve the wellbeing of the district and build resilience for the future.

“How we pay for these will be through a combination of rates, fees and charges, subsidies, loans, and reserves. This allows us to spread the cost over time to reduce the impact on rates,” he says.

“We are facing a number of challenges that we need to address and your feedback has helped us to decide how to approach these over the next 10 years. We have considered the affordability in each case versus the best outcomes for our district and our decisions indicate where we see this being achieved.”

The decisions are as follows:

Roading differential or targeted rate for exotic forestry

After significant engagement from community submissions and through hearings and other discussions, Council resolved to introduce a differential at 3 times the roading rate for forestry exotic properties including those on State Highways and for mixed properties applying the 3 times differential only on the forested areas over 20 hectares.

John acknowledged the larger forest owners and managers’ willingness to work with Council to manage and/or fund the damage directly done to roads during the forest harvest process.

“Through the submission process, discussions with forestry owners, managers, and operators there was generally agreement that forestry harvesting activities were causing roading damage. The strong key messages from submissions were the proposed differential was too high and did not account for the benefits forestry brings to the district and that alternative approaches could be found to keep the roads in good repair,” he says.

“Council will put resource into working with the forestry industry to obtain harvest plans and implement agreements to maintain roads during harvest. We also recognise the benefits that forestry does offer to the district and show a willingness to work with the industry for solutions.”


Rural Hall ownership

Elected members and Council staff meet with five hall committees and the response to this proposal was generally positive. In consideration of the submissions and the meetings had with the rural hall committees, Council will progress discussions with transitioning hall ownership to those committees and communities who wish to do so.


Te Kūiti Flooding – invest in medium and longer term remedies

In response to the recent flooding events in Te Kūiti, Council proposed to invest $6.7 million over the first five years of the LTP. The investment would include creating retention ponds, specialist modelling and increasing network capacity.

The project assessment was given high priority by Council and with community responses favouring the increased investment, this will be included in our LTP. Design plans and engineer reports will be considered by Council to ensure the investment will deliver the benefits the community expects.


Elder Persons Housing (EPH) – rent levels and considering specialist providers

Council agreed to increasing the weekly rents more substantially to a level where eligible residents can access Central Government’s Accommodation Supplement (AS) to offset this increase. The increased rent would generate more rental income with minimal impact. . The increase in rent over two years will mean there will no longer be a need to have funding from general rates.

Council also asked for feedback from the community on who would be the best provider of EPH. The responses favoured exploring an alternative provider such as a Community Housing Provider which may offer more wrap around services and potential to expand the number of units in the district. This will be further explored.


Stormwater rate – change the boundary to better reflect network

Council reviewed the current urban boundary and found that it did not accurately reflect the infrastructure and properties benefitting from the network.

Council proposed to update the boundary with some properties being removed and others added.

On consideration of the points raised during consultation, an alternative boundary was proposed that made refinements based on the level of service received by properties. Council resolved to make this change to the new boundary which resulted in some rural properties moving outside the boundary and some urban properties remaining inside the boundary.


Rate structure simplification

A few of Council’s activities that have districtwide benefit have complex splits on how they are funded through rates. How the General Rate and Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) are portioned adds even more complexity.

It was proposed to introduce a simplified rating structure which removed the individual Aquatic Centre Rate and the District Development Rate and moved them into General Rates. It was also proposed to simplify the method used to split rates between UAGC and General Rate to improve transparency and simplicity. These proposals were endorsed.


Other considerations

Council also sought feedback on the installation of water meters and an “as needed” approach to investment in the water supply and wastewater treatment networks. Feedback was considered and Council resolved to keep these approaches. The installation of water meters is planned for Piopio in 2027/28 and Te Kūiti in 2028/29.


Other submissions

Hamilton Waikato Tourism asked Council to continue to fund them at $70,000 per annum. The LTP had proposed the funding be reduced to $30,000 per annum. A number of tourism providers had submitted in support of the Hamilton Waikato Tourism proposal. As a result of deliberations $30,000 remained in the budget with further discussions to occur with Hamilton Waikato Tourism and tourism operators before this funding would be paid.


There were also submissions on the setting of landing fees at the Te Kūiti Airfield. Council is looking at lower cost systems to record aircraft movements. Council will continue to work with regular airfield users to see what works best for all parties.

John says Council was very impressed with the quality of submissions and would like to thank the effort and passion submitters put into Long Term Plan submissions.

“They were very enlightening and helped Council make better decisions for the community.”

The Long Term Plan 2024-2034 will be formally adopted on 25 June 2025.