Wake up or be prepared to cough up

Councils across New Zealand have their draft 10-year Long Term Plans (LTP) out for consultation over the next month or so.  Are you feeling sleepy already?

Wake up!  Big sums – your money – is at stake.

A long term plan (LTP) is a key planning document for councils. It sets out what activities council are planning over the following 10-year period, why they’re doing it, what community outcomes they’re trying to achieve and most importantly, how it will all be paid for.
Analysis by Federated Farmers shows a continuing trend of local government rates rapidly outstripping inflation.  From 2007-2017, the consumers’ price index went up 21%. The local government cost index – which councils say is a fairer reflection of their costs pressures – went up 29%.
 
But both are dwarfed by the 71% hike in local authority rates and charges. 

All ratepayers should pay attention to what their local council is proposing, because you’ll be helping to pay for it.  LTP consultation is your chance to say what you agree or disagree with, or even how you think it could be done differently. 

Federated Farmers is gearing up to submit to 68 different council LTPs across the country. We’re the only primary sector organisation that takes on this mammoth task, but we know it’s vital work for our farmer members. 

Small percentage shifts in the rates bill can means hundreds of dollars for a farm, with rates being amongst the highest overheads of some farming operations.  This is despite many farmers not even accessing the services they’re funding. 

This year many councils, including Queenstown Lakes District – which welcomes 34 visitors to every local during peak periods - face big challenges on how to fund their growing infrastructure needs.

Federated Farmers is of the firm view that local government should be provided with greater central government assistance to meet the costs imposed by visitors, rather than simply having to rely on rates. 

We’ll continue to support Council’s intention to seek greater contribution from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for roading improvements, and to seek funding from Central Government’s Regional Development Fund for other costs. 

But alongside that, we’re asking that councils focus their attention and resources on their core business.  Given the issues Queenstown Lakes District Council have had with their stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, we will be hammering this message home.

We expect any new projects to be both justified and appropriately funded. Ideally, those who benefit from an activity, should pay greater amounts towards it.  In our view, Queenstown Lakes District Council does very well at both justifying such projects and determining ‘who pays’.

We’re also keeping a close eye on the growing trend across the country for councils to start taking on roles in areas such as tourism promotion and economic development.  

In Queenstown Lakes, despite concern at the high level of demand for Council’s infrastructure and services, approximately $5 million per year is proposed around tourism marketing over the next 2 years.  Ratepayers will need to decide whether this is a good use of money or not, given the significant ($19.6 million over the next year) increases to council’s overall operating expenditure. 

When you get the chance, have a look through what’s proposed by Council. If you’re a Federated Farmers member, get your feedback to us so we can ensure your concerns are relayed. 
 
Kim Reilly - South Island Regional Policy Manager, Federated Farmers