Public consultation launched for Northland Regional Council’s annual plan with proposed rate increase
The proposed fare increase is partly based on the increase in the cost of public transport services. Photo / Provided
Northland ratepayers may have to dip deeper into their pockets than originally anticipated as rising costs affect Northland Regional Council’s service operations and spending plans.
In its draft annual plan 2022/23, the regional council proposes a tariff increase of 13.89% for the whole region, compared to 13.79% indicated in the long-term plan (LTP).
Public consultations on the plan began on Saturday and will continue until Friday, April 29.
For ratepayers in Kaipara and the Far North, the 2022/23 average annual increase remains at $48 per pricing unit, while Whangārei’s will be slightly higher at $65.
A new municipal boat and rising public transport costs justify the proposal, according to the regional council.
NRC President Penny Smart said that although the purchase of a new maritime vessel to replace the council’s boat, the nearly 20-year-old Waikare, has been approved via the latest LTP, the estimate initial will not be sufficient as design and construction costs have more than doubled. since.
Instead of $1.7 million, the new boat would now cost $3.3 million.
“This increase is largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its influence on costs and supply chains,” Smart said.
“It affected the cost of materials (especially aluminium), the price of transporting materials to New Zealand and labor costs.”
The council says the boat was a key part of the council’s infrastructure and not replacing it was not a realistic option given the work it does.
The Waikare is used to maintain beacons and buoys around the Northland coast; it helps with oil spills; cruise ship pilots; and performs other marine work, including the recovery of stranded vehicles.
The council had considered the possibility of building an all-electric vessel, but this had been ruled out as it would not have the range to travel Northland’s vast coastline.
Under the annual plan, the board plans to borrow the funds in 2022/23 and repay them over 15 years.
“We plan to increase rates from the 2023/24 year to cover this refund, as well as to cover the depreciation of the new boat so that we can afford a new vessel when the time comes,” Smart said.
“While this will not impact pricing for this next annual plan, it will mean an increase of approximately $0.80 per rating unit from the 2023/24 year.”
The costs of running public transport and an extension of bus services, particularly Whangārei CityLink, are also impacting regional fares.
While rising diesel prices and wage increases have fueled the cost of transport services by an additional 10% over the past year, the pandemic has deterred passengers from using buses, meaning that there is less revenue from fares.
The additional costs come from a separate school bus service that was put in place to address anti-social behavior at the Rose Street bus terminal.
The $188,000 of necessary operating expenses will be funded by Whangārei’s targeted transportation fee of $4.80 per year, which is why Whangārei residents are seeing a bigger increase in their fares compared to Kaipara and the ‘Far North.
The central government recently announced half-price public transport fares, but this will not impact the cost of running the buses and will last only three months, ending before the start of this plan.
To submit a submission for the NRC Annual Plan 2022/23, visit nrc.govt.nz/annualplan2022.