Ready for year of chal­lenges

Matamata Chronicle - - What’s On - HUGH VER­COE

Jan­uary has been nice and quiet for me with my re­gional coun­cil work, but this is all about to change. My di­ary for Fe­bru­ary al­ready shows meet­ings on 14 days.

We start with re­view­ing coun­cil’s an­nual plan. Ev­ery three years coun­cil reviews its ten-year plan and each year we re­view the sin­gle year com­ing up. Hence we are now re-look­ing at the plan and bud­gets for the next year start­ing 1 July 2017. The ten­sion around the coun­cil ta­ble is how do we do more work without putting rates up.

Healthy Rivers Plan Change has al­ready cost $13.5m to get to this stage and we will soon find out the es­ti­mated cost for re­gional coun­cil to im­ple­ment this plan change, as­sum­ing it is even­tu­ally adopted in a sim­i­lar form to that cur­rently pro­posed. The cost of hear­ings and im­ple­men­ta­tion will not be small.

Re­gional growth is one area where we get in­stant ex­tra in­come. Ev­ery time some­one in the re­gion sub­di­vides a new sec­tion, coun­cil gets an ad­di­tional ratepayer, and gen­er­ally there is no added cost to coun­cil.

With de­vel­op­ment boom­ing in Hamil­ton city and north­ern Waikato es­pe­cially, all those new ratepay­ers are ex­tremely wel­come. We could ac­tu­ally leave the pro­posed work plan the same and re­duce rates with the ex­tra in­come from new ratepay­ers, but this gen­er­ally does not hap­pen. Hope­fully the new growth in­come will pay for all the ex­tra things ‘‘we re­ally should be do­ing’’.

I was pleased to be re­elected as chair­man of Re­gional Trans­port for a fur­ther term. This is joint com­mit­tee with each district coun­cil ap­point­ing one mem­ber to the com­mit­tee, the po­lice road trans­port man­ager is on the com­mit­tee as is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from NZ Trans­port Agency.

The com­mit­tee’s task is to look at trans­port in all forms across the whole of the re­gion. This in­cludes road, rail, ports, etc. Safety makes up a large amount of work and fa­tal­i­ties on our Waikato roads con­tin­ues to be the high­est in the coun­try. Work is cur­rently un­der­way in two key ar­eas look­ing at the ex­ten­sion of the Waikato Ex­press­way through to the Port of Tau­ranga, and yes we are look­ing at pas­sen­ger rail from Hamil­ton to Auck­land. It will be an in­ter- es­t­ing year.

Nice to see Fon­terra in­crease its pre­dicted pay­out to farm­ers but hope­fully this will not trig­ger an­other in­crease in farm prop­erty val­ues. When ru­ral val­ues in­crease higher than ur­ban val­ues the farm­ers end up pay­ing more in rates. I am of­ten asked if a prop­erty based tax sys­tem is fair to both ru­ral and ur­ban peo­ple. No it is not and never has been, but that is a topic on its own.

Will Fon­terra’s pay­out in­crease trig­ger an­other in­crease in farm prop­erty val­ues this year?

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