Ready for year of challenges
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?