ES de­fends rates hikes

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En­vi­ron­ment South­land, which has an in­vest­ment port­fo­lio to­talling $29 mil­lion and a 66 per cent share­hold­ing in South Port, is propos­ing big rates hikes in the next two years.

It pro­poses to in­crease rates by 8.8 per cent in 2019 and by 8.3 per cent in 2020, its long-term plan pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment says.

The av­er­age rate in 2017-18 was $308, and this will in­crease by $27 to $335 if the 8.8 per cent in­crease is im­ple­mented next year.

En­vi­ron­ment South­land chair­man Ni­col Hor­rell said the the rates in­creases re­flected its in­creas­ing work­load to meet com­mu­nity and cen­tral gov­ern­ment ex­pec­ta­tions for wa­ter qual­ity, in par­tic­u­lar.

‘‘We are not happy. We have spent a lot of time go­ing through the bud­gets with a fine-tooth comb be­cause these are sig­nif­i­cant rises, way above in­fla­tion for the next two years ... but we are ac­tu­ally be­ing asked to do quite a bit more.

‘‘These things, un­for­tu­nately, have to be paid for.’’

The pro­jected rates rises from 2021 till 2028 are not as high, rang­ing from 4.9 to 2.5 per cent.

En­vi­ron­ment South­land’s fi­nan­cial po­si­tion was not ex­actly as it seemed, Hor­rell in­di­cated.

The coun­cil had re­ceived good re­turns on its in­vest­ments dur­ing the past five years and had made a con­scious de­ci­sion to run those re­serves down when it had yearly deficits.

Much of the $29m in its in­vest­ment port­fo­lio was now tagged for spe­cific spend­ing, such as on river schemes when flood­ing hits.

‘‘We are reach­ing the end of the re­serves that aren’t ac­tu­ally tagged,’’ he said.

‘‘On the sur­face, peo­ple see we have got $29m, ‘ why are we putting the rates up’, but in re­al­ity, most of it we can’t touch.’’

En­vi­ron­ment South­land is also propos­ing in­creases to its fees and charges based on who uses and ben­e­fits from nat­u­ral re­source use across the re­gion.

The pub­lic has un­til May 16 to give its views on the En­vi­ron­ment South­land long-term plan con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment.

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