ES defends rates hikes
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.