Coun­cil urged to re­store con­tri­bu­tions

The Northland Age - - Local News - Ratepay­ers pay for de­vel­op­ment in­fra­struc­ture By Peter de Graaf

Vi­sion Kerik­eri is urg­ing Far North Dis­trict Coun­cil to re­turn to de­mand­ing de­vel­op­ers pay part of the cost of new and up­graded in­fra­struc­ture rather than ratepay­ers shoul­der­ing the bill for rapid growth.

Most coun­cils re­quire de­vel­op­ers to con­trib­ute to­wards the cost of roads, foot­paths, sew­er­age and wa­ter for new sub­di­vi­sions or com­mer­cial build­ings, but FNDC scrapped de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions in 2015 to en­cour­age in­vest­ment.

Since then parts of the dis­trict have been boom­ing, putting pres­sure on ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture and ratepay­ers’ abil­ity to pay for up­grades.

Kerik­eri’s new waste­water plant is likely to reach ca­pac­ity sooner than planned, and wa­ter could run short this sum­mer thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of a fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, pre­dicted low rain­fall and an al­gal bloom in a key reser­voir.

For­mer Green MP and Vi­sion Kerik­eri chair­man David Clen­don said the coun­cil was strug­gling to pay for in­fra­struc­ture but wasn’t tap­ping into a “per­fectly le­git­i­mate” source of fund­ing. He un­der­stood the charges had been halted when the dis­trict had zero growth and “things were look­ing a bit dire,” but that was no longer the sit­u­a­tion.

“Our prob­lem now un­planned growth,” he said.

With sev­eral ma­jor de­vel­op­ments un­der way, it was “money go­ing beg­ging that will oth­er­wise come out of ratepay­ers’ pock­ets”.

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De­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions were de­bated at last month’s coun­cil meet­ing, Cr Ann Court say­ing Kerik­eri in par­tic­u­lar had had a “seis­mic shift” in the previous six months, and prob­lems were loom­ing with the town’s wa­ter sup­ply for drink­ing and fire­fight­ing.

Kerik­eri Re­tire­ment Vil­lage had warned the coun­cil about an in­fra­struc­ture deficit caused by the “sil­ver tsunami,” an ex­plo­sion in the num­ber of el­derly res­i­dents, and aged care firm Arvida had an­nounced plans for a ma­jor re­tire­ment com­plex.

Mayor John Carter said the dis­trict had still been feel­ing the ef­fects of the eco­nomic down­turn when coun­cil­lors voted to scrap de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions three years ago.

“Now it’s time for us to go back and have a se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion about it,” he said. He had asked for a re­port, com­pleted later this month, which would in­clude de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions as part of a wider re­view of rates and fa­cil­i­ties.

A re­port last year by Coun­cilMARK, which com­pares the coun­try’s lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, said a pol­icy of not charg­ing de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions added to fi­nan­cial pres­sure on the coun­cil.

De­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions are blamed by some for dis­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment and driv­ing up prop­erty prices. Con­cerns that con­tri­bu­tions were be­ing used to fund projects that had lit­tle to do with the de­vel­op­ments that paid them led to a law change in 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs, 51 of New Zealand’s 67 ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties charge de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions. In the Whanga¯rei Dis­trict, de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions are levied on all com­mer­cial build­ings, sub­di­vi­sions sec­ond dwellings.

A Far North Dis­trict Coun­cil spokesman said chang­ing the de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tion pol­icy would re­quire a pol­icy re­view, a pro­posal, pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, then adop­tion along­side the long-term plan, or a plan amend­ment.

“There is an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion be­tween staff and coun­cil­lors about the cur­rent de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tion pol­icy. How­ever, there is no clear path for­ward at this stage,” he said.

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Vi­sion Kerik­eri chair­man David Clen­don.

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