Council urged to restore contributions
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”.
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.
Vision Kerikeri chairman David Clendon.