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Annual Plan balances affordability with vital harbour protection

AP pic

Porirua City Council has set its budget for the coming year, with a difficult balancing act between keeping rates as low as possible, while still investing in essential infrastructure and protecting the harbour.

At its meeting today, Te Puna Korero committee agreed to recommend an average rate increase of 9.71 per cent for the financial year 2023/24.

This means Council will provide the additional $3.6m required by Wellington Water to deliver its current level of service – funded half by rates and half by debt.

It was also agreed to increase non-regulatory fees by 3 per cent, and regulatory fees by 8 per cent for the coming year.

The estimated impact on the weekly rates bill would range from $1.90 to $10.45 extra per week, with areas that had big increases in property value in the recent QV revaluations seeing the higher increases.

Mayor Anita Baker said the Council was very mindful of affordability and cost of living challenges, but had to balance this with the commitment to protecting the harbour and mitigating climate change through infrastructure investment.

“We know these are tough times, but any short-term savings in rates by not funding Wellington Water would soon be wiped out by the longer-term cost of neglecting our infrastructure. Resilient pipes are fundamental to our goals and this essential work can’t just get pushed further down the road.”

Mayor Baker said Council had listened to the community feedback on affordability and proposed to cut an additional $1.1m on internal activities, on top of the $2.1m of savings and efficiencies that had already been made this year.

“We’re cutting back wherever we can, to the tune of $3.2m so that we don’t have to put any additional burden on ratepayers or increase overall debt levels.”

In introducing the report, Chief Executive Wendy Walker said this had been a particularly challenging annual plan – easily the most difficult the Council has had to face.

“Aside from the normal pressures we are teetering on the brink of recession, we know our people and our businesses are struggling, and we have water reform, which has introduced a lot of uncertainty.”

Affordability issues raised in public submissions had been factored into the 9.71 per cent increase proposal, which is why Councillors recommended funding half of the Wellington Water shortfall through debt.

Councillors spoke of the difficulty of weighing up the current cost of living situation in New Zealand, with the commitment to investing in essential water services and not throwing away the vital work underway in Porirua to fix aging infrastructure.

The final Annual Plan will be adopted by the full Council at its meeting on 29 June, and rates will then be struck.

To watch the meeting or read the full reports, visit our meetings page.

8 Jun 2023