Recovery brings weighty questions

Published on 15 March 2023


“Council is facing weighty questions about how to recover from Cyclone Gabrielle and prepare for future disasters, what it will cost and how we are going to afford it,” says Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo.

“As we grapple with assessing the damage, planning and scheduling the repairs and estimating the costs and sourcing the funds, we are also about to consult the public on our Annual Plan for 2023 and 2024. This is the plan that says what the priorities are for the coming year, and how they will be financed.

Annual Plan 2023-24 consultation (Note: this consultation closed for feedback on 5 May 2023).

“It would be fair to say that 2023 is going to be the year to rebalance and find our feet again in the wake of many challenges. We will keep running the things that are working well, fix anything that’s broken and create new assets where practical.

“The annual plan will see us through that and will allow us time to refocus on the planning for the next 10 years – starting with our Long Term Plan 2024 - 2034. That’s where some of the bigger issues like moving infrastructure out of the reach of sea level rise and climate change impacts will be at the forefront.

“Our Council wants us to have secure, strong, reliable access to the rest of New Zealand through our roading networks. That’s a priority. We need the repairs we make and the new infrastructure we build to be strong and resilient to resist future damage and therefore we may need to re-locate some of it.

“Affordability is an enormous question. How do we finance this work when our ratepayers are facing difficult times?

“Most of our income is from our ratepayers – every landowner in the district pays their share (based on the value of their land). Where possible we will also access central government funding to contribute to projects, for our District and region. The ability to pay rates alone is an ever-increasing concern of mine.

“In April 2023, we will put several scenarios to our District ratepayers as part of our Annual Plan consultation. Our original LTP option (approved before the cyclone), or a slightly higher rate option that will cover what is planned and in front of us. We need direction from the community as there is a lot to weigh up.

“I encourage everyone, not just those who normally follow Council matters, but everyone with an interest in the future of this District, to consider what we put forward and have a say.

“I also want to make a comment on democracy. Silence is not helpful. There will be people who agree and disagree with you. We need to hear from all sides before we make our decisions. Please talk to us when we call for submissions."

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