Planning for the next 3-10 years

Published on 24 February 2024

Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo says Whangarei District Council is coming to terms with how to fund the myriad of significant and long-term issues councils are facing across the country.

“It is predicted that our ratepayers will be facing the double digit rates rises indicated by many councils around New Zealand, when it comes time to consult on our Long Term Plan in March/April.

“Every sector has been facing cost pressures. Rampant inflation, increased interest rates and escalating insurance costs mean it is costing a lot more to keep delivering all the things our community expects.

“Councils face these in the same way, along with new unfunded responsibilities handed down by successive central governments.

“Our communities rely on the services councils provide every day – waste collection, sewage treatment, clean water, roads, footpaths, support for community groups and events, libraries, and our residents should be proud of the work our Council has been doing in keeping costs down and our infrastructure in good condition.

“The cost of these services has outpaced the rates and user-pays funding models that councils use. Both Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and Central Government are currently reviewing ways to fund these.

An overhaul is needed and communities around New Zealand are all facing the same conditions. Local councils need to be “looking outside the box” for solutions, as they can no longer rely on just rates, or rates and Central Government funding to keep them going.

“When I first came into Council in 2007, a suggested rates increase of over 10% was enough to make people gasp. Successive years of squeezing more and more work out of less and less money, trimming costs and maintaining a very lean level of staffing have brought us here.

“We are efficient. Whangārei’s rates are still among the lowest in the country and our District cannot “save” or “cost cut” our way out of this situation without cutting services. We need to think differently.

“To keep Whangārei running, cater for growth, make sure our District’s infrastructure, financial situation and well-being are maintained, we need to look at how everything is funded.

“Construction price hikes, inflation, interest rate increases, and depreciation will make looking after our District’s assets more expensive than ever, and all are out of the control of Council. Even so, we will do everything we can to ensure we use every dollar in the best way."

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