District council annual plan

Councillors gather to discuss the final draft of this year's Annual Plan

Ashburton District Council councillors discuss budgets for the final draft of the Annual Plan.

Councillors from the Ashburton District Council have met to discuss the final draft of the Annual Plan.

Rates will increase by 9.4%, a 17% inflation compared to the 7.8% increase the council had originally anticipated in their Long Term Plan.

The meeting last week followed the council’s call for public submissions towards council-funded services and facilities, with the goal of developing budgets that would enable the council to act on changes both the people of Ashburton and councillors believed were necessary.

Among the proposed projects was the major roading repairs programme which aims to reduce future maintenance on roads by renewing them to a highly versatile standard.

Floods last year highlighted the district’s vulnerability to rising water levels, and the resulting damage is still in the process of being repaired.

The Annual Plan considers the likelihood of future emergencies and the associated planning and prevention costs.

The need to improve water supply infrastructure was made apparent by the floods, with work in Methven, Mt Somers, and Rakaia already underway.

In response to public submissions the Annual Plan includes budgets for new footpaths, disability-friendly playgrounds, and public toilets, while also responding to necessary changes imposed by evolving government health and safety standards.

Factors that have challenged the budget include inflation, which has impacted the cost of purchasing both resources and services; a big hit with multiple council projects already underway, such as the construction of the new library and civic building, Te Pātaka o kā Tuhutuhi and Te Waharoa a Hine Paaka, already delayed by six months.

Covid continues to impact supply chains contributing to the delay of the Civic Centre, while also reducing customer traffic and therefore revenue of various facilities, in particular those reliant on tourism.

The council gave the public opportunity to support or oppose delaying capital projects such as redeveloping the entrance of the Ashburton Domain and reducing public services in a bid to free up finances, also offering to source $1.7 million from forestry reserves to fund the council’s major roading repairs programme which would have reduced ratepayer expense.

However, feedback supported the continuation of council projects and services, resulting in the approval of the 9.4% rates increase.

Funds gathered from the rates increase will go towards addressing issues raised by both government regulations and submissions from the public.

Councillors finalised the Annual Plan draft this week, and will begin scheduling the projects and changes within Ashburton’s communities.

-By Indi Roberts