Ashburton council sets 2.56% rates rise

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Ashburton District Councillors signed off an annual plan with an average rates increase of 2.56 per cent today.

‘‘Spend it wisely,’’ mayor Neil Brown told council staff as they headed back to their desks to begin implementing a programme of spending on projects and services vital to the running of the district.

Council will collect just over $38 million in rates, of which $8.1m will be spent on roads and transportation, $6.3m on recreation facilities and $4.8m on drinking water. Another $4m will be spent each on wastewater and parks and open spaces.

Rates for an Ashburton residential property worth $350,000 will be $2230, about $10 less than last year. Rates for a rural property worth $9m are $7930, up 3.2 per cent.

The local body has pruned spending as much as it can as its ratepayers deal with the ongoing impact of Covid-19. There is help for those struggling to pay their rates.

Mr Brown said the impacts of Covid-19 were being felt widely throughout the community, the country and the world.

The effects of the virus would also impact council’s longterm plan for 2021-31, which would be prepared over the next 12 months, he said.

To lower rates for the coming year, council used its AA+ credit rating to reduce interest rates on its loans and it also reduced funding to Experience Mid Canterbury because the international tourist market evaporated when New Zealand closed its borders.

Operating funds for the Ashburton Art Gallery, Ashburton Trust Event Centre and Safer Ashburton were kept at last year’s levels. Council staff would receive minimal wage and salary increases.

Mr Brown said the smaller rate rise would not reduce levels of services or delay important projects. Council was committed to completing the CBD revitalisation, Ashburton River
crossing wastewater pipeline and water supply upgrades. The new Ashburton Library and Civic Centre building would also be progressed; preliminary work is to start on the site next week.