Beefy plan out for feedback

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The Ashburton District Council adopted its consultation document for the draft long-term plan yesterday, but not without some grumblings about the size of the document and some finessing of words.

Council wants it clear, in bold letters, that it is not considering water charges on the back of a $5 million plan to install water meters on every connection to a council drinking water scheme.

Audit New Zealand says the life of the plan is 10 years and the current council can only speak for the next few years, until the next local body elections in 2022. Another council might have different ideas.

So after a bit of debate, which could have resulted in council having to delay the consultation phase because of some re-writing, the draft long-term plan (LTP) was adopted for consultation.

Council estimates the district could be losing up to 50 per cent of water from its drinking water schemes through leaks and inefficient use, and the meters would be used to detect abnormal usage and fix leaks. There are no plans to charge for water.

In the LTP, people are asked for their opinion on installing the water meters.
Water meters are among a host of projects canvassed in the 46-page consultation document, which is open for feedback until April 19. At least one councillor said the document was too big and complicated for people to digest and many wouldn’t get past the fifth page.

But staff said the document had to meet legal requirements, including advice from Audit New Zealand and nothing could be culled.

Mayor Neil Brown said the document was the result of many months of planning and budget analysis and now it was up to residents to have their say.

The LTP sets out what council believes needs to be done to provide local services and activities that will support the district in the years ahead.

It signals an overall rates increase for the district of 6.28 per cent in the next financial year, but individuals’ rates will be different depending on there they live. People can calculate their own rates on council’s website from tomorrow (Friday).

Another key issue is how council plans to pay for elderly persons housing. The consultation document says a backlog of maintenance and upgrades needed for the units is threatening to deplete cash reserves for the activity within four years.

Council is therefore proposing to ensure these houses become self-funded, through incrementally increasing rents and utilising a general rates charge for the next two years until the units are self-sustaining.

Council begins a round of free community meetings to talk about the LTP on March 22.
A physical copy of the document will also be delivered to all households in the district, and copies will be available at the council office.