Draft plan hearings set to start

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Ashburton District Council has received 131 submissions to this year’s draft Annual Plan.

The majority are not in favour of decreasing day-to-day levels of service to reduce the average rate increase, while a large majority agrees with using $1.7 million from the forestry reserve to pay for major roading repairs.

Submitter Phil Everest said he did not want to see service levels cut back because a reduction on a temporary basis often ended up as a permanent reduction.

He said using reserves, like forestry, was money put away for a rainy day and using it for additional road repairs that needed to be done with urgency made sense.

Submitter Ed Eason agreed with using the forestry money for roads.

“Roading and water services are by far our most important assets, and are essential to life and trading as we know it.”

Brent Holmes said a deferment of services would need a catch up and would end up costing more in the long run.

Former Ashburton mayor Donna Favel said decreasing day-to-day service levels was not the only option open to council.

“In our business and household budgets, we must look at increasing income, reducing expenditure, selling off surplus items, looking at greater efficiencies or cost sharing options. I request that council investigate similar options.”

She said council had received government funding to the tune of $33m for towards the new civic centre and $13m for the relief sewer project.

“I for one had anticipated that ratepayers should have benefitted from those funds to offset the rateable activities.

“I suggest, that if the $33 million from central government had been used against the intended projects, then we should not be facing a 12.2% rate increase.”

The Ashburton Citizens Association said the proposed average rates increase of 9.4% across the district was “insensitive” and lacked empathy for those on fixed incomes and on reduced work hours.

The association would like to see the forestry reserve used for major roading repairs because “the money has to come from somewhere and we would like the roads to be fit for purpose”.

Frank Luxton said he agreed with decreasing day-to-day levels of service because many households were simply finding money in short supply.

He suggested council employ fewer staff to save on costs and questioned whether now was the right time for the Methven water upgrade because of what was being proposed with the three waters reform.

Marie Felton was in favour of reducing some services to save costs and suggested less frequent rubbish collection.

She said the forestry reserve was a one time revenue stream and was not enough to be effective.

In her submission Tracy Rae said council should live within its means and not just keep hiking up the rates.

She suggested mowing parks less, cutting out community grants, closing the library at weekends, reducing council staff numbers and reducing spend on “unnecessary new buildings”.

Peter Weir called council’s suggestion that it use forestry reserves for roading “an outrageous proposal”.

Council forestry should never be asked to cross-subsidise rural roading, he said.

Annual Plan hearings will take place at council on May 24 and 25.