The public will get their chance to have their say about proposed rates increases for Tauranga City.
Documents supporting a Draft Long Term Plan calling for a 9.6 per cent rates increase this year and a 40 per cent increase over the next three years have been approved by Tauranga City Council today.
All councillors apart from Catherine Stewart supported the document going to public consultation, but Rick Curach and Steve Morris spoke out saying it wasn’t a good idea.
Rick says the 40 per cent in rates rises over the first three years of the plan are “way over the top”.
“I’m expecting to hear from the community whether it is supported or not. I would be quite surprised if there is a high degree of support. I would expect some resistance in terms of that demand.”
Steve Morris says the council has lacked leadership in terms of forming the budget.
“Nearly 40 per cent increase in rating requirements over three years? I think we should actually hang our heads in shame at that,” says Steve.
“I listened to what candidates said at the previous election just 18 months ago, I don’t think anybody out there put their hand up and said they would be happy with a 40 per cent increase in rating requirement over three years.
“When you consider the facts that Tauranga City is one of the highest rating metros in the country, you have the Auckland metro which is ahead of us, Porirua City and when you consider the myth perpetuated by some around this table that even the current level of rates is holding this city back.
“When you compare it to other cities around the country that’s certainly not the case. We don’t even do rubbish in this city, so I think we all need to have a good hard look at ourselves when the community come back and give us our feedback.”
Steve says there is also a 28 per cent increase in council personnel expenses over next three years.
“I seem to remember a lot of debate from people sitting around this table after the previous council added an extra $10m for personnel because it was badly needed. Now we have got another 30 per cent increase, and there is silence around the table on that.
“It’s not good and I think we should actually be embarrassed.”
Catherine Stewart says the draft document is outrageous, and she will not support it.
“It’s not about voting to get re-elected. It’s having an awareness of what the majority of people in the community can afford,” says Catherine.
“I don’t want to see Tauranga becoming an elitist city for the rich where everyone pays huge rates. I think it’s unfair to gout with rates at this level.
“You can’t have everything and that is just a fact of life.”
She says the draft is financially unsustainable, and believes this is partly because the city council is being made to carry out activities that belong to central government.
“Resilience is a buzz word and it’s a great thing for consultants. Why we should be spending millions to make everyone feel safe when at the end of the day you can’t achieve that. It is about common sense and striking a balance.”
Terry Molloy says the city has been held back for so many years there is a bow wave in front of the council created he expects from councillors more concerned about keeping their seats than showing leadership.
“We have a lot of work to do in this community and it’s going to take a lot of money to take this city forward,” says Terry.
Councillor Leanne Brown says the draft plan is the start not the end of a process.
Mayor Greg Brownless says the decision also have to be made on basis of affordability.
“I think we are going to hear back from the community, I’m not sure the by election an indication of anything because of the sheer number.
“It’s no use pretending that the people will find the current proposal an easy thing to support,” says Greg. “We want to hear from everybody.
“How we take notice of the community that is going to be the important thing in the end.”