Responding to a changing environment
Making sure it can meet a number of significant challenges as it plans for the future is a key feature of Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Long Term Plan Consultation Document, which is open for feedback from the community.
How it funds infrastructure, protecting the environment, supporting sustainable urban development and preparing for climate change are all challenges that have required the Regional Council to look for new ways to deliver its services and functions efficiently and effectively and to provide infrastructure in a way that’s sustainable and affordable.
The Consultation Document, available now from the regional council website, sets out five key questions for the community about how it wants the Regional Council to carry out its work.
These questions have a strong focus on making sure the Regional Council has the right funding approach to ensure a sustainable budget and levels of service for the next decade.
Regional Council Chair Doug Leeder says as part of the work in planning for the next 10 years, the regional council has recognised that its operating environment is different than it was three years ago, when the previous Long Term Plan was produced.
"We have new pressures and some uncertainties in local government that need to be taken into account, which means we have taken a fresh look at what we want to do and also how those activities and that work will be funded and paid for.
"While we still intend to deliver the same level of service – and more in some areas – we continue to have the challenge of how we carry this work out in a way that’s affordable and sustainable.”
Doug says influences from Central Government, such as changes to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater has resulted in the Regional Council changing its approach to that work.
"Ensuring Maori participation in council decision making remains central to how we carry out our work over the next 10 years."
Events of the past year have also factored strongly into the planning for this Long Term Plan, says Doug.
"Last year’s flood event has had a huge impact on the region and particularly on eastern Bay communities and we’re committed to the necessary but costly repairs.
“How we manage the impact of this cost on affected ratepayers is one of the questions we’re asking the community.
"In other areas, people know that previously we have used reserves and our infrastructure fund to help pay for the work we do, as well as the work of others.
“We have now spent or committed most of our infrastructure fund, as we had planned to, and we will use $157 million of borrowing to efficiently fund our capital works programme which will increase our costs significantly over the next 10 years."
Doug acknowledges the significant dividend forecast from Quayside Holdings Limited, which is Regional Council’s investment arm.
"The significant dividend we expect to receive from Quayside every year will be used carefully, to fund our work across the region and to reduce rates."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council General Manager Corporate Planning Mat Taylor says the Regional Council is putting a stronger focus on the money it collects from fees and charges and from targeted rates, where it is easy to identify who is benefiting from the services we provide.
"This also makes it clearer to everyone where their money is being spent and is the focus of a question around our Emergency Management role," says Mat.
This focus also links in to a question around the Regional Council’s role in Passenger Transport, what is required by the region and how it should be funded.
The final question being asked by the Regional Council looks at its role in pest management, and what level of service the community would like it to carry out.
Mat says all this work has led council to a forecast average general rates increase of 12 per cent, an average of $32 per household in 2018/19. This amount would then alter depending on where in the region a person lived and what targeted rates they paid.
"Some of the choices we have to make and what these decisions will mean for rates, our borrowing and the services we provide are discussed in our consultation document,” says Mat.
“We believe our work for the next 10 years will deliver on our vision of ‘Thriving Together – mo te taiao, mo nga tangata’ and our community outcomes.
“We want to deliver services at the right time, but know we need to keep our costs, and therefore the cost to you, the ratepayers, affordable."
People are encouraged to download a copy of the Consultation Document from the Regional Council’s website www.boprc.govt.nz/ltp
Staff will also be available throughout the month at a series of Community Forums and community events to answer questions about the proposals in the Long Term Plan.
Consultation opened on Monday February 19 and closes on March 19.