By David Hill
'Speed dating' with the mayor is encouraging people to engage in the Hurunui annual plan.
Marie Black said she was looking forward to hearing residents' views, but admitted to having "no experience" with speed dating.
Three "speed dating" sessions are being offered as part of a series of public engagement events around the district this month.
Hurunui residents can chat with Mayor Marie Black at the sessions as part of the council's engagement on its 2023/24 annual plan.
"May always has a hefty workload, but it is a good opportunity to engage with our community," she said at Tuesday's council meeting.
Chief financial officer Jason Beck said the only major change from the 2021/31 Long Term Plan was the average rates rise of 7.49 percent, being higher than the 4.99 percent signalled.
"The big issue is inflation, particularly around roading, and interest rates."
Beck said the council's debt levels were higher than anticipated because it had brought forward planned Three Waters projects to ensure ratepayers had "the best possible water and sewer infrastructure" ahead of the government's reform programme.
He said the 7.49 percent rates rise was an average across the district and he acknowledged some residents would face much higher rates rises due to increases in property values.
In examples given in the consultation document, one Hanmer Springs ratepayer was facing a 12.86 percent rates rise.
The council was also increasing the dividend it expected from the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, as well as increasing the interest rate charge on its loan to the pool.
Councillor Tom Davies questioned whether it was fair to expect Hanmer Springs to carry a greater burden.
Chief executive Hamish Dobbie said the pools dividend was last fixed in 2015, which had allowed for investment back into the pools.
"We have made significant investment into the pools so the suggestion we are bleeding the pools dry is wrong. We actually lowered the dividend during Covid when it looked like they weren't going to make a profit."
Residents have until Tuesday 6 June to give their views on the plan.
"Speed dating" sessions with the mayor will be held at the Omihi Community Centre, Hanmer Springs Library and the Waikari Community Hall. Public meetings and drop-in sessions are also planned in Amberley, Culverden and Cheviot, as well as an online session.
For more information go to the Hurunui District Council website.
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