Marlborough exceeds ‘self-imposed’ rates cap to meet national standards

4:49 pm on 27 February 2020

Keeping pace with environment rules from the government has forced Marlborough's council to go over its "self-imposed" rates limit - the second time in three years.

Marlborough is set to see a 4.86 per cent rates increase this year

Marlborough is set to see a 4.86 percent rates increase this year. Photo: LDR / CHLOE RANFORD

The Marlborough District Council agreed on a 4.86 percent rates increase at a 2020-21 budget meeting on Thursday morning, which outstripped this year's 4.25 percent rates limit by 0.61 per cent.

A report from the budget meeting said $755,000 had been set aside for environmental management, as more resources were required to "keep pace with [the] government", which set "national policy and environmental statements".

There were more than 25 government policies at present, including the Three Waters Review, the Zero Carbon Act, new national policy statements (NPS) and national environmental standards (NES) for freshwater, and an NES for air quality.

Councillor Gerald Hope asked if the amount set aside was enough to tackle them.

Chief executive Mark Wheeler said the council agreed to hire 24 new fulltime staff, some to deliver environmental programmes, as part of the 2018-28 long-term plan.

"Some are for environmental monitoring. Some are in regulatory, covering things like the Three Waters Review. We are running lean, but I think it's managable."

Councillor Cynthia Brooks said she found ratepayers often didn't realise the council was responsible for delivering government policies, and bearing the added costs.

"It's a double cost to everyone," she said.

Council chief financial officer Martin Fletcher said inflation and a "very high level of capital expenditure" were also two big drivers of this year's rates increase.

The council's rates limit, set in its long-term plan, was derived by taking the Local Government Cost Index and adding 2 percent. Rates were also forecast to outpace council-imposed limits in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 financial years.

Councillor Brian Dawson asked if staff were concerned about exceeding the limit.

Fletcher said the limit was "self-imposed" and "in many ways a guide".

"We should be able to explain why we're going above that," he said.

Wheeler said last month it was a "conscious decision of council" to plan rate increases above its self-imposed rate limit for the next few years, as it needed to complete major capital expenditure projects to deal with Marlborough's growth.

Marlborough District Council chief executive Mark Wheeler says the council is "running lean" on staff to deliver environmental programmes

Marlborough District Council chief executive Mark Wheeler says the council is "running lean" on staff to deliver environmental programmes. Photo: LDR / CHLOE RANFORD

The council had planned a 5.92 percent increase this year, but decided to use some reserve funds to keep rates down.

The council agreed at the full council meeting to pump $468,500 from rates into community facilities across the district.

It agreed to co-fund a Pouārahi role in Te Tauihu, or the top of the south, for $30,000 a year, providing the Nelson and Tasman councils also pitched in.

The role would ensure Te Tauihu iwi and emergency management teams across the top of the south became a "more resilient community as a whole".

Rolling out kerbside recycling in Renwick would also be funded from rates, at the cost of $73,800 a year, or about $54 a property.

A proposal to allocate $25,000 a year for "video production and Facebook boosting" would be funded by reserves, not rates.

​Fletcher said the council was forecasted to have a $131.4 million debt by the 2023-24 financial year, $67.8m more than it had at present, but it was also set to climb from $1.82 billion in assets to $2.25b - a jump of $430m.

The council adopted its 2019-20 budget at the full council meeting.

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