Hawke’s Bay boosts infrastructure investment

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is proposing another step up in the environmental work it accelerated in 2018, by investing an extra $10.5 million on the services it delivers to the region and $14.7 million on infrastructure and capital projects in 2021-22.

The Long-Term Plan for 2021-31, included in council papers this week, outlines the increased investment on the Regional Council’s must-do work programme, as well as six proposals to enhance the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change, that the Council will consult on.

Regional Council chair, Rex Graham says the community has let them know that protecting and restoring the natural environment of our region is an urgent priority.

“Recent law changes and increased community expectations, particularly around freshwater reform, also contribute to the need for significant investment and activity increases over the next 10 years,” he said.

Council’s plan proposes an overall rate increase of 19.5% for the 2021-22 year.

“While on the face of it this is a big increase, we are coming off a low base and several decades of under-investment. On average, this would see a weekly increase of around $0.94 cents for residential, $3.60 for commercial and $4.49 for rural ratepayers, noting that rating affects each property differently,” Mr Graham said.

“This year’s total rate increase comes from deferring last year’s rate increase due to COVID-19 (8.5%) and this year’s rate increase of 11%.”

Funding for the Regional Council’s work comes from a mix of sources such as fees and charges for consents, subsidies and grants, investments, borrowing and rates. Fees and charges are being consulted on as part of this plan.

The Council’s proposed increase in investment takes advantage of funding already secured from the Government’s COVID-19 stimulus package.

“We acknowledge that doing more puts more pressure on rates, so to reduce the impact on ratepayers, we propose to continue to borrow for capital projects – and also to cover operational costs for the next four years. We borrowed to defer last year’s rate increase (7.3% or $1.8 million) to provide immediate relief to ratepayers,” Mr Graham said.

“The Council has a strong balance sheet and we propose to use this to address the big environmental issues facing our region now, rather than kicking the can down the road. We need to be courageous and face up to the environmental debt our society has created by investing in the future of our children and grandchildren.”

The Regional Council’s ‘must do’ programme of work will see a $9.7 million increase in operational investment this coming year, with 23 new staff needed this year to increase service delivery for the Hawke’s Bay’s environment.

Ratepayers are being asked for their feedback on six proposals:

  • Right Tree Right Place – plant up more of Hawke’s Bay’s erodible farmland to show farmers and other investors an economically viable alternative to whole farm afforestation that achieves a balance between pasture and forestry. Fund the development and pilot of Right Tree Right Place at a cost of $4.8 million over three years.
  • Future water use – work with water users to drive more efficient and effective use to complement our focus on water storage. Put aside $1 million over three years.
  • Upper Tukituki gravel – remove the gravel build-up from the upper Tukituki River to keep the community safe from floods. Invest $2.5 million to unlock a $4.5 million grant from Government.

Clive River dredging in 2030 – deepen Clive River as far as Kohupātiki Marae, for recreation and environmental benefits, and deposit the silt to land, instead of the sea. Total rates of $2.8 million over 9 years.

  • On-demand public transport – pilot a virtual bus-stop, technology-enabled service starting with Hastings, followed by Napier – more convenient and less emissions: 2021-22 Hastings pilot: an extra cost of $361,000 in 2021 and $249,000 in 2022, replacing current routes 16A, 16B and 17; 2023-24 Napier: expand service to Napier at a total extra cost of $582,000 in 2023 and $447,000 in 2024, replacing current routes 13, 14 and 15.
  • Ahuriri Regional Park – kick-start improvements to the environment around Ahuriri Estuary, in partnership with Napier City Council and Mana Ahuriri Trust. The Regional Council will loan-fund $1.2 million in 2023-24 and $9 million over the course of years 4-10 to develop a Regional Park in the upper Ahuriri Estuary.

Public consultation on the Long Term Plan will run from 1 April to 2 May 2021. The consultation documents will be online from 29 March, where people can find out more, including how the six proposals could impact on Regional Council rates by property, and make a submission.

Visit hbrc.govt.nz for more information.