Saturday, April 13, 2024

Hutt council budget strikes right balance for city says Mayor

Mayor, Campbell Barry says Hutt City Council’s Annual Plan 2023-24 is all about “striking the right balance” for the city, with a 9.9% rate hike being considered as part of the plan.

The Council met on Wednesday to agree on the final decisions on the Annual Plan, which will be adopted on 30 June.

Mayor Barry said it focuses on balancing getting things done affordably and the current cost pressures.

“It’s about making sure we’re focused on investing in essentials and getting the basics right while being financially responsible in a difficult economic climate,” the Mayor said.

“We want to get the basics right but doing that now costs more than when we pulled the Long-term Plan together in 2021.”

Hutt City Council Mayor, Campbell Barry.

He said the community had played an important role in developing the Annual Plan.

“Thank you to those of you who took the time to engage in the Annual Plan consultation. Your feedback is an important part of information your councillors rely on to make informed decisions about the budget.”

“We’ve prioritised projects with partner funding, which means ratepayers are getting good value.

“This includes the Government’s Infrastructure Acceleration Fund, where we’re building water infrastructure to support 3500 new homes off the back of $98.9 million in funding.”

There is also a $150,000 Business Safety Support Fund that will support work of Council’s city safety team in supporting the retail and hospitality sectors. Businesses will be able to seek funding for specific interventions for their business.

“We’re also putting a major focus on resilience, with a total of $28 million going towards remediating the slips along Eastern Hutt Road to make this important transport corridor less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  While there is $10.2 million budgeted for the next year, we’re using $7.75 million from the government’s “Better Off” funding to help pay for the project,” Mayor Barry says.

“We’re also investing $25 million into Tupua Horo Nuku (Eastern Bays Shared Path) this year, which is a crucial project for access and the resilience of the Eastern Bays.”

“Co-funding with Waka Kotahi and Crown Infrastructure Partners for Tupua Horo Nuku is looking positive, but ongoing. We expect to have decisions by the end of this month.”

“Balance is the key to this Annual Plan. The reality is that increased costs have been driven by inflation and three waters pressures.

“We know high inflation and the cost of living is affecting everyone right across our community. That’s why we are focusing on cutting back here first, to offset what would otherwise be a highly unaffordable rates rise.

“That means we will be deferring a number of non-urgent projects and work programmes, and reduced budgets where possible.”

This includes the refurbishment of Petone Wharf, which has been deferred until 2029.

“Pushing back funding for Petone Wharf is a necessary decision as part of this budget. I think people will understand and expect us to look at tweaking our plans to help ease pressure on rates,” the Mayor said.

Included in the Annual Plan is Hutt City Council’s proposed rates revenue increase for 2023-24 of 9.9% (after growth), up from the planned rise of 5.9% for this year. This means an average increase of $5.04 per week per household, or $262 per year.

Investment in water infrastructure makes up close to half ($117) of the average $262 rise. The remaining $145 covers cost increases for other council services, from roads and footpaths to parks and community facilities, to rubbish and recycling.

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