• Video: Hastings Council gears up to decide on Long Term Plan, big rates rise expected

Video: Hastings Council gears up to decide on Long Term Plan, big rates rise expected

Council spending is coming under the microscope as the Hastings District Council as the district’s long-term Plan (LTP) is prepared.

The plan sets the infrastructure work programmes and budget spend for the next year and forecasts the next nine years.  The rates for the next financial year (July 2024-June 2025) will be set based on the plan.

It is expected that the Council will discuss the LTP at its next meeting on 18 April and potentially vote on a proposed rates rise for the year. Local councils around the country are under pressure with many setting big rate increases. The latest was Napier City Council which voted to send out a rates increase of 23.7 – the biggest in the Council’s history – for consultation at a council meeting last week.

With Cyclone Gabrielle recovery costs rising, Hastings District Council faces an increase far larger than last year’s 8.7 percent. The Cyclone devastated large areas of Hastings district and damagd infrastructure likes roads and bridges. The Council’s debt levels reached $400 million in February and Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said interest repayments alone are sitting at $16 million a year.

However, in a statement last week Hazlehurst said Council was working hard to address priorities and keep costs down as much as possible. 

“These are very tough financial times. There is no doubt that, like every other council, we are in very difficult times, with huge costs from high interest rates, increased cost of materials for things like pipes and asphalt, higher insurance premiums, and recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We have tasked a Council working party to identify where we can make a material difference to the budget while still doing everything we need to do – to maintain and renew critical infrastructure.”

Work on the plan to date has included public workshops and on-line feedback channels, which have provided clear feedback on the need to ‘stick to the basics’.

Those include managing three waters, maintaining a quality roading network, rubbish and recycling as well as repairing and replacing cyclone damaged roads and bridges.

Chair of the Council’s LTP Working Party councillor Michael Fowler says the working party is considering Council’s infrastructure programme; both priorities and timelines.

 “With hugely increased costs, we must very carefully cut our cloth. In Hastings we have invested heavily in infrastructure over the years, particularly on drinking water and on the services that enable residential and commercial growth, but there is still a great deal that needs to be addressed,” he said. 

Public input into the Long-Term Plan will be called for in late April, with Council required to finalise the plan prior to the end of the financial year on June 30.

In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App last week, Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise admitted that years of underinvestment in the city’s infrastructure. (See accompanying video).