• Video: Napier Mayor warns that Council service levels may need to be reduced to keep rates down

Video: Napier Mayor warns that Council service levels may need to be reduced to keep rates down

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise has warned that levels of service provided by the Napier City Council may need to be reduced in a bid to keep rates increases down.

This comes as she predicts that the next rates increase for the city will be in double figures once again.

Last year Napier ratepayers were hit with an 11.7 per cent increase, but this year it could be even more.

In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App last month, Wise said: “I'm not going to sugarcoat it. it doesn't look pretty at this stage.”

“We are anticipating that the increase will be in the double figures. I can't give any more detail than that at the moment, but it certainly won't be under 10%.”

She said that the council had been working as hard “as we possibly can to keep that figure as low as possible”.

“And at the same time, we'll definitely at some stage be needing to look at the levels of service. And if we do need to start reducing levels of service to keep rates low, then that's a conversation we'll have with our community.”

The issue of high rates increases is a common concern among councils around the country, with Hawke’s Bay mayors voicing concern about rising costs the councils have. Central Hawke’s Bay District Mayor Alex Walker told Hawke’s Bay App late last year that her district’s ratepayers could be hit with an increase of between 20 and 30 per cent this year. She and other Hawke’s Bay mayors like Wairoa’s Craig Little have said that issue is the local government model in New Zealand, which they say is broken.

Wise says that while her Council was struggling with the financial burden of last year’s Cyclone Gabrielle, the issue of debt was not limited to Napier.

“We’re in a similar situation to, I would say, every other council in the country, whether they were impacted by the cyclone or not.”

“The cyclone for us is just another layer on top of the very many challenges that local government is facing with regards to cost pressures and trying to manage our rates as best as we can and keep them as low as we can for our rate payers.”

“We're right now in the middle of our long-term plan with the focus particularly on the next years starting from July.”

Wise agrees with Walker and Little that the system is broken.

“You'll be aware of all the work that's been done around the future for local government over the last couple of years with that report being released [last year] by identifying, I think it was 17 recommendations, of what are quite fundamental changes to the way that local government operates.”

“And I think for me personally with my accounting background, one of the real highlights of that report was around the funding model. And the funding model we currently have is broken. It's not working. It doesn't work for our communities. It does not work for us as providers to our community.”

The mayor says that this is the number one priority for her.

“We need to take a look at the funding model and find a way to actually make councils more sustainable.”