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Is The WDC Preparing For A Double Digit Rate Rise? - Seeking Community Dialogue

In an effort to manage future rate increases, the Waikato District Council is rigorously reviewing its budget in preparation for the draft 2024-2034 Long Term Plan (LTP). This move comes amid concerns of a potential double-digit rate hike, prompting the Council to explore ways to reduce operational costs without cutting essential services.

Gavin Ion, the Council's Chief Executive, emphasises the complexity of the situation. “This will be the most challenging Long-Term Plan we’ve had to deliver for our district. The projects we planned three years ago will cost significantly more to deliver to the community,” he stated. The Council is facing pressure from rising inflation and interest rates, compounded by increased construction costs and stringent government compliance demands.

The focus now is on managing the Council's substantial $2.2 billion asset portfolio, which mainly comprises vital infrastructure like water, wastewater, storm-water, and road networks. Efficient asset management is crucial to ensure gradual upgrades and replacements over time.

Gavin Ion highlights the delicate balance the Council must strike. “Our Council is already working to carefully prioritise our projects, services and activities as part of the LTP process. It’s a fine balance, delivering services to a standard that will meet the community’s expectations, while also managing the needs of a burgeoning district in this current economic climate,” he says.

The LTP is not just a financial plan but a strategic vision for the district, traditionally encompassing a range of new projects and services aimed at enhancing social, economic, environmental, and cultural wellbeing. However, the current economic challenges mean that the Council may need to make hard choices. “Some tough decisions will need to be made next year to keep rates affordable. We simply won’t be able to do it all,” Gavin Ion cautioned.

Mayor Jacqui Church reassures residents the Council is committed to engaging with the community from March 2024 to gather feedback on the draft LTP. The aim is to understand community priorities and align the Council's plans accordingly. This approach reflects a broader trend among councils nationwide, grappling with similar challenges and limited resources for new projects.

Church's commitment to community involvement suggests a democratic approach to these impending fiscal decisions, emphasising the need for open dialogue and prioritising residents' needs.