Chief Executive Peter Guerin's 'Council Talk' column from this week's Daily Post.
After nearly a year in development and following an extensive programme of consultation with business groups and other stakeholders, Rotorua District Council has adopted its Long-term Plan, setting out the work programme and budgets for the next 10 years.
It’s been subject to a rigorous audit by the Office of the Auditor-General which has given it a big tick, saying that it “demonstrates good practice for a council of its size and scale.”
The overall amount of rates being collected this year will increase by just 2.9%, with an average increase over the last four years of 2.2%, a figure most New Zealand councils haven’t been able to emulate.
This strategic blueprint is the most business and economic-focused plan the council has ever put together. Its three main themes are economic prosperity, environmental improvement and continuous business improvement.
As a result of careful and prudent financial management over the years, the council is in pretty good financial health. This has enabled the mayor and councillors to make some bold decisions this year to invest heavily in stimulating local economic growth, while maintaining most existing service levels and keeping overall rates increases low.
A change to the rating system is one of the key decisions made in developing the Long-term Plan. Capital value rating more fairly allocates rates against the scale of a business operation rather than simply on the value of the land it sits on.
The council has acknowledged however that a relatively small number of large businesses will be affected by substantial rates increases following the rating change, and is investigating a range of measures to minimise some of the impact of these changes.
However many other businesses are actually benefitting from the change in rating systems. They include 1100 mostly medium-to-small businesses, such as motel operators and CBD retailers, who are getting rates reductions this year. Likewise a large number of farm businesses will see their rates reduced by an average of 10%.
The Long-term Plan is very focused on providing an environment in which our local economy can flourish. We’re currently putting in place a CCO with a board of experienced business people to drive the Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy, and our Tourism Committee is already working effectively alongside the council’s marketing arm and local tourism operators to build our visitor industry.
The new plan identifies many other programmes that will also enhance our economic growth aspirations. These include upgrading the CBD, attracting inwards investment, finalising our enabling and business-friendly District Plan, kicking off the Victoria Street Arterial, preparing a development concept for the Lakefront and continuing our City Safe Guardian programme to help keep the CBD safe. Of course our biggest ever capital investment programme will continue, with more new sewerage schemes planned for lakeside communities to help improve the water quality of our iconic lakes.
RDC Chief Executive