18 March 2013
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters says the current drought affecting most of the North Island is a “bitter-sweet” event for Rotorua and in particular for two of the city’s most important economic drivers – tourism and agriculture.
“On the one hand the unprecedented long fine spell has had a very positive impact on our district’s tourism business. We’ve seen large numbers of visitors pouring into Rotorua for major summer events in the city over the last few months and many accommodation operators and attraction providers recorded their best ever month in February.
“On the other hand however, our farmers have been dealt a cruel blow by the drought conditions and many are really struggling. On top of a tough economic environment emanating from the global financial crisis, the drought comes as a double whammy for our rural community,” says Mr Winters.
“As a Rotorua farmer for more than 25 years my heart goes out to our rural communities. Even if the rains come soon the effects of this extended exceptionally dry season will impact on farmers and on the local economy, for some time to come.”
Mr Winters said he urged the government, financial institutions and businesses that service the rural sector to provide all the support they possibly could and to be flexible and understanding of the difficult financial situation many farmers will be finding themselves in.
“For our part, the council has been very focussed on ensuring our rural communities have robust and reliable infrastructure in place to help them operate their businesses effectively. We’re certainly pleased that in these drought conditions we have been able to continue to supply water without restriction, and our infrastructure has so far coped well with the substantially increased demand.”
Mr Winters said the council was also able to assist if some farmers were experiencing real hardship and it was affecting their ability to pay their rates on time.
“There are some mechanisms we can put in place to assist anyone experiencing real difficulties with meeting rates obligations. Those people should contact the council and arrange to confidentially discuss their situation. Please don’t leave things until you miss your payment deadline and find that penalties have been applied. We can help where this is genuine hardship.
“The council is also endeavouring to do its best to help all ratepayers by ensuring rates increase by only the very smallest possible amount next year. At this stage of developing of our draft Annual Plan for 2013/14 we’re hoping to be able to hold the increase in the total amount of rates to be collected to less than one per cent, and without cutting our services or service levels,” Mr Winters said.