Population growth and climate change action are some of the reasons for a larger-than-anticipated rates increase for Wanaka residents.
Wanaka and Hawea residential ratepayers face an average rates increase of 6.45% ($205) and 8.57% ($228) respectively in the next year.
This is above the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s goal of keeping the district›wide average increase to under 6%.
If a Wanaka ratepayer is taxed the accommodation, mixed use or vacant rate, the percentage increases are even higher, at 10.67% ($790), 15.41% ($610) or 9.28% ($211), respectively.
Owners of a Wanaka country dwelling face an increase of 8.68% ($224).
Luggate residential ratepayers face a smaller increase of 4.91% ($143).
The council anticipated the average district increase would be 5.87%, when all the differentials are taken into account, keeping it under 6%.
However, the financial impact of defending legal claims related to alleged building defects, boosting the climate action budget, and employing more staff, could see it swell to 8.74%.
Wanaka councillors Niamh Shaw, Quentin Smith and Calum MacLeod have asked whether the council has its priorities right.
In a public annual plan drop›in session last week, each stressed the importance of doing something under the council’s climate and biodiversity plan.
The council was in its third year of delivering climate actions at an annual budget of $257,000.
Now, a boost to $677,000 is suggested, depending on whether 26 or 46 actions are delivered next year.
Cr Shaw said some key feedback from the Upper Clutha community last year was the council was not doing climate actions.
‘‘Now we are testing what the community actually thinks because it will increase rates. . . a lot of it will come down to what feedback we get from the community,’’ she said.
Cr Smith said the ‘‘big thing for community this year will be affordability’’.
‘‘We are facing a crisis around the cost of living. A rates increase of 6% might have been acceptable last year but it is going to be a real challenge this year.’’
He was also keen to gauge the level of support for the climate action budget boost.
Cr MacLeod said he thought the council was on the right track but would love to know if the community agreed.
It was not possible to keep rates increases to zero, he said.
‘‘We are growing like topsy. I got here in 1989, there were 2500 people and now there’s about 15,000. With that level of growth we need to have that level of investment. My question could even be are we spending enough?’’
Climate change was the biggest challenge facing the planet and you could never do enough, he said.
‘‘We are trying. We are in the forefront of most councils in New Zealand. Please read it, please feedback and please help us to get it right,’’ he said.
Consultation is under way for both the annual plan and the climate and biodiversity plan.
Submissions on both plans close on April 26.