This week, and probably by the time you’re reading this, our Council will have formally adopted the Annual Plan for the 2023/24 financial year, which begins on 1 July.
The Annual Plan sets the project and service delivery priorities and how to fund them through rates and fees and charges.
We find ourselves facing this financial year with unprecedented weather events leaving the Coromandel with significant storm damage to roads and other infrastructure. Our district remains saturated, and we expect more weather events in the coming year. Rain anxiety is a real thing – and we know this is a contributor to how our communities and businesses are suffering socially and economically. Disruptions to travel have been significant as a result of storm damage. More work is required on the part of the government’s transport agency, Waka Kotahi, to re-open the Kōpū-Hikuai road (SH25A), and for our Council to repair the collapsed portion of the Tapu-Coroglen Road so traffic can once again cross its entire length.
This is why, alongside prioritising recovery in our own Council work, we’ve been pressing the government to continue the already substantial support provided so that we can make it through until SH25A is reopened.
Our focus in this Annual Plan (our 2023/24 Rebuild and Recovery budget) has been to prioritise recovery. We are grateful to the government for the funding made available so far to support us, and our community, in this recovery programme. Our collaboration on a longer-term investment plan with Waka Kotahi on Coromandel roads is going well, and we hope will deliver some significant outcomes in the coming year that will address the long-term sustainability challenges of climate change that we face on our roading networks.
Like many councils around Aotearoa New Zealand, we’re also grappling with escalating costs for freight, materials, fuel and labour. These cost increases have made our capital works more expensive to deliver and caused supply chain delays. We’re all grappling with the rising cost of living, increased inflation and economic difficulties. For Council, it’s trying to get a fair balance between what we’re delivering as a Council and the cost of the services our communities want and expect – especially when the cost of delivering those services is increasing.
Our Annual Plan this year is being delivered with an average rate increase of 11.6 per cent. This provides for our necessary storm recovery costs and has been achieved by making sacrifices in our operational costs, by deferring some of our non-roading projects and by making some hard decisions around funding depreciation, and using retained earnings, while maintaining financial prudence.
Also on the horizon, are several major legislative changes which will have significant implications for our future long-term planning and financial forecasting. These include new legislation to replace the Resource Management Act, including the Climate Change Act, the Government’s latest reset of its Three Waters programme, and the outcomes from the Future for Local Government review.
Together, we’ve started our journey of recovery and, while it’s not entirely clear what the future will hold as we face more frequent and severe weather events, one thing is certain we’ll continue to be proactive and to advocate for ongoing central government support as we move through the recovery phase. We’ll also be prioritising climate change in our long-term planning, with community and iwi input, ensuring that we deliver stronger, more resilient infrastructure so our communities are well placed to adapt to the challenges that lie ahead.
Speaking of community, last week was Volunteer Week and our Community Boards hosted small events to thank volunteers for their service. It’s hard to imagine our communities without the activities volunteers make possible: driving people to medical appointments, coaching sports, serving on school boards and parent-teacher associations, running toy libraries, building and maintaining walking and biking paths, beach plantings to restore dunes … and much more. Take all that away and much of the cultural, environmental and recreational fabric of our communities is gone. To the many volunteers in our district, ka pai and thank you for your mahi.
Note: This chart was drawn up before Council adopted the final Annual Plan, so some of the figures are subject to change.
Caption: What do I get for my rates?