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Councillors discussing Buller's next 10-year plan budget

12 Dec 2023

Councillors and key staff came together last week at a workshop to discuss the potential consultation topics for Buller's next 10-year long-term plan (LTP), which included an overview of the drivers behind the starting budget position. The workshop was live-streamed and open to the public.  

Staff and elected members discussed political uncertainty, managing risk and the difficulty of striking the balance between affordability and the necessary investment into essential infrastructure and core services during the four-hour workshop. 

The current budget proposal suggests a total general rate increase of 17.4%. Adding on top of the cost of wastewater, drinking water, and solid waste, which are funded through a targeted rate, the total projected rate increase comes to 31.8%. 

The highest contribution to this rate increase is related to critical infrastructure costs, including water supplies (9.3%) and roading and transport (7.1%). The Council's core water infrastructure requires the bulk of the money it forecasted to borrow over the coming ten years. This capital expenditure excludes the upgrades to the Northern Buller untreated water supplies.

The council are confronted with several pivotal challenges that are shaping its direction. The current political and regulatory environment, including reforms in areas like the drinking water regulations, Resource Management Act (RMA), and the Local Government  Act (LGA), adds complexity. Until recently council had expected that they would not be responsible for water services, and that those residents in Buller connected to a council water or wastewater system would pay less in the future as their water services would have been provided by a new water entity, which with its size would lower costs. But under the new Government that will not occur.

The council now has to increase rates and charges to fully fund all water service activities. Part of the proposed increase is for recovering the $1.2 million of rates the council did not fund last year to reduce cost of living costs on residents. A further major challenge for funding is adjusting contract pricing as well as to meet staff employment cost movements. These issues collectively form the core drivers of the Long-Term Plan, guiding Councillors and staff towards informed and strategic decision-making. 

The proposed budget for the upcoming three years of the Long-Term Plan (2024-2027) presents a significant change in financial requirements for the Council, particularly in maintaining and investing in the district's roading network. To operate effectively and address necessary infrastructure needs, the estimated budget is $46.230 million over the 3 years, a notable increase compared to the $18.056 million allocated for 2021-2024. It's important to note that a substantial portion $39.012 million would be contributed by Waka Kotahi and we would be responsible for $7.218m across the 3-year period, which equates to $2.406m per annum versus $13 million from NZTA.

The situation mirrors the proposed three waters budget. Ensuring the proper operation, maintenance, and compliance-related investments for drinking water will necessitate an average expenditure of $9.32 million during the initial three years of the LTP. Wastewater maintenance will require $3.78 million for the same period, and addressing stormwater needs will demand an average investment of $0.91 million during this LTP phase.

Unlike roading, the Council is responsible for funding any upgrades in the three waters system while navigating the uncertainty surrounding water reform and stringent compliance requirements set forth by Taumata Arowai.

The workshop highlighted the role of shaping focused budget planning and selecting consultation topics, each accompanied by various options. As we move into the draft Long-Term Plan (LTP) consultation phase, the Council is committed to presenting these critical issues, complete with cost estimates and a thorough analysis of the pros and cons associated with each option.

Mr Cleine emphasised, "The heart of this process lies in the community's involvement, allowing them to voice their preferences during the consultation. This valuable input will be pivotal in finalising the plan, leading to adopting the Council's ultimate Long-Term Plan (LTP) in June 2024."

To stay current and see Buller's next 10-year plan taking shape, sign up for our e-newsletter on council’s website. Council will issue news articles, update local publications, and post on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Alternatively, you will find LTP updates on our websites.


For further information please contact:
Buller Mayor
Jamie Cleine