SOUTHLAND ratepayers are being forced to consider a 10.15% rates increase as ageing infrastructure inches closer to the “end of the road”.
The announcement followed the adoption of Southland District Council’s (SDC) Long Term Plan 2021-2031 consultation document, titled Its time, Southland/Murihiku, at its meeting last week.
The document proposed the rates rise to cover the costs of rebuilding sealed roads and replacing 161 old wooden bridges set to reach the end of their lives in the next 10 years.
Council was also facing a raft of increased external costs from the Government’s three waters reforms, higher environmental and regulatory requirements, a change in its environmental monitoring role, climate change and inflation.
SDC chief executive Cameron McIntosh said council had run out of options to deal with its ageing infrastructure through its assets.
“For many years SDC has taken the approach of keeping rates as low as possible for its ratepayers by sweating the assets.
“That is, getting the most life possible out of our assets, including roads, bridges, water pipes and community facilities, with the lowest appropriate level of investment in renewals.”
The increase to 10.15% would allow the council to maintain its current levels of service and meet current legislative requirements.
SDC did not have the “luxury” of leaving the problem for future councils or generations to deal with, and needed to act now.
Mr McIntosh acknowledged with more than $2 billion in assets to operate and maintain, and only 20,500 ratepayers, council was asking ratepayers to help it make difficult choices.
Council staff had worked hard to minimise the impact of the rates increase.
The document would go out for public consultation on Friday, March 12, at 9am until Wednesday, April 14, at 5pm.