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Stop Press! - Council Drops UAGC Increase, And Votes $2.5m to Coastal Hazard Assessment 

The TYP Deliberations today were the usual drawn out and somewhat acrimonious affair as councillors sought to 'defend their backyards.' It is perfectly normal of course, but some major decisions stood out, and will need additional explanation tomorrow after the Meeting actually finishes - yes it carries on into a second day to deal with items that were put on hold while implications on the overall budgets are considered by staff.

I will deal here only with 'stand-outs' from today.

First up was the proposed increase in the UAGC (Uniform Annual General Charge) to 30% (of rates, excepting waters) The net effect of this change would have been an increase of over $260 in the second year of the plan for us on a relatively low land value property - as in regard to almost every other Thames property, which of course reflects the comparative low values on this side of the Peninsula.

I objected strongly to this increase that appeared to have wide councilor support through the hearings  process, so I did not hold out much hope for a change. Mind you, the boards supported the status quo 3:2, and submitters were evenly divided. As it turned out, Strat led the charge  with an excellent opening salvo, and Keith Coulam - Chair of the Whangamata Community Board gave the best speech of the day, touching on all the unfair aspects of the proposal. Watch this guy - he has an excellent grasp of business principles and council procedures and has real potential as a possible replacement for Jan Bartley.

There were conniptions in the Chamber amongst the Finance staff as they suddenly realised the discussion was turning strongly against the change - leading to a unanimous vote. Only the Mayor indicated support and it seems that the proposal must surely have originated in that quarter. But this Council was not having a bar of it - even the Whitianga duo whose area had most to gain from the change stayed silent, and Sandra abstained.

That was victory No. 1, and it will inevitably lead to some rapid changes in regard to the overall 'rate-take.' It may require some delicate re-arranging of priorities in the morning as these changes are quantified in order to maintain the overall projected 5% rate increase.

the second 'victory' came later in the meeting with the adoption of a $2.592m allocation, loan funded, to "implement the coastal hazard risks investigation." The program roughly approximates that which has been adopted in Hawkes Bay, and is entirely down to the pressure applied by Denis Tegg with the support of many other submitters, disgusted at the manner in which our Council had apparently chosen to ignore these risks while awaiting forlornly for some kind of Government action that is unlikely to materialise - certainly not in the form or scale required.

The $2.5m is just a start, but it will enable some important work to be undertaken - particularly at 'pinch-points' where recent storm activity has caused huge consternation. Even Tararu got a mention in that regard, and it should give enormous heart to the residents of that small suburb who were entitled until now to consider that they had been entirely neglected by both councils.

Some of the postponed decisions will have substantial financial implications, and generally, 'items in' must equate with 'items out.' I will report fully on the full meeting tomorrow after it concludes - there were many other items today that readers will have an interest in for for different reasons.

There is still some 'horse trading' to come, believe me!




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