27 Feb 2015

Christchurch moves closer to big rates rise

8:33 am on 27 February 2015

Christchurch City Council's proposed rates hike of 28 percent, compounded over the next three years, has passed its first hurdle after a majority of councillors voted in favour of it.

Ratepayers will now be asked during consultation on the proposal how they feel about paying an average $40 extra a month, after the full increase takes effect.

Lianne Dalziel

Lianne Dalziel Photo: Christchurch City Council

To soften the blow, mayor Lianne Dalziel asked yesterday's meeting for the increase to be spread more evenly over the three years with an 8.75 percent rise in the first year and 8.5 percent for each of the following two years.

Her resolution was seconded by deputy mayor Vicki Buck, who said the $1.2 billion shortfall in the council's budget meant there was no other option but to increase rates.

"What we need to provide in a time like we face at the moment is some certainty that the council know what they're doing, that they have a financial plan, that they're pressing the big green light and getting on with the rebuilding," she said.

Ms Buck said the extra rates would help rebuild the libraries and swimming pools destroyed by the earthquakes, which people have been crying out for.

"People have told us over and over that they want to have a city that is about building communities, not just streets and roads and that actually creates back for them the things that they love about living in Christchurch."

The consultation document the council voted on yesterday also includes a proposal to sell an increased stake in the council's assets, up from the $550 million agreed late last year to $750 million.

The proposal passed by eight votes to six after opposition from the Peoples Choice councillors.

Their spokesperson, councillor Andrew Turner, said a better approach would be to give up or defer some of the expensive projects on the council's shopping list, especially those in the city centre.

"We're balancing spending with the ability to fund that spending. Making a domestic comparison, attempting to balance the items on the shopping list with the amount of money left on the eftpos card.

"However there's one aspect of the resolution we've been asked to pass which involves putting a for sale sign on the house before we go shopping."

Councillor Yani Johanson said it made no sense to sell assets that return a dividend and pour the proceeds into assets that end up costing money over the long term.

"$250 million is being proposed to be spent on gold plating streets in the central city that have already had their earthquake repairs done. One street alone is the cost of a swimming pool in our community," he said.

Public submissions on the council's financial strategy open next month.