A new budget that maintains the core services residents and businesses rely on but reduces spending in other areas has been finalised by Christchurch City Council.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardship and left many in our city struggling financially,’’ says Christchurch’s Acting Mayor Andrew Turner.
“The budget approved by Council today is financially prudent. It balances the need to continue to invest in core infrastructure and to support the city’s recovery, with the need to reduce our spending and find savings so we are not burdening our ratepayers with significant additional costs.’’
The budget provides for an average residential rate rise of 2.09 per cent – which equates to an extra $1.12 a week for an average valued house – and an overall average rate increase of 3.8 per cent.
The rate increase is slightly higher than the 3.5 per cent proposed in the Updated Draft 2020-21 Annual Plan. That is because the Council has decided not to proceed at this stage with a proposal to extend the excess water targeted rate to households that use more than 333,000 litres of water a year.
“Whilst extending the excess water charge would help us better manage demand for water, we want to make sure any such charge is fairly and equitably applied. We have asked staff to provide advice during the development of the 2021-31 Long Term Plan on how we can achieve this,’’ Acting Mayor Turner says.
The Council has also dropped a proposal to increase its use of weedkillers containing the chemical glyphosate, as a result of public feedback. The proposal would have saved more than $3 million.
“We have capped our capital spending for the next 12 months at $400 million, plus an additional $117 million for the Metro Sports Facility, currently under construction, and for early works on the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena.
“It is important we continue with these capital projects because they provide an important pipeline of work to support local construction and contracting companies,’’ Acting Mayor Turner says.
In response to residents’ concerns about the condition of some of the city’s roads, the budget includes an extra $4.5 million for fixing potholes and resurfacing roads.
Provision has also been made for a one-off $500,000 funding boost to the Strengthening Communities Fund so that the Council can help community organisations which have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and which will contribute to the social recovery.
“We recognise that some of our ratepayers are facing ongoing financial difficulties so today we have agreed to continue the rates payment extension scheme we introduced after the COVID-19 lockdown. This approach, targeted to where there is hardship, means eligible ratepayers will be able to apply to have their 2020/21 rates payments postponed until 30 June 2022,’’ Acting Mayor Turner says.
“We have also agreed to set up a Residents’ Forum so that we can engage better with our residents on the issues that matter to them. This is particularly important as we start to develop the 2021-31 Long Term Plan.
“The Long Term Plan determines our levels of service and provides us with an opportunity to further cut costs, if that is what our residents want us to do. We want to make sure our communities are fully engaged through every step of that process,’’ Acting Mayor Turner says.
“This year’s budget has been developed under very challenging circumstances. I want to thank all the submitters who contributed to the process by giving feedback on the original Draft Annual Plan and on the Updated Draft Annual Plan, including those who took the time to speak to us during the hearings.
“I also want to acknowledge the huge amount of work that Council staff and elected members have done over the past few months to find savings and to keep costs down. We have been mindful of the financial pressure that many ratepayers are under, but at the same time of the need to develop a budget that really supports our district’s recovery,’’ Acting Mayor Turner says.