The Taranaki Regional Council will keep its general rate unchanged for the 2020/2021 financial year, trimming an earlier draft budget that was based on a 3.8% increase.
“With the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic uppermost in mind, we’ve carefully tuned and trimmed our spending and programmes while keeping any impacts to an absolute minimum,” says the Council Chair, David MacLeod. “But overall, we’re taking a ‘business as planned’ approach
based on the public consultation and decision-making that went into the 2018/2028 Long-Term Plan and the 2019/2020 Annual Plan.”
He says two vital ingredients in Taranaki’s recovery from COVID-19 disruption will be the resilience and community-mindedness of the region’s people, and the advantages offered by our environment and natural resources.
“Care for the environment and sustainable use of natural resources have been consistent and enduring themes of the Council’s major programmes,” he adds.
These include the Riparian Management Programme, which has seen the Taranaki ring-plain landscape transformed by millions of native plants and thousands of kilometres of fencing alongside rivers and streams. “Despite COVID-19, record numbers of plants are going out for planting this year, paid for by farmers under this unique partnership with the Council,” says Mr MacLeod.
“We’re expecting a similar result next year, as farmers heed the message to get the work done. This programme is bringing independently verified improvements to freshwater quality, and the Council’s focus is already transitioning from implementation to maintenance, monitoring and compliance.”
He says good results are also evident already in Towards Predator-Free Taranaki, which has been embraced enthusiastically by townies and suburbanites, farmers, students, iwi and hapū and grassroots organisations across the region.
“The programme is still in its early days but the Council’s own biodiversity monitoring, as well as community anecdotes aplenty, suggest it’s already giving Taranaki healthier ecosystems where indigenous plants and wildlife can thrive and grow in numbers. The programme will continue to roll out stage by stage into new areas in the coming months and years.”
Mr MacLeod also points to the Council’s multi-year upgrades at Pukeiti as being important to Taranaki’s recovery.
“The programme has resulted in new visitor facilities, more recreational options, better infrastructure and increased capacity for research and participation in plant conservation programmes,” he says. “Pukeiti and its famed rhododendron collection have a unique status in the botanical community, and the garden now offers a first-class experience to all general visitors.
“With domestic tourism set to take on much greater importance, the Council will continue with its upgrades as planned.”
This will be the second year in a row with no change to the Council’s general rate. There are minor and largely immaterial changes to targeted rates for transport and river and flood control. The Yarrow Stadium targeted rates continue unchanged, noting that existing loans and commitments still need funding, as will any future options. The works programme remains on hold pending a careful review of proposals taking into account changing circumstances.
“The Council remains focused on supporting livelihoods, improving lifestyles and taking Taranaki forward,” says Mr MacLeod. “These will be priorities for the entire region as we lift our heads and move forwards in the coming months and years.”