ORC Rate Increases Hot Topic

Ideas and Opinions

Rate Bills In the Letterbox

It’s rates bill time for the Otago Regional Council (ORC). We’ve just received our rates bill for the year and they’ve gone up again. (If you are renting then your landlord will have received it. But you’ll be paying rates via your rent so this directly affects you too.)

People I meet at the moment are asking about the rates, and the increases. Our ORC rates have always been insignificant compared to our DCC rates, but now they’ve over $300 per year and more people are questioning what the rates are for and querying the increases.

Rate Increases

In June this year, the Council approved an increase in the general rates of 18%, as reported in the ODT. It’s not clear from this what amounts the non-general rates have increased by. But I’ve just checked our total bill and its 13.4% more than last year. So 13% is the overall increase for urban rates this year. That equates to something like an extra $40 for the year. We’re now paying about $1 per day for Regional Council rates on average values in the city.

I’m critical of a lot of what the Regional Council does or doesn’t do. (It’s always easier to be critical when you aren’t responsible for it.) But one thing I do credit the current Council with (seven of them in particular) was having the courage to face their responsibilities. They agreed that more work needs to be done, and that the work needs to be paid for.

“The council’s long-term plan process identified much work to do, the community agreed and the 18% rates rise was a direct result of that,” Cr Bryan Scott said. “We need to get on with it.”

Otago Daily Times 3 June 2022

Some of this increase may stem from more direction from central government on the Council’s responsibilities. But a lot must also come from previous Councils not doing enough. This looks good for a while in terms of spending, and it’s popular with voters. But eventually it always comes back to haunt future Councils.

The Reality

The Otago region makes up 12% of New Zealand’s land mass. With about 5% of the population and about 5% of New Zealand’s GDP. The costs of environmental management of such a large proportion of the country are spread across a significantly smaller proportion of the rating base. It’s a difficult equation.
So credit where it due. The current Council took the brave step in election year of seeking enough money to do its job properly. That’s rare.

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