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Council demands action from ECan

Council demands action from ECan
Ashburton District Council submission on Environment Canterbury's draft long-term plan calls for action around flood protection works in the Ashburton River. SUPPLIED/CHRIS SKELTON

Ashburton's councillors are demanding action from the regional council so money from a proposed hefty rates hike isn't "just sucked up into Christchurch".

With the community facing a 24% average rate increase from Environment Canterbury, Ashburton District councillors said they want to see action in key areas and assurances that money is being well spent.

Their comments came as they discussed their submission on the regional council’s proposed long term plan.

Councillor Richard Wilson said ECan is loading a lot of costs back onto users and the Ashburton District is facing a large rate increase.

“A lot of that is for what I would call common good things like protecting the Ashburton River.

“We need to recognise that a lot of money is being taken out of our district and we hope the services come back [and] it’s not just sucked up into Christchurch and lost in the ivory towers.”

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said that with the district contributing a significant amount of money to ECan, “we want to see some action now”.

Brown was critical of ECan’s consultation summary document, which he said “doesn’t give me good guidance on what ECan want to do, especially for the Ashburton District”.

With a proposed 24% average rate rise, he “can’t see where that money is being spent” in the district, but admitted he had yet to read the full 300-plus page document.

However, he said if he was struggling to understand - as someone “a bit more educated" than the general public reading the documents - he wasn’t sure if the community would see where the money would go.

Councillor Carolyn Cameron said she wanted better reporting of the work being done.

“They need to have some accountability for that money in my view.”

The council submission is pushing for ECan to lift its use of the uniform annual general charge, which has every property pay the same amount from 8% to at least 12% of total rates or higher, ‘to better reflect the benefits of its programmes across the region and to alter the spread of the rates burden’.

The council has raised it before and hasn’t had a response, Brown said.

“We need a response back to our submission that is [respective] of our submission, not the general letter that gets sent out.”

He will put that to regional councillors when he presents the submission.

Brown also wanted to send a clear message that the council wants a review into how river catchments are rated for and funded.

The submission also calls for an immediate review of the recent Ashburton River consent review process that imposed new Ashburton River minimum flow conditions on consent holders.

It supports the proposed work on Carters Creek but requests the work be brought forward.

The council is also asking for the consideration of a public transport pilot in Ashburton, and a daily Ashburton-Timaru and Ashburton-Christchurch service.

The consultation on ECan’s draft long-term plan closes on April 14.

Big increase

The Ashburton District Council’s submission uses example properties to show the average rate increase for Ashburton rural properties is 24% and for urban properties, the average increase is 31%.

A rural property in Wakanui worth $4,760,000 will pay $2,681.20, an increase of $523.99, while a rural Rakaia valued at $13,510,000 will pay $15,633.84 – a jump of $3728.56.

An Ashburton urban property worth $430,000 will pay $409.66, a $98.03 hike.

By Jonathan Leask