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Mackenzie District Council values residents’ feedback on draft Long-Term Plan

Mackenzie District Council is including feedback from its community in its Long-Term Plan (LTP) after this week considering 211 submissions from business and community leaders, its local community boards, residents’ groups and individuals.

Mackenzie Mayor Anne Munro is pleased with the level of public interest in the plan which sets out the council’s programme for providing services to the district over the next 10 years and how they will be funded. “The response demonstrates the passion our residents have for the district and their recognition of the role the Council plays in delivering the services they depend on,” she says. The Council received 26 submissions on its previous LTP in 2021.

Twenty four of the 211 submitters presented at this week’s Council hearings on the draft 2024-34 plan which includes an proposed average rate increase of 14.7% in 2024/25 and an annual average rates’ increase over 10 years of 6.5%.

“Preparing this plan has been more challenging than usual with inflation our biggest issue due to massive cost increases outside our control for essential items, including infrastructure. At all stages of our deliberations, we have been very mindful of the impact of rates’ increases on household budgets, particularly those on fixed incomes such as pensioners. We have made some very tough choices by focusing our budgets on the must-haves” she says.

In response to the large number of submitters concerned about aged care services given the district’s ageing population, the Council has emphasised the issue in its draft plan. “We remain willing to facilitate and support aged care, including accommodation and wrap-around services for the community’s older residents,” she says.

Anne Munro says the housing shortage continues to be a serious issue for residents due to the high proliferation of Airbnbs, especially in Tekapo and Twizel. Additional medium density zoning is included in the current District Plan Review and the Council will enable and support mechanisms to facilitate development.

The plan includes budget for an annual spend of $75,000 a year on wilding pine control and removal on council land in Tekapo and Twizel to lessen the fire risk. The Council will also fund an additional daily clean of the district’s public toilets to cope high use during the tourist season. Staff have been asked to prepare a business case on options for a mixed model of user-pays and free use of its 25 toilet blocks. In other funding, the Council is reaffirming its commitment to a 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Tekapo Squash and Rackets Club and has agreed to allocate $500,000 to progress the relocation of the current squash courts.

Council has deferred the proposed replacement of the Cass River bridge, estimated to cost $4.21 million, subject to a detailed business case with its commitment conditional on stakeholder consultation and funding. Council will review the interim solution to increase the capacity of the Takapō/Lake Tekapo Wastewater Treatment Plant to ensure it has reusability. It will also continue to investigate the options to ensure a cost-effective solution and to advocate for funding assistance from central Government.

Anne Munro says many submitters sought Council reassurance about maintaining services and facilities in their towns.

“We are, and always have been, totally committed to providing library services in Twizel,” she says. “We currently provide funding for the Twizel Area School shared library. Recognising that the school is being redeveloped we allocated funding in our draft plan for an interim library with staff now working alongside the community to identify possible sites. The school will give us notice of when we need to transition to the interim library and funds will be included in our next LTP in three years for a permanent library when the cost is known.”

Anne Munro says the council is continuing to support community-led initiatives and has allocated seed funding of $30,000 in the LTP to kick start a community-led project for a community hub in Twizel which may also include the permanent library. The Council will continue its annual operational grant to the Twizel Community Care Trust for the community care centre.

Twizel’s only sports fields are in the school grounds and Council is working with the school to draft an MOU to ensure ongoing use of the fields through an operational subsidy subject to certain conditions. The Council hopes the MOU will also clarify the school’s access to facilities such as the Events Centre.

Submitters also raised questions about fees and charges, including those for hiring council facilities and registration fees for working dogs. These will be considered in a review of fees and charges next year. For the community hall in Fairlie Council retained the proposed fee, noting that any reduction in fees would result in higher rates.

Anne Munro says Audit NZ will review the proposed plan and the Council will meet on Thursday July 25 to formally adopt the LTP.