Horizons Regional Council’s draft 2021-31 Long-term Plan opens for consultation

Horizons Regional Council is asking people to have a say on their proposed 2021-2031 Long-term Plan (LTP), which was adopted for public consultation at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The draft LTP sets out Horizons’ proposed plans for managing the region’s natural resources over the next 10 years. This includes identifying suggested activities to be delivered and what proposed average rate contributions will be required to cover the estimated costs for the first three years.

Horizons is proposing an average rate increase of 8.0 per cent for Year 1 of the LTP, 7.3 per cent for Year 2, and 6.9 per cent for Year 3. These rates are averages across the region and will significantly differ district by district due to factors such as property valuations and targeted rates for programmes like river management schemes and passenger transport.

Horizons Chair Rachel Keedwell says this is the time for the community to let Council know if they have got their plan right.

“We welcome all submissions, big or small, as every piece of feedback we receive provides us with a greater understanding of our communities’ priorities. This will help us to better align those priorities with Horizons’ work going forward,” Cr Keedwell says.

“Our consultation document includes information about what Council has already committed to, what we are required to deliver and our more significant proposed work programmes over the next 10 years, such as revision of the One Plan with a focus on freshwater, a new dedicated climate change activity, improvements to the Capital Connection, and changes to Palmerston North and Whanganui bus services.

“In 2020, Council received substantial central government funding towards Covid-recovery projects that will stimulate the regional economy and create jobs, as well as to progress environment projects that we already had planned or underway. To secure this funding, Council has already committed a local share of $1.34 million in Year 1 of our 2021-31 LTP.

“This funding will go towards Jobs for Nature projects to improve water quality and enhance native fish populations, as well as Infrastructure Climate Resilience projects to help manage flood hazards in Foxton, Lower Manawatū River, Palmerston North and the Rangitīkei.

“2020 also saw the announcement of central government’s Essential Freshwater package. These reforms mean a significant change to our regional plans and policies collectively known as the One Plan. This work needs to be done by 2024 and will require additional resources to build the capacity of both iwi and Council to strengthen our collective decision making and to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai. We are seeking our communities’ feedback about how we propose to fund this work.

“We are also asking for their input into our new dedicated climate change activity that will respond explicitly to climate change risks and coordinate work across our organisation, and our partner councils and organisations. This includes proposed funding to build community resilience to impacts identified through the Regional Risk Assessment, and an annual $50,000 contestable fund for community-initiated projects in this space.

“Transport is another key area included in our consultation document, with improvements to networks and an increase in frequency for both Whanganui and Palmerston North bus services proposed.

“We’re also asking for feedback on our proposal to fund improvements to passenger rail services in the Lower North Island. Horizons share of the cost would go towards building new trains and stations, along with improved infrastructure, while also splitting the cost of replacing the current Capital Connection trains with our partners Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“Horizons has big work programmes to deliver, many of which are unprecedented in terms of scale and pace. However, these activities will provide an opportunity to accelerate improvements to our freshwater and resilience to flooding, address climate change concerns, and enhance the way our passengers commute around and through our region.

“Our average rates increases are some of the largest we have ever proposed and something Council hasn’t considered lightly. We appreciate any increase isn’t ideal and encourage people to read our consultation document and supporting information to understand what we are proposing and why, as well as what they will receive from our work programmes in return, before filling in the submission form.

“Ultimately, everything we do aligns with Council’s new vision for the region: Tō tātou rohe – taiao ora, tangata ora, mauri ora. Our place – a healthy environment where people are thriving. Our plan for the next 10 years is our residents’ plan. This is their chance to let us know if we have got it right.”

Horizons Regional Council’s consultation period runs from 26 March until 5pm 23 April 2021. The consultation document and further supporting documentation is available online here and from Horizons’ service centres. Submission forms are also available online and will be delivered to letterboxes throughout the region from 5 April.