After a strenuous day and a half of real debate, HBRC has settled its rates.

The Regional Council will cut its proposed average rates increase from 19.6% to 16% for 2024/25, with hikes of 18.3% and 8.5% in the following two years respectively. Over the three years, the Regional Council’s rate take will be $5 million less than originally proposed.

However HBRC will finance its ‘reduced’ rate increase for 2024/25 in part by calling for an additional dividend of $2.8 million from HBRIC, manager of the council’s investments.

A fascinating transparent process to observe online, with debate swinging back and forth from truly ‘big picture’ issues (‘rainy day’ demands and pressing environmental needs versus ratepayer incapacity and sticking to ‘core’ functions) to deep down in the weeds ($65k for award sponsorships, how far to a bus stop), with some monies added and others removed.

HBRC Rate calculations in real time

However anyone might have submitted on any issue, one could be reassured that councillors bared their souls and did their best to respect the full sweep of opinions.

Not all Councillors approved the result — Councillors Jerf van Beek, Neil Kirton and Will Foley voted against the final plan. The trio were not satisfied that the exercise had dug deeply enough into potential savings; nor were they happy that HBRC will finance its ‘reduced’ operating budget for 2024/25 in part via the HBRIC dividend.

Given the public campaigning that has occurred since consultation began, perhaps the clearest winner is Te Mata Peak, whose Trust retained its full funding of $120,000 per year over the next three years.

Not so lucky was Hawke’s Bay Tourism. Although HBT received a status quo $1.52 million grant for one year (commencing July 1), Councillors were adamant that there was no funding commitment thereafter.

Councillors stipulated that HBT must come up with an alternative funding scheme by the time HBRC is considering its next Annual Plan. A clear majority of councillors do not see funding HBT as a core responsibility of the Regional Council. Tourism industry leaders would be wise to watch the tourism debate on video to get the full flavour.
[Begins at 13:18 here]

HBRC expects the number ratepayers seeking rates remissions will increase significantly, given the combined effect of the rate hikes and the burden shifting triggered by changing to capital valuation as the platform for ratings calculation. Consequently $1.2 million has been set aside for that purpose.

That decision and the agreement to fully fund HB Tourism for one year were the chief drivers of the need to seek revenue relief by way of the extra HBRIC dividend.

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  1. Hi Tom, watched the tourism debate… thanks for the link. not often I agree with Neil Kirton but did.. also felt some sympathy for Will Foley, who (understandably) couldn’t quite get a handle on what was on the table – seems that was because no-one else could? The fact that George Hickton and his THB role is still being debated beggars belief! When I first moved to Napier 25 years ago, we had Bertie; Art Deco; Cruise ships; and lots of fun. A bit naive I know, but Napier attracted a lot of visitors for a whole lot of reasons. Yes, it’s now a multi-million dollar industry, but it is no longer the business of ratepayers to support it!

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