No one likes rates increases AND especially it they don't feel like they get good value for money. While rates are required to run a functioning city, to provide services and facilities for a growing city they must be used wisely and must be fair.
The debate on Hamilton's Long Term Plan was long, complex and feisty. I had to push hard to ask questions raised by submitters and have my say on your behalf. This was not easy.
My decisions were guided by understanding the huge impact of the proposed rate changes and seeking a reasonable, fair and affordable transition. This is why I pushed for a slower increase of 7% in Years 1 and 2 and better consideration around the fairness of a Uniform Annual charge.
I was also guided by the priorities of submitters, facts and information and fair debate around the table. I have strong views that small amounts of money into community based and driven developments and existing facilities can go a long way.
I am pleased to have secured 10% more money into community grants to put more money into the services and charitable organisations in our local community that are doing great work for us all. I am pleased to have supported the 1000's and 1000's of volunteers who have developed Waikwhakareke Natural Heritage Park so that there can be a toilet, decent footpaths, and so that we all can enjoy this city green space treasure. Also wonderful was the continued support of the Hamilton Gardens along with love and attention to our Central Library and Zoo entrances. Watch that space. And all for quite small sums of money.
I sought a small reduction in the Transport budget without success, but it good to see a focus on safety and ways to reduce car use and congestion.
I also strongly believe this is NOT the time for new shiny projects (not matter how nice) such as a Central City Park or another Garden Place upgrade. I applaud Central City Business for wanting to be a key part of revitalisation of the CBD, but with the rates pressures I could not justify over $10m on these at this time.
One project I did support, after much questioning, was the Waikato Regional Theatre. In debate I accepted that a do up of Founders for $25m was not possible and found it too hard to walk away from a $50m contribution from the Momentum Trust. At the end of the day I beleive Hamilton deserves a good quality theatre. I will be attentive ( as I have to date) to the issues raised about access, parking and community use as we progress to the next stage.
Hamilton is a fast growing city. Only two options were on the table for discussion and the way that the meeting ran did not allow any decent debate on these. I wanted to discuss the way we influence land values ( a big part of the development costs), create the best market competition and push harder on Government for better funding tools such as Infrastructure bonds and road tolls for the new bridge. Peakcocke has now been agreed but a number of us asked about other growth cells and the continued push for infill in appropriate areas. I was the only candidate in the elections that promoted the Special Housing Area approach and I am pleased these became available to Hamilton. They will help with the quick delivery of extra housing that is so badly needed.
We sit now at a 9.7% rates increase for next year and a 3 year phasing into CV and the Uniform Annual Charge of $500. It's a huge gain on earlier proposals for 16%, but as it is an average it will still bite hard on many people.
I'm not a councillor to play popular politics, vote everything down or shy away from hard decisions including rates. I have tried to reach a balanced outcome, support valuable projects and make the impact of change gentler on the ratepayer.
It has been disappointing for you and for me, to face unexpected financial pressure ( as per a previous blog). Hamiltonians vote for me as I said I would advocate for a better city not just a bigger one and do so in an affordable way. This had been my guiding principle in my votes on this plan.