CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Busy year ahead, budget first up

Published: 13 January 2022

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A new year begins, with hopes that 2022 will be better than the last and that covid’s sticky tentacles are loosening up and the recovery from last winter’s floods continues.

For Council, it is another busy year ahead and we are halfway through the 2021-22 financial year. Some projects have been ticked off already, like the upgrade of the CBD streetscape, and others are nearing completion, like the Ashburton Relief Sewer.

It is also the busiest time of the year for our roading team and contractors, as they finish repairs and undertake resealing work only possible in the warmer months. Council spends about $3 million a year resealing roads and another $2 million on rehabilitation work in a normal year.

Rehabilitation work on parts of Thompsons Track and Ashburton Staveley Road has been completed, with sections of Arundel Rakaia Gorge Road, Valetta Westerfield Road, Forks Road and Christys Road and another section of Ashburton Staveley Road planned over the next four months.

We are also almost finished unplanned emergency repairs that resulted from the big rain event at the end of last May. It’s been a big achievement to effect the repairs on top of the ongoing routine work necessary on the network.

Financial decisions around other projects were confirmed in the Long Term Plan adopted last year and they include spending on water management, like upgrades for Methven’s drinking water treatment system, and money to progress the last stage of the business case for the second bridge.

We will soon be consulting the community on its views for a 30-year development plan at Lakes Camp and Clearwater and also reviewing other policies and strategies, like the Waste Management and Minimisation Plan.

Later in the year, there will also be the three-yearly local body elections.

One of the first jobs for Council this year is a two-day budget workshop.

The Long Term Plan shows a rate increase of 7.8 per cent for the next financial year but with inflation rising higher than forecast when the Long Term Plan was finalised, there will be a discussion about whether the forecast rate rise is realistic, given the current economic environment.

Inflation has been rising since 30 June 2020 and the annual inflation rate (the difference between the September 2020 quarter and the September 2021 quarter) was 4.9 per cent. The Reserve Bank is predicting further increases, driven by a worldwide supply chain breakdown resulting in shortages of goods that is pushing prices up.

At the budget workshop, Councillors will be discussing operational and capital spending for the new financial year – it is a critical piece of work that defines the detail of Council activity for the 12 months to 30 June 2023.

We are all set for another busy and productive year and we look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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