Restarting our economy

Published on 07 May 2020

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As we near the end of our seventh week living under pandemic restrictions, we are beginning to get a better sense of what our post-pandemic world might look like. I use the term ‘sense’ because no one can say with any certainty what long-term impacts this event will have on the way we live.

Without doubt our economy will take a hit with key industries brought to a sudden standstill and many of our residents facing financial hardship. Our economy is beginning to restart. For example, of the 426 food outlets we have registered, 106 food are now operating under Level 3 restrictions. Understandably, many ratepayers are looking at how to cut their outgoings and have asked that we look at reducing rates.

Councillors are very aware that rates are a significant cost, particularly to residents on fixed incomes. That is why we adopted rates relief measures at our 9 April meeting. This interim measure allows for rate payments to be deferred for up to six months and was something your council could apply immediately to assist.

Right across the country there have been calls for councils to provide further relief by cutting rates. Last week, your councillors met to discuss the path forward. Cutting rates also means cutting Council spending and we agreed that this would make the district’s recovery slower and much more painful.

The Far North District Council is a significant service provider. That means we directly and indirectly employ hundreds of people across the district so we can provide the many services you receive. One of our most significant annual expenditures is on roading. This financial year we plan to spend close to $30 million on new roading and footpaths. Tightening our belt here would inevitably mean contractors and our own staff would lose their jobs. That would not improve our economy or our recovery.

Last month, we submitted 17 ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects to a taskforce set up by the Government to seek out projects that will stimulate the economy and reduce impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects we submitted include new water supplies for Kaikohe and Kaitaia, upgrades to wastewater facilities, flood protection, roading, and plans to boost walking and cycling options. I am very confident a number will get the green light and once they do, we need to ensure we have capacity to do that.

We are exploring other ways we can reduce costs and are working through what would be required alongside Local Government New Zealand and the Crown. We will keep you posted on what we decide.