Council approves homes scheme 

Infill housing, which has become commonplace in older Hamilton suburbs, presents its own problems, Russ Rimmington says.

A sustainable homes scheme called “different and visionary” will be rolled out by the Waikato Regional Council.

The plan, featured in the News earlier this year, will assist homeowners by making loans available to make sustainable improvements.

“Everyone deserves to have a warm, dry home,” chair Russ Rimmington said. “This programme will enable people to do that, and to make other improvements that will have really good social outcomes and be great for the environment too.”

Further work is required to develop the final scheme, which is expected to be launched in the latter half of the 2021-22 financial year.

Initially $5 million will be available and applications will be capped at $15,000.

The lending rate to homeowners will be 5.5 per cent over 10 years, to be paid through a voluntary targeted rate levied on individual properties from July 1.

A similar scheme operates in Hawke’s Bay.

The council set is long term vision in concrete last week and settled on a 7.9 per cent rates increase to existing ratepayers in year one of the long term plan – 0.6 per cent more than proposed when the council opened for consultation on April 1.

For three-quarters of Waikato ratepayers, it’s an increase of less than $50 a year.

“This is on the back of a zero per cent increase in rates revenue from current ratepayers last year, which recognised the impact of Covid-19 on our communities,” Russ Rimmington said.

“But there’s work we simply must do and at pace, like meeting the central government’s new Essential Freshwater regulations which makes up just over two per cent of the rates increase in year one.”

It would have been a rise of 8.4 per cent in year one if councillors had opted to bring forward the start of biodiversity work to the 2021-22 financial year.

“Our communities told us there is a biodiversity crisis so we should bring work to protect it forward a year. We wanted to do this too,” Cr Rimmington said.

“But we had a very good discussion about it, and at the end of the day we agreed to stick with the preferred option we consulted on. We need to see the detail of government direction on indigenous biodiversity first, but we’re poised to respond with a bold plan to increase biodiversity support from year two.”

Chief Executive Chris McLay said the council had stepped up its engagement approach for this year’s long-term plan, which showed in the number and quality of submissions.

“Almost 1500 submissions were received by the council on our long-term plan proposals – an increase of 454 per cent on 2018. It’s clear from this that we’ve hit the topics right for the community and communicated them well.

“In many ways this is very much a business as usual long term plan, but there are meaty issues we have to get stuck into for the region,” Mr McLay said.
“It’s been a long journey to develop this 10-year plan and, while there’s still work to do, we’ve reached a major milestone this week.”

The budget decisions will be ratified at this month’s meeting of council when the long-term plan is adopted.

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