By Don Good, Waikato Chamber CEO
As always local councils debate furiously the percentage increase in rates they need to fund their activities. For years a toxic combination of pet project spending and a need to be re-elected have compromised business-like sensible rate setting.
This is the first year of a new electoral cycle; it is a year when councillors should have a razor-sharp approach to council overheads and the funding of non-essential operational spending. In the Waikato’s case it is also a year when they should look to fund growth. Hamilton, Waipa, Waikato District, in fact most Waikato councils, are experiencing an increasing population.
The Waikato is a very attractive place to live, work and play. With migration you need to invest in infrastructure. Commerce will build around it and add value to the pipes, roads, parks and libraries, but who is going to pay for it?
Someone has to pay the piper and it is the ratepayer. Debt is one way and it allows big expenditure to be amortised across generations but in an inflationary environment the cost can only escalate if councils defer projects.
Three Waters came into being because local councillors were not bold enough to invest strongly in their water assets and future needs. Central government has lost patience with councillors buying their re-election with a cry to hold down rates. We need to invest for our and our children’s future. Have we elected courageous councillors who can make business-like investments in our future?
At Hamilton City Council and at Waikato Regional Council we have elected councillors with a lot of promises but little business experience or acumen. Have they the fortitude to reduce unnecessary administrative expenditure whilst increasing our rates and using the extra cash to build our city and our region for growth? With inflation holding around 7% anything less seems to be imprudent for future generations.