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Source: Federated Farmers

Environment Southland’s Long-Term Plan process and proposals are a dog’s breakfast and they should stick to the status quo, Federated Farmers Southland says.
“They’ve botched the whole thing,” the region’s Feds president Jason Herrick says.
“There has been a lack of transparency throughout, and the cost increases they want to put on farmers and the wider community disregards the current cost of living crisis.
“The best thing the council can do now is keep next year’s rate increase to the level of inflation and go back to the drawing board, with better community consultation.”
Families and businesses are tightening their belts to make ends meet and Environment Southland also needs to “cut its cloth to match the times,” Herrick says.
Legislation requires a council to adopt a new Long-Term Plan before the start of the first financial year that the plan covers. Environment Southland will break that deadline.
“Because the initial plan Environment Southland consulted on was so flawed, councillors are being called into multiple 11 th-hour workshops to deliberate, and staff are developing new options on the fly.
“It is incredibly poor practice to adopt a Long-Term Plan which contains options that haven’t been consulted on with the wider community but this is effectively what the council is going to do,” Herrick says.
From an initial proposed rates increase of around 23% in 2024/25, it’s now looking like 13-14%. But that’s being followed up with a 16-17% hike the following year, and 11-13% the next.
“Those sorts of increases are totally unacceptable.”
“No effort has been made to cut costs, only to spread them over three years. From media reports, there is only one councillor who understands the economic situation and has ratepayers’ interests at heart by voting ‘no’ the proposed rates increases and the latest version of the LTP.”
It appears council will adopt a modified version of their preferred option for the rating system, but it will be a staged approach to get there over two years.
“This is confusing for ratepayers and we still end up with the same flawed rating system.
“The council has got itself into a real mess due to its poor consultation process which has failed to engage the community. Environment Southland should have consulted on these significant rating changes before the LTP.”
Herrick says there are widespread misgivings about the new ‘one pot’ catchment model and rates.
“Catchment liaison committees should have been integral to discussions early on but they were shut out, despite council’s preferred option impacting their very existence.”