Public feedback on the Otago Regional Council’s Annual Plan 2022-23 outlined their preferences
surrounding the Council’s long-term perspective in reaction to current global issues - including climate
change, transport and the quality of the environment.
ORC new deputy chair and chair of its finance committee, Kevin Malcolm, says public feedback is a “critical component” of the Annual Plan decision making process.
Annual Plans provide a process for ORC to review the detailed budgets contained in the Long-term Plan 2021-31 (LTP).
“We thank all those who responded and will ensure we give their views full consideration as we deliberate on our final rate figure.”
Council will be considering the feedback at its Finance Committee*, Annual Plan Deliberations, which start next week on 1 June, potentially for two days.
“It’s imperative that the ORC is efficient and fit for purpose and we work with our people to ensure a quality environment and strong resilient communities. Together we will get there,” Mr Malcolm says.
Acting Chief Executive and General Manager Corporate Services Nick Donnelly says he was pleased with the amount of public engagement, and the wide variety of topics canvassed by the respondents.
“The feedback and letters showed there’s a high degree of understanding and engagement on what the Council’s aims and policies are for environmental protection,” Mr Donnelly says.
98 responses on on Annual Plan 2022-23
Over a month, a total 98 responses were made, plus 33 separate written letters were lodged by organisations from across Otago.
Following an advertising campaign, feedback was sought both online, at Your Say, and by people calling or visiting the Council, answering four primary questions, one optional and with space for a ‘general comment’.
There were 33 letters received, from a range of business and community-related organisations, and agencies, including the Department of Conservation, Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, Federated Farmers and councils of Dunedin and Queenstown Lakes, and some community boards.
The issue of households’ ability to pay their annual rates bill was also canvassed, with 63% of respondents saying the effect was either “modest” or of “little to no impact”, while 37% signalled the impact was “significant” on their household budget.
No change Vs immediate pause
More than 70% of respondents answered “no change” for the plan and for the Council to stick to its long-term perspective and build its work capacity, and more than 60% said Council should stick to its long-term plan.
Conversely, almost 30% wanted an “immediate pause” of the long-term plan programme; resulting in delayed or reduced work programmes, and 40% said it should not stick with its long -term plan.
Responses from 98 respondents
Question 1: How do you think Council should react to the current global issues with regards to our 2022-2023 work programme?
There were 80 responses; with 71% answering either “no change – stick with the long-term perspective and build capacity in agreed areas” or “watching brief – use the next 6 months to better understand how New Zealand and our communities are impacted by current issues and then revisit the LTP programme”.
It was noted some of the ‘watching brief’ respondents felt that Council should not stick to the long term programme.
There were 29% who answered with an “immediate pause” of the LTP programme – resulting in a delayed or reduced work programme and reduced rate increase.
Most of these respondents also indicated that Council should not stick to its LTP and the associated increased scale of work over years one to three.
Question 2: Do you think the council should stick to its long-term plan that increased the scale of work over years 1 to 3?
There were 72 responses; with 60% responding ‘Yes’, the Council should stick to plan, with 40% saying ‘No’, it should not stick with its LTP.
Question 3: What is the impact of the ORC rate to your yearly household spend or business/commercial operation?
There were 72 responses; with 63% answering there was either “modest – aware of the expenditure item but is absorbed” or “little to no impact”.
However, 37% indicated the impact on their household spend would be “Significant – need to carefully balance other spend items in order to pay the rate bill”.
Question 4: If Council was to reduce its work programme, do you have a strong preference for what that might be?
There were 78 responses; 64% either expected the Council to decide about possible reductions to its’ work, or had no preference.
There were 36% who indicated they had a preference for what work might be reduced, to reduce funding impacts. The majority of these respondents then went on to provide comments about their preferences.
The optional letters, including from numerous business groups, covered a wide range of ORC-related subjects, from climate change and rabbit control, wilding pines, tracks and trails and transport, to name a few.
Of the total 98 respondents, the largest respondent group of 35 people were more than 65-years-old, more than double the next largest group, of 15 people aged 55-64.
Interest waned as ages decreased, with 15 respondents aged 45-54, six aged 35-44, seven aged 25-34 and just two responses from people under 25.
*The Finance Committee’s meeting agenda will be available online from Monday on our ORC website.