At hand we have a story of a halving, a doubling and a balancing.
The ‘halving’ refers to information out this week that to 16 June 2020 there has been only 51% of normal average annual rainfall for Dargaville and most of Kaipara District. Being in the middle of the year but with only half of normal rain for this time of the year is very concerning. The drought we have been in for months looks to have long legs. Water storage and water resilience will be key themes for Kaipara and Northland as we go forward, and you should expect to see ongoing developments here.
The ‘doubling’ is another concerning number, in this case the two-fold increase in Kaipara between March and May in the number of Job Seeker beneficiaries. After a long plateau period of stable unemployment numbers in the 300s there has been a real spike due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, now in the 600s. This is a great concern for us all in a small community such as Kaipara, and Council as one of the largest employers in the District is working on ‘shovel-ready’ projects to help provide employment, keep people engaged and keep the wheels turning.
The ‘balancing’ here is about the balanced view which KDC is proposing with its rates proposal for the year ahead. In December 2019 Kaipara District Council set its predicted average rates rise for this Annual Plan 2020/21 at 5.49%. In rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic forecasts by economists Infometrics specifically for Kaipara, this number was substantially revised downwards to 3.97%. This balance point was set to maintain most service levels of Kaipara District Council and also to provide a Hardship Package and support grants for those in need. While this may be a larger number than neighbouring councils, any comparison between councils will always be flawed because the exact situation for each council is unique. Each council makes its decisions for the current and future residents of its own place.
Most comments people make to me are about the quality of our Kaipara roads – it’s top of mind for most people when they think about Kaipara District Council. Rightly so, 50% of all Council expenditure is on roads so it’s the largest part of the business of KDC. With a chequered past for its road network KDC chooses to continue investing in roading. Any rates increase less than 3.97% would certainly mean worse roads for Kaipara people and that would be very impactful and negative. At a time when so much progress has been made that would set Kaipara back years. Council has left no stone unturned in seeking improvements of our roads, including getting extra government money from the Provincial Growth Fund as part of the Kaipara Kickstart Programme announced in Feb 2019. Now is not the time to turn away from progress that’s being made here. Instead we are taking a balanced view for our way ahead.
Steady as she goes, that’s the Kaipara way as we appear to be sailing into choppy seas between these two oceans and two harbours. Keep safe and keep washing your hands!
Nga mihi nui ki a koutou, kia kaha Kaipara
Dr Jason Smith, Mayor of Kaipara District