Informal Workshop Notes

LTP 2023- 2024 Workshop 4

Regional Council

Held:                            09:30 am, Thursday 7 September 2023, Council Chambers, Regional House, 1 Elizabeth Street, Tauranga and via Zoom (Audio Visual Link)

Chairperson:               Deputy Chairperson Jane Nees

Present:                       Cr Malcolm Campbell

Cr Stuart Crosby

Cr Kat Macmillan

Cr Ken Shirley

Cr Lyall Thurston (Via Zoom)

Cr Andrew von Dadelszen

Cr Te Taru White

Cr Kevin Winters (Via Zoom)

In Attendance:            Fiona McTavish – Chief Executive; Mat Taylor – General Manager, Corporate; Namouta Poutasi – General Manager Strategy & Science; Reuben Fraser – General Manager Regulatory Services; Kataraina O’Brien – General Manager – Strategic Engagement (via Zoom); Karen Aspey - Director, People & Leadership; Kumaren Perumal - Chief Financial Officer; Olive McVicker – Corporate Performance Team Lead; Jo Pellew – Rates Manager; Gillian Payne – Principal Advisor; Mark Le Comte – Principal Advisor – Finance; Angela Foster – Communications & Engagement Manager (via Zoom); Annabel Taylor – Manager, Special Projects; Pete Hennessey – Communications Team Leader; Stephanie Macdonald – Community Engagement Team Leader; Steve Groom – Governance Manager; Merinda Pansegrouw – Committee Advisor.

Apologies:                  Chairman Doug Leeder, Cr Toi Kai Rākau Iti, Cr Ron Scott and Cr Paula Thompson.  


1.            Declaration of conflicts of Interest

·       Cr Jane Nees – Rates Remission in Tauranga Area (Item 1)

·       Cr Ken Shirley – Sports Organisation (Item 1)

·       Cr Te Taru White – Māori Owned Land and Sport Organisations (Item 1)


1.     Introduction

For LTP 2024- 2034 Workshop 4, guidance was sought on the following matters:

1.    Review of the Rates Remission and Postponement Policy - Existing Remissions and Transitions

2.    Regional Infrastructure Funding

3.    2024-2034 Pre-Engagement Communications and Engagement Options.



Review of Rates Remission and Postponement Policy - existing remissions and transition

Presentation Rates Remission Workshop No 4 - 7 September 2023 - PDF V2: Objective ID A4478243  


Presented by Kumaren Perumal - Chief Financial Officer, Gillian Payne - Principal Advisor and Jo Pellew - Rates Manager.

Direction sought regarding Rates Remission and Postponement Policy (existing remissions and transition):

·       Elected Members to note updated principles and objectives

·       Direction on rates remission policies for:

o   Sports organisations

o   Community organisations (non-sport)

o   Contiguous properties

o   Financial hardship

o   Transition provisions

1.1    Sports Organisations

Key Points - Staff:

·     Following Councillors’ request to model the financial impact for Council and affected ratepayers of limiting remissions to the legislative minimum, the scenario of the “legislated minimum” was shown as Option 1

·     Option 2 was the same as Option 1 except that organisations that held a club liquor licence would also be eligible

·     Option 3 was the same as Option 2 except that the remission increased to 100% of rates.

Key Points - Members:

·     Cautioned against possible reputational risk for Council

·     Supported a “keep it simple” approach

·     Deemed transparency/ease of understanding as critical

·     Administrative costs to be kept as low as possible

·     Emphasised that sports organisations added value; enhanced community wellbeing

·     Noted that staff would communicate any changes in rates to sports organisations

·     Supported flexibility in the policy, to enable staff to assist sports organisations in special circumstances.

Direction Provided:

·     Majority of Councillors preferred Option 3 as the basis for a draft for consultation (“100%, can hold club liquor licence”)

·     Should option 3 modelling demonstrate a considerable increase in rates for a particular group, consideration to be given to a phased/transition approach, offering up to a three-year transition period

·     Acknowledged/supported the following policy objectives/criteria/ considerations used by various Territorial Local Authorities (TLAs) in assessing applications:

o   To recognise and support the social and health benefits to the community of sports facilities

o   To help non-commercial or not-for-profit facilities and clubs to be financially viable and to support their continued existence

o   To help ensure disadvantaged groups could access the services and facilities

o   To support the efforts of volunteers

o   Whether the organisation had access to alternative financial support, for example corporate sponsorship or central government contracts for service

o   Extent of services provided by volunteers.

1.2    Community Organisations (non-sport)

Key Points - Staff:

·     Suggested remissions between 50% and 100%, (with 50% as default) giving staff the ability to assess criteria and allow remission up to 100% based on criteria, i.e. extent of voluntary effort, other sources of income (sponsorship, local or government contracts) and impact of remission on financial sustainability.

Key Points - Members:

·     Enquired about the impact of ownership of buildings vs. non-ownership of buildings and landlords passing commercial rates onto community organisations as lessees.  Noted that there was a possibility of allowing rates remission in instances of sub-leasing/partial occupancy within a building

·     Supported staff having the ability to apply criteria to enable remission based on 100%, long term lease agreements

·     Supported the principle of simplicity

·     Noted that staff did have the ability to filter/screen community organisations on the basis of the following criteria: (1) being registered as a not-for-profit or charitable status, (2) provided public benefits that supported Council’s community outcomes and goals

·     Supported the principle of being consistent, across both community and sports organisations.

Direction Provided:

·     Majority of Councillors preferred Option 3 (100% remission)

·     Concurred that racing be excluded

·     Requested that the principle of apportionment be included in instances where race courses were used for multiple sports activities; staff to be given the discretion to consider apportionment.


1.3    Contiguous properties

Key Points - Staff:

·     The Local Government Rating Act 2002 (LGRA), Section 20 set out conditions for treating adjacent rating units as one for rating purposes; to qualify, the properties should be:

(a) owned by the same person or persons; and

(b) used jointly as a single unit; and

(c) contiguous or separated only by a road, railway, drain, water race, river, or stream. (Under the legislation, all three of the conditions must be met)

·     Currently TLAs offered a variety of policy objectives

·     For simplicity, staff recommended the legislative minimum to achieve regional consistency

·     A miscellaneous circumstances policy (existing) and transition policy (new) would be important during implementation.

Direction Provided:

·     Based on the principles of regional consistency/equal treatment, Councillors supported the legislative minimum.

1.4    Financial hardship

Key Points - Staff:

·     The current Rates Remission and Postponement Policy enabled remissions for properties that were domestic residences, occupied by the applicant as their normal residence. It required applicants to:

a)       Be a natural person

b)     Be eligible for the Government Rates Rebate scheme

c)      Have received rates remission or postponement from their TLA

d)     Not own any other rating unit (excludes interests in multiply-owned Māori land)

e)      Make acceptable arrangements for payment of future rates

·     Staff recommend retaining the eligibility criteria a), b), d), and e) above, together with additional matters for Council to consider:

o      the ability of the applicant to access other sources of finance (e.g. mortgage)

o      Whether budget advice had been sought, and if any recommendations were relevant for Council to consider

·     Annual application to be required.

Key Points - Members:

·     Enquired about the principle of “residential hardship” vs. “hardship generally”.  Noted that the current Rates Remission and Postponement Policy referenced domestic residences; furthermore, eligibility for the Government Rates Rebate scheme only applied to residential properties

·     Noted that the current policy provided flexibility for miscellaneous rates remissions on a case-by-case-basis

·     Would be fair to consider rates remission in instances where the activities of Regional Council impacted negatively on ratepayers.

Direction Provided:

·     Supported retaining the eligibility criteria a), b), d), and e)

·     Supported deleting criteria (c) and including the following:

o      the ability of the applicant to access other sources of finance (e.g. mortgage)

o      Whether budget advice had been sought, and if any recommendations were relevant for Council to consider

·     Annual application to be required.


1.5    Transition arrangements

Key Points - Staff:

·     Council’s draft policy principles included that Council would consider fair transition for ratepayers, accordingly sought Council’s direction on transition provisions

·     Recommend options A(i), B(i) and C(i) as these were the most straightforward for ratepayers/easiest to implement.

Key Points - Members:

·     Noted that there was flexibility within the policy allowing staff to accommodate ratepayers experiencing hardship as a result of natural disasters too.

Direction Provided:

·     Supported options A(i), B(i) and C(i), on the basis that good quality communications with the community would form part of the process:

o   A: Transition period (i) Two years – i.e. in 2024/25 financial year, ratepayers would receive the average of the remission they received in 2023/2024 and the remission they would receive if the new policy was immediately implemented

o   B: Eligibility (i) All ratepayers experiencing remission decreases

o   C: Application (i) Automatically applied



10:50am - The workshop adjourned.

11:05am - The workshop reconvened.



Regional Infrastructure Funding


Presented by Kumaren Perumal, Chief Financial Officer and Mark Le Comte, Principal Advisor, Finance and Fiona McTavish, Chief Executive.



·     The purpose of this paper was to seek early guidance from Councillors on the potential to consider providing infrastructure funding support to councils and other entities as part of the LTP 2024-2034.


Guidance Sought from Councillors

·     Whether to proceed with investigating opportunities for improved delivery of Council’s Strategic Direction by helping fund Regional Infrastructure delivered and owned by third parties

·     Whether the current Third Party Infrastructure Policy and process was fit for purpose

·     Whether to propose as a consultation topic for LTP 2024-2034, a new targeted rate of approximately $150-200 per ratepayer, (either as a flat charge or land value-based charge, on average) to fund Regional Infrastructure.

Key Points - Members:

·     Commended staff for the comprehensive paper

·     Was of the opinion that more financial background information would be required to make informed decisions regarding affordability/best options  

·     Acknowledged the need to be prudent in spending

·     Would be premature to consult the public at this stage as it could create further expectations

·     Supported investigating alternative funding opportunities

·     Supported the principle of using council’s financial levers to support the region

·     Stressed that it was imperative to see the bigger picture

·     Addressing equity of payment across the region was important

·     New Zealand was technically in a recession, facing a challenging financial outlook/cost of living crisis

·     Recognised the potential financial impact of climate change/forced managed retreats/the Crown’s expectation in terms of regional councils contributing towards recovering costs

·     Was critical for Regional Council to ensure it had the resources to provide service delivery in terms of legislative requirements

·     Further discussion on the levels of service would be required before considering infrastructure funding

·     In terms of potential projects for consideration, pointed out that projects supported by Regional Council should ultimately align with its strategic direction/goals and ranked accordingly

·     It was a time for caution; needed to focus on “core business” vs. “nice to have’s”

·     Needed to consider possible significant shifts in national economic policies following the General Election 2023

·     Noted with concern the expectation that had been created following the Regional Stadium’s independent feasibility study listing Regional Council as a financial contributor towards the Regional Stadium. Expressed unease as Regional Council had not been consulted on this matter

·     As the next step, it was critical to obtain a clear and full understanding of Regional Council’s financial picture.

Direction Provided:

·     Concurred that consideration of the Regional Infrastructure Funding Workshop paper be deferred to a future LTP 2024-2034 Workshop.




Presentation: 2024-2034 Pre-Engagement Communications and Engagement Options

Presentation Pre-engagement Communications LTP Workshop 4 - 7 September 2023 PDF: Objective ID A4478238  

Presented by Angela Foster - Communications and Engagement Manager and Stephanie Macdonald - Community Engagement Team Leader.


Direction sought from Councillors:

·     Whether to pre-engage on the LTP 2024-2034;

o   Two options presented:

a)    No engagement

b)   Targeted digital engagement on key topics

·     If supported, to agree on proposed questions for initial pre-engagement.

Key Points - Staff:

·     Staff were working to a tight statutory timeline to deliver the Long Term Plan; had a very small window for pre-engagement before the draft Plan was prepared

·     There was no legal requirement to pre-engage

·     LTP pre-engagement would be seeking early views from the public on preliminary focus areas and drawing attention to ‘what’s on the horizon’

·     Proposed potential pre-engagement period – 14th September to 6th October

·     Feedback could be compiled and presented at the 25 October LTP Workshop

·     Highlighted the pros and cons of no pre-engagement vs. pre-engagement

·     Pre-engagement could be aligned to the LTP process so that community feedback could support Councillors’ workshops.

Key Points - Members:

·     Expressed the view that might be too early to consult the public on priorities/regional amenities; Council still needed to do further work to have a clear understanding of what its options/constraints/opportunities were

·     Cautioned against creating expectations

·     Was supportive of pre-engagement but was wary as the public only recently became more aware of Regional Council; could be a further  opportunity to increase awareness of council’s activities and create context

·     Community engagement was key to healthy democracy/basis for local government; timing and context was critical

·     Was critical in communications with the community to focus on what Regional Council’s core functions/business was; providing a list of possible infrastructure projects could potentially divert the public from “what Regional Council really did”

·     Supported limited pre-engagement

·     Supported proposed question 1, opposed questions 2, 3 and 4

·     Requested further discussion on the distribution of the average discount per household each year due to Quayside Holdings Limited investments/shareholding in the Port of Tauranga

·     Pre-engagement should provide the community with the genuine ability to choose; engagement should be meaningful democracy.

Guidance Provided:

·     Supported Option B: Targeted digital engagement on key topics (Digital communications to support targeted engagement / phased to align with LTP workshops / targeted to easy-to-access participants)

·     First topic to be of a general nature i.e. what should be the priorities for the Regional Council (focusing on what the core activities were for Regional Council)

·     Staff to look at Question 1 and develop a series of questions based on Question 1 (which would not provide options as per formal consultation, but rather provide feedback in terms of opinions/direction.) Draft questions to be circulated to Councillors via email

·     Following the LTP Workshops scheduled for 19, 20 and 26 September, further questions to be developed based on the outcome of the various workshops

·     Final feedback from the targeted digital pre-engagement to be provided to Councillors at the 25 October 2023 LTP Workshop for consideration

·     Noted that digital advertising would be used to include various platforms to target different demographics.

Next steps:

·     Staff to provide Councillors with a copy of the previous LTP Consultation Document as an example of the typical meaningful consultation questions/options provided to the public as part of the formal consultation process.


2.     Conclusion


12.20 pm – The workshop closed.