Councillors Sound the Alarm on Rates Hike and Service Cuts


In a move that has raised eyebrows and household costs, the Waikato District Council (WDC) has unveiled its proposed rates increases of 13.75% for the upcoming fiscal year. We hear from Whaingaroa Ward Councillor Lisa Thomson and Tamahere Ward Councillor Mike Keir who was in town this morning. Brace yourselves, as it's a tale of increasing living standards, inflationary pressures and the acknowledgment that the current rating system may not be sufficient. 

WDC has unveiled its revamped annual plan for the 2024/25 fiscal year, departing from its customary Long Term Plan—a 10-year spending blueprint because of uncertainties surrounding central government policies and funding.

“It would be like forecasting into a really bad storm without being able to navigate your way through it, it's also around central government funding into our roading - which is still not a known thing,” said Whaingaroa Councillor Lisa Thomson.

Historically, about half of the council's budget has relied on transportation funding from the central government. However, the recent declaration about National Roads of Significance by the coalition government has raised concerns among councils nationwide.

In addition to this, Watercare, the current provider for WDC's Three Water Services, has chosen not to extend its contract beyond 2026. 

Watercare officials attribute this decision to the repeal of Labour's reform initiative, citing a lack of financial capacity to meet Auckland's infrastructure needs, let alone those of Waikato. 

“Rating doesn't work anymore. We cannot fund our assets. The wastewater areas are in major need of significant investment - hundreds of millions of dollars, we can't afford it” said Mike before adding; “rating is not a way out of the situation. We need central government to come to the party and at the moment they're not.”

Lisa and Mike assert that the proposed 13.75% rates increase is essential to uphold current service levels without introducing any additional provisions or improvements. They emphasise that this is primarily aimed at offsetting inflationary pressures and sharp rises in construction costs, acknowledging that it could pose a significant burden for households.

Targeted rates in Raglan are poised to increase by a similar percentage as the general rate and Mike disclosed he initially proposed to raise general rates by 20% as a strategy to prompt community involvement in discussions about the future funding model of councils.

Lisa highlights the financial burden on ratepayers by referring to Raglan’s local wastewater treatment plant upgrade, estimated at approximately $26 million. This cost is being shouldered by the 14,000 urban ratepayers throughout the district.

Amid increasing demands for higher water quality and improved resource management standards, Mike highlights a shift in New Zealand's economic status. He reflects that while the country was considered wealthy in the 1950s, currently, it’s now starting to look like New Zealand is living beyond its means.

Raglan Structure Plan 

Currently discussions are ongoing regarding the placement of a bypass road connecting SH23 to Te Hutewai Road and beyond to Wainui Rd. Two property developers are engaged in negotiations with each other and with the council regarding potential locations while the community is yet to have any input. 

Normally planning for a road like this would have happened as part of a council structure plan process.

Mike acknowledges the importance of a structure plan in guiding a community's future but points out the challenge posed by council funding constraints, particularly regarding their diminishing ability to afford land purchases for future infrastructure. He cites the recently unsuccessful attempt to purchase a section on Wainui Rd for the T-junction of the future bypass road.

While council staff have conducted their own inquiries, public input into the process has been limited, primarily due to the absence of a structure plan or equivalent future planning document within the community. 

Xtreme Zero Waste could also be affected by the current ad hoc planning process because of a proposal for a 400-lot subdivision on Te Hutewai Rd which puts urban lots too close to the resource recovery centre. Mike stresses that there is still opportunity for community input through the Resource Management process for example, which could result in buffer zones around the site. 

“It's a really good idea for any community to have a long term plan on talking 50-100 years. And one of the things I like about Tainui Corporation is that they operate on that basis, they're looking 50 to 100 years in the future. That's the way we should be planning.” said Mike.


At a recent Community Board Meeting, residents voiced apprehensions regarding the condition of Te Hutewai Rd. Lisa noted that specific sections of the road might need frequent maintenance to ensure safety. However, maintaining the road presents challenges due to its rocky terrain. Residents living on Whaanga Rd have also expressed anxieties about road conditions, especially with the rise in population and visitor traffic.

The issue of road maintenance is directly linked to council funding. Mike stressed the importance of prioritising core responsibilities, such as road maintenance and managing three waters.

“That's why we need to go out with the community and ask what they are prepared not to have?” Explained Lisa, “And if people want the roads to have a different level of service, then they have to be prepared to take other things off. That's what it comes down to.”

Wastewater Network Reading: In October last year, a concerning spike in E.Coli levels was detected near the Raglan Museum stormwater outlet. Despite ongoing investigations, CCTV footage has not revealed any issues within the network. Consequently, it is believed that the problem originates from old pipes that are no longer part of the network.

Internal Raglan Bus: Progress on the internal bus service continues, with some funding allocated. However, due to operational staff constraints, the work has been postponed to the next round of network changes scheduled for October.

Traffic Lights on the One-Way Bridge: The WDC Draft Transport Plan for Raglan has proposed installing traffic lights on the one-way bridge, estimated to cost $200,000. Traffic lights on the bridge have been unpopular in the past and Lisa mentioned that the Raglan Community Board will host a workshop with the council transport team to discuss these plans further.

Wainui Reserve 30 Year Plan: The community board and council staff are planning to establish a stakeholder group to devise a 30-year plan for Wainui Reserve. Amongst many potential ideas, this may involve relocating some local sports fields to a flatter area within the reserve.

Trade Aid Closes: Trade Aid's decision to shift focus primarily to online business has impacted all 24 stores nationwide, including the one in Raglan. This marks a poignant moment given Trade Aid's 50-year legacy and 35-year presence in Raglan. Local advocates, led by figures like Eva Rickard, have championed bringing Trade Aid to Whaingaroa, nurturing a strong connection between Raglan and the fair trade movement. Join the Trad Aid Raglan Local’s Night on Saturday, April 6th, from 4:30 pm onwards to show your support.

Join Lisa and the Council to talk about the Draft Annual Plan during a drop-in session, on Friday, April 12 from 6.30m-8pm at the Raglan Town Hall. This Drop-in Session is designed to provide our communities with an opportunity to talk about the Draft Annual Plan 2024-25. Learn more and submit your feedback on the Draft Annual Plan 2024/25 at this link.