IS HORIZONS IN BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE?
That well known movie saying “Life is like a box of chocolates, there are choices” is so true. Horizons will find it’s self in that situation in the near future says Regional Councillor Bob Walker. Horizons have a number of choices and some Councillors need to “re focus” on the choices they have taken now and the future impacts they will have on the Regions Ratepayers, who are struggling to pay their rates.
Without any doubt some recent developments will impact severely on Horizons image and its operation. Cr Walker said that most thinking people would acknowledge we are still coming out of a recession and facing massive costs for basic food items, fuel and associated services. Horizons is no different from a normal household, if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it and you learn to do without, that is simple stuff that everyone in the community understands and should relate to.
A number of months ago Horizons Councillors were given a rate base line from the Senior Management Team of just over 2% rate increase that has now jumped to a 6% average rate increase. One cost that Councillors had no choice but to include on top of the 2% was 2.2% GST, Councillor Walker said in theory that Horizons could have been looking at a 4.4% rate increase maximum. He said he would have lived with that and for the first time in three years he would have voted to endorse the Annual Plan once all submissions had been heard, assuming there were not further rate increases. Cr Walker said he was part of a Rate Freeze Team, and three Councillors were elected under that banner. Their goal was to acknowledge a cost of living percentage increase only, but cut rates down from the 9% to 30% rate increases that had happened in previous years.
As a consequence of the two major earthquakes that hit Christchurch recently all New Zealand households and companies will face increased insurance costs that will hike up daily living costs. These insurance costs could be horrendous to insure all Horizons plant and machinery and will impact on Rates. These dramatic costs were never really known and were not on the radar screen said Cr Walker, he said even now they are unknown.
Horizons have little choice, but to make further cuts to non essential costs, this is something that a large number of Ratepayers have been demanding for many years. Any Councillor who ignores these requests will clearly place their future at Horizons at risk at the next election, and will clearly demonstrate they are not listening to their constituents.
Cr Walker said cuts in non core functions will be easy; this could include the Green Rig and similar items that are clearly “luxury items”. Funding for essential items and functions should not be put under threat if Horizons is to continue with its prime role. It will be a difficult balancing act requiring some Councillors to look at the “big picture” and its impact on Ratepayers, not just some of their own pet interests.
The future of Horizons depends on them getting it right this year.
R.G. (BOB) WALKER, HORIZONS REGIONAL COUNCILLOR (WANGANUI)