Travel options for those needing to get to work and study across the region are a step closer to improving next year, with Bay of Plenty Regional Council agreeing to trial new regional services for one year in 2020.
Council has budgeted $354,000 in its Annual Plan for 2019/20 for the trial, conditional on achieving a cost sharing arrangement with Toi Ohomai and the University of Waikato, to help reduce the costs to ratepayers.
Regional Council Chair Doug Leeder said that before the University’s Tauranga CBD Campus opened earlier this year the University, together with Toi Ohomai, had approached Council with a request for extra public transport between Whakatāne, Rotorua, Katikati and Tauranga.
“Currently, there is little public transport that students and commuters can take which ensures they can get to their place of study or work with timing that fits for an average day,” he said.
“As well as looking to share the costs of these services, we’ll also be using NZTA low cost low risk investment to keep the cost to ratepayers down.”
Full details of the new services should be released later this year, including fares, routes and timetables.
“Ultimately though,” Mr Leeder said, “this is a trial and the proof of its worth will be in its use, so when it starts, I thoroughly encourage people to use it.”
As part of adopting its Annual Plan 2019/20, Council also approved extending the living wage to Rotorua and Eastern Bay bus operators and extended the period that SuperGold card holders can travel for free each day on the region’s bus networks. In Tauranga, a one year trial of fare-free bus travel for school students will also take place to help reduce congestion in the city.
The Regional Council is also looking at introducing a Murupara to Rotorua service that works for those studying and working in the city.
“The deliberations highlighted the importance that the role Passenger Transport has in the region. We need to be getting it right to ensure the people that require it most, have ready access to it,” Mr Leeder said.
Where there is a net cost to Council, transport initiatives will primarily be funded through targeted rates, meaning that those who are likely to benefit from the services will pay for it
In addition, Council also adopted the following:
- Regional safety and rescue fund
Through consultation on the Annual Plan 2019/20, Council asked the community to provide feedback on how Regional safety and rescue services should be funded by local government in the Bay of Plenty. At present, charitable organisations apply separately to the various councils across the region. Through deliberations, Council directed staff to work with key stakeholders, in particular local councils and charitable safety and rescue service providers e.g. Surf Life Saving New Zealand. The intention is to create funding efficiencies and move towards a centralised funding approach for regional safety and rescue services via the next Annual Plan or Long Term Plan process.
- Climate change
Climate change is one of the region’s biggest strategic issues. This was confirmed by the community through consultation on the Annual Plan where we asked what we should be focusing our efforts on to address the effects of climate change. Through consideration of all submissions, it was the community’s view that Regional Council should be carefully considering the impacts of climate change when Council makes any decisions. Council also confirmed an additional $200,000 for the 2019/20 budget to support work around responding to climate change. The use of this funding will be guided by the content of Regional Council’s Climate Change Action Plan that is currently being finalised.
- Rangitāiki spillway
Council considered and approved additional capital funding of $4.34 million for the Rangitāiki Floodway project. This is a multi-stage project designed to take pressure off the flood-prone Rangitāiki River by diverting some of its flow. Increasing the capacity of the floodway reduces flood levels in the Rangitāiki River from upstream of Edgecumbe to the river mouth, which in turn reduces pressure on Rangitāiki River stopbanks during large flood events.
A number of community funding requests were approved by council based on their alignment with Council’s community outcomes. These requests could be accommodated through existing budgets in 2019/20.
The general rates increase in 2019/20 is 2.8%, which is at the same level as forecast more than 12 months ago in the Long Term Plan 2018-2028. In addition, there are also increases to some targeted rates. The average total increase in rates is 8.4%, which is higher than the 5.3% increase that was forecast a year ago in our Long Term Plan. The actual increase for any given ratepayer depends on their property land value, and where it is located.