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Rattling the Chains - Pumps, Pipes and Plants; Rubbish, Roads and Rates

Nelson Street stormwater improvements

The first full Council meeting of 2024 pulled together several months of work on our next Three Year Plan - the priorities, work plan and budget to get us through this cyclone recovery period and back on our feet.

The current position of the plan puts the rates increase at around 24% average across the district. It’s daunting.

The economic context behind this planning is also daunting. All infrastructure is costing us significantly more, inflation has eroded our buying power by significantly more than even the cost of household living, building anything is more expensive, and interest rates on borrowing are through the roof.

There’s another context too: recovery from a major cyclone. We have $129m of roading damage that is as yet unfunded. Four of our five wastewater treatment sites were flooded and damaged. We have a drinking water bore site in Waipawa that was flooded and is still vulnerable. We have a stormwater network that struggled. And we have the Pōrangahau community still in Category 2a, with all the uncertainty that brings about stop banks and flood risks.

Amid these challenging global, regional and local contexts, our priorities are clear. Councillors have focused on four areas:

Firstly, our roads. They’ve taken a real hammering. We are going to need to do more to maintain what roading integrity we have and to get recovery moving faster.


Secondly, stormwater. The recovery plans that we built with community following the cyclone put stormwater networks in the spotlight, and we’ve done a huge amount of reactive maintenance and fixes in the last few months. But if we are to make sure we build back better, we need a better plan and better tactical investment in the right place at the right time.


Thirdly, drinking water and wastewater, for which every household in the urban areas of CHB pay the same standard rate. We have slowed as much of our water infrastructure renewal programmes as we can. In particular, we can’t responsibly continue to upgrade our Takapau, Pōrangahau and Waipawa wastewater sites until independent flood reviews give us insight into how we rebuild safely around our rivers.

Of course we can’t slow everything. We’ve prioritised pipe renewals, as we simply have to replace our oldest pieces of pipe network to try and get on top of leaks and breakages. We’re continuing work to secure water bores and upgrade wastewater plants where population growth and largest industries are concentrated. 

We must also drive forward the so-called ‘Hawke’s Bay model’ to provide an effective, safe, affordable three waters service. This will be made possible by new government legislation, and we’re working towards this keenly.


Our fourth focus area is on council-wide efficiencies to all programmes, delivery and operations, from personnel reductions to reviewing transfer station services. The frustrating thing about this it that even hard decisions like closing services don’t save enough to reverse huge rates increases, as interest rates and inflation are so huge across our core infrastructure.

The incredible thing about local democracy, for which I continue to be very grateful, is the trust you place in the Councillors that represent you as we work through difficult decisions. But this is also one of the toughest things I have ever had to do, because we’re people too. People who are also ratepayers, community members, business owners, volunteers, parents and grandparents. Our decisions round the Council table affect the people like us we represent, every day. We never take that lightly.

We also want you, our community, to be a part of these decisions.


We still have some work to do before we bring a complete set of options out to you at the end of March. Then we’ll need you to spend some time with us over the next couple of months to decide together how we get through.


20 February 2024

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