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While much of this Long-Term Plan is a continuation of work planned through the previous one, there have been some cuts and some new additions to save costs or increase revenue. These include:

Introducing demand-responsive pricing for parking in the central city

Since 2017, Council has been running a trial of two hours free (to the user) parking in the central city. Offering free parking was identified at that time as one incentive Council could adopt to revitalise the central city. We want the central city to be a place that’s easy to get to. We want to manage our car parks so that you can come to the central city and have a better chance of finding a park.

We can manage parking using levers such as time and price, and base any changes to those levers on parking data. Occupancy rates of 85% is widely recognised as the optimum level.

When the two hours free parking trial was introduced, parking occupancy in the central city was below 85%. With the current two-hour free parking and all-day paid parking, most of the central city is more than 85% occupied. This is not supporting business productivity through efficient parking turnover (and therefore potentially reducing the number of people visiting the central city), and not meeting the public expectation of being easily able to find a parking space.

We're proposing to introduce 'demand responsive pricing' for 333 parks in the central city from 1 January 2025. Demand-responsive pricing allows Council to set parking fees at levels that can increase and/or decrease so that the ideal 85% parking occupancy is always achieved. The starting point will be $3 per hour for the first two hours (and $6 per following hour) in high demand areas of the central city, and $1 per hour for the first two hours (and $6 per following hour) in lower demand areas of the central city. This is competitive with the other parking options in the central city, and businesses which offer their own customer parking will still be able to do so.

The free parking trial would end with the introduction of demand-responsive pricing. When the two hours free parking trial was introduced, a central city rate was introduced to meet a portion of the foregone revenue of the trial. When the two hours free parking trial began, a central city targeted rates was introduced for commercial properties in the Business Improvement District (BID). As the free parking trial ends, we are proposing to phase out the targeted rate, charging a reduced amount in 2024/25, and removing it entirely in subsequent years.

Ending the free parking trial and introducing demand-responsive pricing for short-term and all-day paid parking (and removing the central city rate) will improve our financial position by $4.3 million in total over the first three years of the Long-Term Plan, reducing the burden on ratepayers by around 0.5%. The revenue generated increases in the subsequent years of the Long-Term Plan.

Further proposed changes

Commercial rates in the central city

We’ve worked with Hamilton Central Business Association on some changes to rating of commercial properties in the central city. We’re proposing to increase the Business Improvement District (BID) targeted rate each year by the same amount as the approved general rate increase, capped at 5%. We’re also proposing to increase rates for commercial properties in the Central City BID Boundary from the current 95% to 100% of Commercial category rates, transitioned over three years.

Business Improvement District boundary extension

HCBA has also proposed to extend the BID area to include a portion of Hamilton East, and accordingly businesses within this area may be charged the BID targeted rate to this area, effective from 1 July 2024. This is subject to:

  • Council approving a change to the BID Policy to allow online polls; and
  • the results of a BID Poll to be undertaken by HCBA with the businesses in the proposed Hamilton East BID extension area, and;
  • a final decision by Council.

Rates review

Council has agreed to conduct a comprehensive rates review over the next year. This will consider whether there are further changes that could be introduced to Council’s rating system in the 2025/26 Annual Plan. The review will consider:

  • the cost and implications of developing new rates to address specific issues
  • options around underdeveloped land
    – including new subdividable land and vacant land and underdeveloped commercial land
  • equity of rates on land with multiple separately used and inhabited parts of a rating unit (SUIP)
  • assessment of exceptional land use (for example, high users or negative impacts)
  • assessment of the equity of the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC).

How we plan to manage the city's finances

To fund what is in our draft Long-Term Plan, and have the city’s everyday costs met by everyday revenue from 2026/27, we’re proposing average rates increases of 19.9% ($11 per week for a median-value residential property) in 2024/25, and 15.5% for the following four years (2025/26 to 2028/29).

Given the unprecedented pressure on our budgets, a key focus of the draft Long-Term Plan is to make the rates rises as low as we possibly can next year. However, there is a strict debt cap that Council must not go over, which means we cannot balance the books any later than 2026/27, as we would be breaching our debt-to-revenue limit. We have ensured that the budget is focusing on the essentials, and deferred projects wherever possible. So in the short term, only the rates rises we’re proposing would enable us to stay within our financial limits.

Our debt-to-revenue limit, as set by the Local Government Funding Agency, is 285% (i.e. $285 of debt for every $100 of income) in 2024-25, and 280% in all other years. To protect the city against unexpected cost rises or revenue falls, the debt-to-revenue ratio in our proposed budget is at least four percentage points below the limit in every year. The significant operating surpluses from 2026/27 are necessary to ensure we remain within the debt-to-revenue ratio.

Rates figures are included to provide an indicative impact to a median-value residential property. Individual property changes will vary dependent upon property value and rating category.

The alternative would be to balance the books more quickly. The faster we balance the books, the less debt we build up, and the less we have to spend in interest payments – but rates rises would need to be higher in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

Reducing Council services and costs

Our budget for 2025/26 and beyond proposes reducing the everyday costs to run the city. We’re proposing reducing Council’s personnel costs by around $10.4 million per year (above existing reductions of around $8 million per year that are currently being implemented), and reducing our consultant budget by about $1 million. 

These cuts would likely mean reductions to some back-office functions and community-facing services. Reducing community services could look like stopping or removing a particular service or facility altogether. Or there could be more widespread, smaller scale reductions. A reduction in everyday services or activities would mean it costs less to run our city, and therefore we would not need to collect as much everyday revenue through rates. We have not yet identified which services will be affected, but will ensure critical services that are required by legislation will not be impacted.

At this stage we are seeking feedback on whether you support Council finding savings through reducing its personnel and consultant costs, impacting our everyday services and support functions. If Council includes these savings in its final Long-Term Plan, we will seek community feedback on the specific savings Council proposes in the 2025/26 Annual Plan (and if required Long-Term Plan amendment). 

The impact of not proceeding with these personnel and consultant reductions would be that our balancing the books position deteriorates compared to the draft Long-Term Plan by $104 million over the ten years, and we would need to increase rates by an additional 0.4% (an average of 15.9% in total) from 2025/26 to 2028/29. This means a median-value residential property would pay an additional $1.64 more per week by 2028/29.  

Image of a young girl sitting in a swing, the swing is being pushed by her mum.

These are Council’s community services and back-office functions to consider how we can reduce our costs

Most of your rates goes towards paying for these services:

Water
Delivering an average of 22 billion litres of high quality, safe drinking water to 64,000 properties each year, maintaining more than 2800km of pipes, managing stormwater runoff and treating wastewater.

Rubbish and recycling
Picking up 3 million kg of food scraps, 10.5 million kg of recycling and nearly 16 million kg of general waste from 63,000 households each year.

Transport
Maintaining 700km of roads, 178km of cycleways, 1900km of footpaths, as well as 285 bus shelters, more than 1900 streetlights and a million m2 of road landscaping.

Growth
Investing in our five key growth areas, managing our climate response, properly planning for the future and enabling 1200 new homes a year in our growing city.

Safety 
Registering dogs, responding to animal control complaints, registering and regulating our food and alcohol businesses, removing graffiti and keeping our city safe with patrol officers and CCTV in our central city. 

Parks and recreation
Maintaining parks, sports areas, playgrounds and public toilets, cemeteries, community facilities, dog parks and river paths. We also grow 100,000 native seedlings each year to restore nature in the city. 

Community services 
We lend you a million items each year from our seven libraries, welcome 375,000 visits to our two pool facilities, and respond to more than 220,000 enquiries to Council.

Venues, tourism and events
We host 1000 events each year at our three iconic venues, bringing in half a million attendees. We also provide sponsorship funding to bring in a wide range of events to our city. 

Visitor destinations
Welcoming visitors to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, Hamilton Gardens, and Hamilton Zoo.

Education
We teach kids how to ride bikes and families how to save water. We help new drivers and motorcyclists stay safe on the road and show households how to minimise waste.

Then there are services that support our organisation to get things done:

Governance, legal and mayoral office
We run local elections, Council meetings, and respond to more than 400 official information requests each year. We support the mayor with policy advice and connecting with the community.

Human resources and health and safety
We hire and retain more than 1400 staff, including zookeepers, lawnmowers, rubbish truck drivers and librarians. Our HR team keeps our staff accountable, performing to a high standard and supports them to develop in their field of expertise.

Communication, marketing and events
We keep you informed about what's happening in your neighbourhood and ask for your feedback on what's important to you. We promote Hamilton to New Zealand and beyond, and bring you events like Matariki and Your Neighbourhood. We keep our staff informed about changes in our organisation.

Finance
We do the budgets, pay our suppliers and buy the things we need to run the city. We report on our finances every year, and we're ready for annual independent audits.

Information services
We look after Council technology and make it easier for you to interact with us online, while keeping your information safe. We manage thousands of online documents and map our changing city.

Strategy and planning
We make plans, like this one, and long-term goals for our city to work towards. We make sure we're following the laws and requirements for local government.

Administration
We make sure your request gets to the right person for the job. We also make bookings, answer questions and provide information to keep things running efficiently.

Asset Management
We manage our fleet and look after what we have. Maintaining all our buildings and facilities, from repainting a public toilet to the new Pukete Neighbourhood House.

Walking and cycling bridge

A walking and cycling bridge has been an aspiration for Hamilton Kirikiriroa since before the millennium. 

As more people live in the central city, the bridge will be an attraction that will provide more ways to access the central city and connect to nearby parks, residential areas, and schools. It is important transport infrastructure that will provide safe and alternative options for our rapidly growing population.  

After consultation with the community through the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan, its reality was made possible in 2022 with Crown funding contracted to Council from the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund (IAF).  

Our infrastructure shortfalls across the city mean we can’t grow everywhere at once and we’ve prioritised growing up and out from our central city and surrounds. By 2035, we’re expecting around 4000 new homes for up to 10,000 people in the central city and surrounds.  

The bridge is one of several planned projects in Hamilton supported by $150.6 million from the IAF to build strategic infrastructure to help unlock more affordable housing in the central city. Other IAF-supported infrastructure projects include a new water reservoir to increase our supply of drinking water and capacity for firefighting and investigations into other core water and transport needs.

Budget for the walking and cycling bridge

IAF funding $31.5 million
Council Long-Term Plan funding (co-funding required as part of the IAF agreement) $10.3 million
Council Long-Term Plan funding for connections to the bridge $6.6 million

 

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Targeted rates for additional services

Our draft budget is focused on delivering our core services – to existing levels of service. There are some areas in which we could go further if the community supports this. But doing so will come at a cost to ratepayers. 

We are seeking your views on targeted rates for additional services, over and above what’s included in the budget, in two areas: community infrastructure, and community resilience and extreme weather.

If the community supports these initiatives, these additional services would be funded via targeted rates, which would be applied to all ratepayers and calculated in the same way as general rates. The larger the amount of the targeted rate, the greater the additional services Council will be able to provide. Any funding we receive through either targeted rate would be ring-fenced for its specific initiatives, and couldn’t be put towards other projects.  

If the community does not support these targeted rates, Council will not provide these additional services. 

Community infrastructure 

A targeted rate on community infrastructure would fund initiatives such as providing additional (and improving existing) sports facilities (for example through the installation of artificial turf and floodlights), upgrades to community centres, or improvements to public toilets.   

We want to know whether you support this targeted rate for 40c per week for a median-value residential property (which is the equivalent of a 0.73% rates rise, on top of the general rates increase, providing an extra $1.8 million to invest on these initiatives) or 80c per week for a median-value residential property (1.46%, providing an additional $3.6 million). There would be no impact on Council’s debt.

Community resilience and extreme weather 

A targeted rate on community resilience and extreme weather would fund initiatives such as understanding the risks the city faces from the changing climate and develop our community readiness; providing additional flood protection and preparation; and providing additional respite from heat and drought.  

We want to know whether you support this targeted rate for 40c per week for a median-value residential property (which is the equivalent of a 0.73% rates rise, on top of the general rates increase, providing an extra $1.8 million to invest on these initiatives) or 80c per week for a median-value residential property (1.46%, providing an additional $3.6 million). There would be no impact on Council’s debt.

Targeted rates for pool inspections

We’re proposing to introduce a targeted rate to cover the cost of a private swimming pool safety inspection. Council is legally required to inspect swimming pools every three years, with the $237 cost (in 2024/25) invoiced to property owners with swimming pools. To make this process more efficient for Council and property owners, we’re proposing an annual targeted rate for swimming pool owners (of $79 incl GST) to cover these costs. We think this is a fairer system when a property is sold because the previous owner is left with less of the cost burden. There would be a small cost saving for Council in not printing and posting debtor invoices and statements. There is no impact on Council’s debt or levels of service.

A pool with step ladder
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