ORC public transport and rates proposals in the spotlight  

by Otago Regional Council - Apr 08, 2024

Future opportunities and challenges are front of mind for the Otago Regional Council as the council plans for the years ahead. 

The ORC is working to meet the needs of current and future generations and build a stronger future for the region. This is part of our draft Long-Term Plan, which sets the direction for the next 10 years and identifies focus areas. 

Councillors are proposing a significant focus on large-scale environmental project funding, public transport, and some changes to how rates are calculated.  

Changes are proposed to how the council rate for some activities, including public transport, flood protection and river management.

This wouldn’t impact the level of service provided — it’s about how work is funded through rates and who pays.

It would mean some change for every property in Otago, and a rates estimator on the ORC website can be used to see what the proposed changes in the plan would mean for individual properties’ rates. 

Among proposed changes now open for feedback is one involving public transport rates funding.

This proposal broadens who pays for Queenstown public transport into the wider Queenstown Lakes district, including Wānaka, Hāwea, Albert Town and surrounds.   

This would occur to help fund improvements to Queenstown’s buses and allow for upgrading the fleet to electric and high-capacity buses, with a target of all buses being zero-emission by 2035. 

Also, under the proposal, bus services would start earlier and finish later, and frequency of the service would increase to every 15 minutes within the next 10 years.  

The cost of this proposal would be $194 million over 10 years, with rates funding $64 million of this cost over the same 10 years.

The rates impact of this would involve a new ORC fixed/uniform rate to the whole Queenstown Lakes District area starting at $128.59 per rating unit and moving to $243.81 per rating unit by the end of the 10 years.

It is proposed that the remaining 20 percent would be funded through a new general rate over the whole region.  

The proposed plan includes funding for district councils and communities to explore local public transport trials.

An investigation and public transport trial is proposed for Wānaka, as well as an Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell to Queenstown bus trial, an Ōamaru (on-demand) transport trial, and a Balclutha to Dunedin (including airport) bus trial.  

Other changes to how the ORC levies rates for activities such as flood protection and river management are also included in the proposals, which the council is also encouraging feedback on. 

A new environmental fund is also proposed for large-scale environmental work such as protection and restoration of water catchments.

This would allow important work to continue after government funding comes to an end.

It’s proposed at least $500,000 in funding would be available in 2025-26. 

While the council takes the lead in proposing changes, it’s the first step — your feedback will help to shape decisions and outcomes. 

The ORC wants to know what’s important to you. What do you think about what’s proposed? What levels of service do communities need or want? Which options are affordable? What do you prefer? Now is the time to say what you think the future should hold for Otago. 

Get more information and give feedback on the ORC website, where you can also find information about opportunities to talk to councillors. 

Feedback is open until April 28. 

Keen to know more? Head to www.orc.govt.nz/LTP

Main image (Supplied/ORC)

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