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Challenges considered when developing our draft plan

A changing climate means we are at the risk of experiencing more frequent and severe weather events such as floods, droughts, and rising sea levels. Extreme weather events present significant challenges to our economic, social, and environmental well-being. We should focus on two climate change related goals: adaptation, and mitigation.

To achieve these two goals there is a need to build a combined/consolidated response to climate change meaning acting locally and becoming part of regional and national initiatives.

Adaptation means we understand our climate change related risks and challenges as a district. Being reactive, being adaptive, and being resilient.

Mitigation means we work towards reducing our GHG emissions, and work with our regional partners that enables us to be benefited from collective capability of the Canterbury region. We recognise and support national net zero commitments.

What are our challenges?

Our challenges in terms of climate change include:

  • Increased flood events, storm damage, risk of fire, and drought can have far-reaching impact on agriculture, economy, lifestyle, and transport.
  • Prolonged and hotter summers have the potential to increasingly harm transport infrastructure.
  • Agriculture may become overly reliant on irrigation due to increase in drought and high temperatures. Whereas reduced snowmelt and rainfall will result in reduced supply.
  • Higher survival rate of pests, disease, and weeds will threaten indigenous biodiversity and our parks and reserves.

Our local initiatives

We adopted our Climate Change Policy in 2019 and Climate Resilience Plan in 2022. The policy covers district specific assumptions, and the plan aims to help navigate through climate change related challenges to the Ashburton District. Other Ashburton District Council initiatives include:

  • Energy Management Group: The group works towards managing council’s energy use which leads to putting smart energy use in place and reducing our carbon footprint. We have commissioned ADC’s GHG emission studies starting from FY 2020-2021 onwards which will help us set our emission reduction targets.
  • We have incorporated sustainable features into the design of Te Whare Whakatere, our new Library and Civic Centre such as use of laminated timber that reduced carbon emissions required for concrete and steel production and sequesters carbon in timber. We have used heat exchange technology that minimises the cost of heating and cooling the building.
  • We are supporting use of electric vehicles by enabling EV charging stations on council land and also including them in the council fleet.
  • Our efforts to protect indigenous biodiversity include activities of our Biodiversity Advisory Group, community grants (Biodiversity Grant that support effort of protecting indigenous habitat), and the development of a Biodiversity Strategy recently adopted.

We are planning to join regional efforts, such as being part of a Canterbury Climate Partnership Plan.

Recent flooding events across our district and extreme weather events that have affected New Zealand are prime examples of why planning for emergencies is important. From Covid-19 to climate change and the possible Alpine Fault rupture, there are many reasons why we need to ensure we are in a strong financial position to weather these emergencies and ensure that the resilience of our infrastructure will allow the continued delivery of our services. We are committed to upgrading our infrastructure to improve its resilience should future events occur, as seen in our Infrastructure Strategy and our work programmes included in this 10 Year Plan. For example, water sources of all types may be threatened in the longer-term due to drought conditions caused by climate change, or infrastructure asset damage from an earthquake. Some less secure water sources have alternatives already proposed in the 10 Year Plan, including the drilling of an additional water supply source in Ashburton.

Council is a member of the Local Authority Protection Programme Disaster Fund Trust (LAPP) which helps cover emergency works. We also have a Disaster Relief Fund for the replacement of infrastructural assets (excluding roading) in the event of a natural disaster. In the case of a large scale event, funding may be available from Central Government and their agencies.

If, in the next 10 years, the Government decides to escalate the Pandemic Protection Framework – for either a new strain of Covid-19 or another pandemic – it is likely that our services (e.g. recreation services) would be impacted by reduced hours, restrictions on users or closure. Supply and staff shortages may also impact on project budgets and timelines.

Councils are constantly subject to change. The new coalition government have a 100 day plan that signals changes (and reversal of planned changes) to legislation. These changes may have a significant impact on our day-to-day work, so we need to be able to adapt.

Councils are also facing more pressure to comply with increasing standards. The costs of meeting these changes can be significant, such as the upgrades to our drinking water treatment plants that are required to meet health standards.

Where legislation requires review of our processes or staffing, we will seek to achieve the most efficient and cost-effective way forward. However, if we are required to provide additional services or increased levels of service, this may require increases to rates or user fees.

There has also been an independent review into the future for Local Government, which was completed in 2023. This may impact local government in the future. We are awaiting Central Government’s response to this report.

Local Water Done Well

There remains uncertainty about the management and delivery of water services in the coming years. The new coalition government have recently repealed legislation that would have established a new way of delivering water services. They have signalled a new regime, called Local Water Done Well but we are uncertain as to its final makeup or the impact on our services and funding at this time. The first Bill establishing the new regime is anticipated in mid 2024.

Bearing in mind this uncertainty, we are planning for the future of three waters assets under the assumption that we will continue to own and operate them, albeit with higher standards of both water quality and reduction in environmental impact, and asset management practices.

The latest year on year CPI (Consumer Price Index) was 5.6% and is expected to remain above the Reserve Bank’s target band of 1-3%, until later in 2024. This sudden and sustained increase in inflation is putting pressure on people’s budgets, forcing many households and businesses to substantially curtail their spending to cover essential costs.

This may impact on ratepayers’ ability to pay rates, and Council will aim to maintain rates increases within the limits we have set out in this strategy.

Local Government costs use a rate of inflation different to the normal CPI, called the Local Government Cost Index (LGCI). This better reflects the costs that impact on Councils that are different to a normal household or business. This has been taken into account when preparing our budgets and is explained further in the Financial Strategy

Overall, most forecasters are suggesting a more subdued outlook for the NZ and Ashburton economy over the next few years. Continued high inflation and interest rates will moderate strength in the economy. These are expected to slowly reduce in impact over time. The latest available information has the Ashburton District economy growing by a solid 1.4% (NZ: 1.7%). It is worth noting that our local economy’s reliance on land resources presents some risks to the overall economy as exposed by the drop in milk prices in the past. Similarly, extreme weather, natural disasters and events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impacts of recent legislation such as the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management pose risks to our local economy.

Our economy took a relatively modest hit at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, owing to the district’s heavy reliance on the primary sector and relatively low exposure to international tourism. Implementation of any policy changes by the new government may have positive effects for the Ashburton District economy, but at this stage are unknown.

Our district saw consistent growth of approximately 2% per year between 2006 and 2018. While we continue to grow, the rate has slowed, with average growth forecasted at 0.5% per year over the next 25 years, adding around 4,600 people between 2023 and 2048.

The average household size is not projected to change across the next 25 years – staying consistently at 2.5 occupants per household. There is a projected increase in the number of households in our district – increasing from a forecast of 14,300 households in 2023 to 16,300 in 2043. This will mean an increasing number of rateable properties which will help spread the impact of rates.

In addition to an increase in rateable properties, population growth also leads to increased load on our infrastructure and assets, and increased demand on our services. The Activity Management Plan process accounts for the impact of growth on our assets and services. Additional infrastructure due to growth can also be funded through development contributions.

It is projected that 23% of our population will be 65 years and over by 2048. This equates to an additional 2,500 persons in the 65+ age group, or a 36% increase from the estimated figure for 2023.

This will have an impact on customer needs and demands on our service delivery, which may increase costs. The increase of persons in the 65+ age group also means that there will be more people on a fixed income, which may apply pressure to a household's ability to handle a significant rates increase. We will accommodate the effects of the changing demographics by adapting or redirecting activity provision to meet needs where possible within reasonable costs.

Contact Us

Have questions or want to learn more about a project, contact us below:

Phone 03-307 7700
In writing

2 Baring Square East, Ashburton 7700