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Watercare signals possible 25% increase in water rates

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Auckland’s water provider Watercare is warning water rates may need to increase by as much as 25 percent to run the business, while keeping to the council’s borrowing limit.

Water charges increased by 9.5 percent last July, while infrastructure growth charges rose by 8 percent.

This meant the average household paid about $2.20 more per week.

In its recent newsletter, Watercare advised customers of a potential price rise of 25.8 percent from July.

It said the rise was to “run our business while sticking to Auckland Council’s borrowing limit”.

Watercare said if the proposed rise went ahead the average customer bill would increase by roughly $29 a month. That’s $348 annually.

The potential increase was included in the consultation document for Auckland Council’s 10-year budget.

In the document, council said the increase in rates was to support a significant increase in capital investment across the next 10 years.

Watercare said the 25.8 percent rise could also apply to infrastructure growth charges.

In a statement to RNZ, chair Margaret Devlin said the board had to balance the vital need to invest in new water and wastewater infrastructure with council’s directives to maintain a debt-to-revenue ratio of 340 percent, as well as ensuring growth funded growth.

“We know many Aucklanders are struggling with the cost of living and we understand the news of this projected price rise will not be welcome,” she said.

“We want to reassure them that central and local government want to avoid significant price rises for Auckland; and they are working together to achieve a financially sustainable water model.”

Devlin said they understood the ongoing conversations between central government and council were positive.

Watercare will give residents at least 10 days’ notice of a potential price rise.

Source: RNZ

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NZTA to axe 24 more jobs in third round of proposed cuts

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The transport agency has announced a proposed further reduction of 24 jobs, this time from the engagement and partnerships team.

It comes on top of two previous announcements: 109 roles from the Clean Car Discount, Climate Emergency Response Fund, and Let’s Get Wellington Moving projects; and 12 roles from the digital team.

It’s part of a government directive for agencies to cut costs, with NZTA Waka Kotahi asked to cut 7.5 percent of its expenditure.

NZTA people, culture and safety group general manager Caz Jackson said it was not approaching it as an agency-wide restructuring programme.

“Instead, each of our business groups is aligning resources with the available budget and priorities, ensuring a strategic and targeted approach to the changes.

“Consultation [with the engagement and partnerships team specifically] will run through until 6 June 2024. Following the consideration of feedback final decisions are expected to be made by the end of June 2024.”

The proposed changes include disestablishing 57 existing positions, including 18 currently vacant, creating 15 new positions and moving 16 jobs to a different group within NZTA, for a net reduction of 24, excluding vacancies.

Workers’ union Public Service Association said experienced staff working on road safety campaigns and supporting local councils were under threat.

Assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said it was particularly egregious as it came in the middle of Road Safety Week, which involved hundreds of schools, organisations and communities promoting road safety awareness.

“These are just more mixed messages from the government which says it’s committed to safer roads but is happy to dismiss the people doing the mahi to keep travellers safe,” Fitzsimons said.

She said the engagement and partnership business group delivered road safety marketing and education programmes and supported local councils to deliver road safety education to at-risk communities.

“This group provides valuable support and resources to local councils, so how are they supposed to fill the gap and keep their communities safe with these proposed cuts?”

Source: RNZ

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South Auckland hotel goes into lockdown after gunshot

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A South Auckland hotel was briefly put in lockdown on Wednesday after a gun was fired.

The manager of the Allenby Park Hotel in Papatoetoe said guests were safe and no one had been injured.

The hotel has since reopened.

The suspected shooter was not known to anyone at the hotel and fled after the incident, he said.

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Kiwi woman dies in Rarotonga after water-based incident at popular tourist spot

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A 49-year-old New Zealand woman has died in the Cook Islands while on holiday in a water-based incident.

A Cook Islands Police spokesperson said police received an emergency call shortly after 3pm Cook Islands local time Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time).

The spokesperson said the women was responsive at the incident site at Avaavaroa Passage – which is a popular tourist attraction for swimming with turtles – but was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In December, a 50-year-old New Zealand man died in Avaavaroa Passage, which is notorious for drownings in the Cook Islands.

The spokesperson told RNZ Pacific police are still investigating further details, including if the woman was part of a turtle tour when the incident occurred.

They said police are giving the family space who are at their accommodation in Rarotonga.

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