Strong Council finances despite COVID-19 disruptions
Waipā District Council demonstrated it was resilient in the face of adversity, with an end-of-year operating surplus of $39.6 million, despite facing off against Covid-19.
“We’re fortunate that Waipā was not impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic to the extent we were initially forecasting. The rapid growth in our district has continued and the diversity of our economy has been a huge benefit,” said Waipā District Council deputy Chief Executive, Ken Morris.
Growth-related infrastructure and cash contributions of nearly $32 million were paid for by developers participating in the local building boom. This accounted for 80% of the $39.6 million operating surplus.
The pandemic did not stop the wave of resource and building consents. Construction activity continued with gusto with council issuing 1,459 building consents with a capital value of $456 million.
The district’s primary sector remained strong with an expected increase of $40 million paid out to farmers. Solid employment growth over the year to March 2021 led to a 1.5% increase in the number of filled positions, buoyed by the construction market. Unemployment in Waipā is at 3.1 percent, lower than the rest of the Waikato at 4.1 percent and the New Zealand unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.
The Annual Report shows that Council achieved 73 percent of its planned non-financial targets and a highlight of the year was the May 2021 opening of the new Cambridge Pool facility, the Perry Aquatic Centre - Puna Kaukau O Te Oko Horoi.
Morris admits he can see challenges ahead with an ambitious infrastructure programme in the 2021-31 Long Term Plan and the major reform agenda facing local government. He remains confident that the infrastructure investment can be funded as benchmarking statistics in the report show there is plenty of scope for future borrowing.
“The value of our assets is nearly $2 billion. Our current borrowing of $98 million is small relative to many other councils so we are well-placed financially to meet our future obligations. We have the capacity to respond to growth and continue progress in making our community an attractive place to live, work and play,” says Morris.
Mayor Jim Mylchreest points out that people from other regions are noticing the district is a desirable location.
“Our population grew by 2.7 percent last year as more people call Waipā their new home. We offer an attractive lifestyle that is just a stone’s throw to Auckland, Ruapehu and the great outdoors of the central plateau. People love our thriving community spirit, laid back vibe and boutique townships brimming with character,” said Waipā District Mayor, Jim Mylchreest.
The annual report was adopted by council members this week and will be uploaded onto the Waipā District Council website here on Monday.