A last-minute attempt by a Wanganui district councillor to block the introduction of two new rates levies failed during the council's adoption of its 2012-22 10-year plan.
Councillor Michael Laws was a lone voice in voting against the plan at yesterday's council meeting, which sees the introduction of a 0.5 per cent earthquake strengthening levy and a 1.5 per cent debt reduction levy.
The levies bring the average rates increase for the next year to 6 per cent. They will net the council $20 million over 10 years for earthquake strengthening, and $690,000 over the next financial year for debt retirement.
Mr Laws attempted to move an amendment that the two levies be deferred for 12 months but no other councillor endorsed it.
He spoke passionately against what he called "desperate levels" of rates increases.
"We are experiencing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and Wanganui's response has been to place a 6 per cent rates increase.
"It is grossly unfair."
Mr Laws said the solution would be to defer the levies for a year.
"Neither of them are so urgent and critical that they require our immediate policy reaction. This move would instantly remove 2 per cent from the rates," he said.
Mr Laws said the council was "taking money from real people and real businesses, and putting it into the dead hand of local government".
While some of Mr Laws' fellow councillors agreed with him about the earthquake levy, most seemed to believe the debt reduction levy was necessary.
Councillor Allan Anderson said the debt levy did not go far enough.
"I think it's too low. It should have been 2 per cent, not 1.5 per cent."
Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said she was "not delighted" to impose a 6 per cent average rates increase on ratepayers but the council needed to be responsible.
Mr Laws' concerns about rates increases were not shared by John O'Connell from the Office of the Auditor-General, who was required to approve the plan before it was signed off by the council.
Mr O'Connell praised the council for its "prudent" plan.
"The document is in a position to be adopted by the council. We are very pleased to see the introduction of the debt retirement rate, and that the council is making provisions to deal with earthquake strengthening.
"This is in line with other councils we are involved with," Mr O'Connell said.
Mr O'Connell said imposing extra rates was a "hard decision" for the council to make.
"I commend the council for taking action."