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The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is proposing a 19.5% rates increase for the 2021-22 year.

The Councils’ draft Long Term Plan has been released ahead of a meeting this week and shows extra investment in environmental work being undertaken by Council.

In the coming year, Council proposes to invest an extra $10.5 million on the services it delivers to the region and $14.7 million on infrastructure and capital projects.

Regional Council chair Rex Graham says the community has let them know that protecting and restoring the natural environment of our region is an urgent priority.

He says while on the face of it, the 19.5% overall rate increase is a big increase, Council is coming off a low base and several decades of under-investment.

Mr Graham says on average, this would see a weekly increase of around $0.94 cents for residential, $3.60 for commercial and $4.49 for rural ratepayers.

He says this year’s total rate increase comes from deferring last year’s rate increase due to COVID-19 of 8.5%, and this year’s rate increase of 11%,

Public consultation on the draft Long Term Plan will run from 1 April to 2 May 2021

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Central Hawke’s Bay Police are asking members of the public to report anyone seen on the grounds of the old Waipukurau Hospital.

Constable Andy Walker says Police have had lots of calls about people smashing windows, and vandalising old buildings at the site.

The site is still being demolished, with a few buildings remaining, and Mr Walker says there are a lot of hazardous substances and general hazards at the property.

He says the old Hospital site is private property, and asks people to stay away.

Anyone who sees any activity at the site is asked to contact Police straight away.

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Work crews have started staging and piling works for a 300-metre bridge over the Manawatū River as part of the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project.

The bridge is a major part of the new highway, with work on it beginning yesterday.

Building the Parahaki Bridge over the Manawatu river was expected to take about 3½ years, according to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency project spokesman Lonnie Dalzell. 

The bridge construction will be visible from a viewing platform created at the new car park for the Manawatū Gorge walk.

Meanwhile work on a second 300 metre bridge, which will take motorists over sensitive wetland ahead of a step climb up the southern tips of the Ruahine Range, is also about to begin.

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A funeral service will be held today for the Ministry of Social Development’s East Coast Regional Commissioner, Annie Aranui, who passed away unexpectedly last Friday.

The Ministry’s deputy chief executive service delivery Viv Rickard said Aranui had served the public for more than 36 years, which was recognised with the New Zealand Public Service Medal in 2020.

He said her leadership, integrity, trusted advice and selfless dedication to Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay community enabled her to touch the lives of many.

Mr Rickard said Annie’s perspective and voice were constantly sought, and her word was trusted by business, iwi, council leaders and colleagues alike. 

Mrs Aranui was 54.