|Cr Bill Faulkner
Council finished hearing submissions to the draft annual/three year/10 year plan last week.
Last week’s column was written during the submissions and remainder of the submissions covered equally wide ranging views. In fact 180 degree views. One apparently well-to-do submitter answered my question that if council were to agree to their submission, Tauranga would be utopia and how would that be paid for? The curt response was “by ratepayers”.
I continued by asking how some 30-40% of ratepayers who were below the average income would pay the significant rate increase that would be required. They would pay, somehow, possibly by downgrading their house, came the response. That’s one point of view. Another submission was that council stop everything other than the proverbial ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ services. What core services are depends on the eye of the beholder. And their income too!
More well thought out views on the draft plan, some supporting and others not supporting. The one submission that really shone out was from Jo Tisch, representing Tauranga Hockey Association. A thoroughly professional, well researched proposal, requesting $200,000 from ratepayers to ensure that a tagged TECT grant would be picked up. TECT have offered $800,000 towards a new synthetic turf provided hockey can raise the balance. They also requested some $55,000 from ratepayers annually towards maintenance and depreciation. Jo said that a comment I wrote last year after they came to ratepayers asking for replacement of the synthetic turf at a cost of around $1.5 million had stung the hockey people but then galvanised them into action. I don’t recall it but apparently the comment was that hockey was in a field of dreams.
Back in the ‘90s when the synthetic turf went down, council was assured by hockey administration, that hockey would not be back to ratepayers and those of us who are still around remember that. But that was never recorded. Hockey aren’t the only ones that used that line in the past, so we’ll move along. Now they are promising to be back every year!
None of this should be taken as an indication of the outcome, as deliberations won’t happen for a couple of weeks. And there will be a whole lot that needs to be done at the end of the ratepayers’ ability to pay. Or maybe that should read most ratepayers? And those who don’t want to have to move to Whangamomona where, figuratively speaking, rates are imagined to be cheap.
My take on the majority thrust of submissions, including my take on the views of most of those who didn’t submit, is best summarised from a submission that ends: “Try hard to trim costs wherever you can, but please don’t resort to lowering the standards the city currently enjoys.” That’s Page 2025 of the submissions from Rob and Trish Parkes. I think that’s probably the feeling of most elected members and the hard bit is how that is achieved. Few people like going backwards but there is an urgent need to reduce debt and rate increases. There will have to be some unpopular decisions and some upset people to achieve this.
Some controversial issues will require strong tummy muscles from elected members. Pilot Bay Walkway being one. Do we do it at all? If so, where? What surface? Many differing views on this. How will it be paid for?
An interesting presentation from Glenn Meikle regarding Soper Reserve in Newton Street. A lot of records were lost when the former Mount Maunganui Borough Council was burned down. It seems that Mr Soper donated the land in memorium of two people who were killed on the railway line that runs alongside the land. It was apparently a camping ground back then. Council officers will try and trace the actual history of how this all happened. If you can shed light on this, please phone Yvonne, 07 577 7093. Meanwhile I’ll be brave and say that Soper Reserve will remain.
Support too from sports organisations to light sports grounds for night use rather than increasing the numbers of grounds. There will need to be discussion on how much light is needed and who would fund increased lighting. Council’s thrust here is making more effective use of existing facilities.
Local rugby icon and mayoral candidate Terry (Hori) Leaming gave an impassioned plea for a stadium at the domain. But he was deflated to learn that it had been a rugby administration decision to head to Baypark instead, when a stadium proposal for the domain had been floated in 2002.
From here all submissions are collated for officer comment and research and elected members will deliberate from Monday, May 28. Deliberations are all open meetings and you are most welcome. Daily print media coverage of the submissions was spasmodic, with the reporter coming and going, seemingly only being present for selected submissions. Disappointing, because many individual submitters had positive points of view that would have been of interest to the community. Some interesting reports on Sunlive helped cover though.
At Projects and Monitoring Committee treasury staff told elected members that interest on council’s borrowings are expected to hold at around 6% for a while longer. Gross external council debt was $406.6 million at April 30 – net external debt was $379.8 million. Rates revenue funded debt was $271.9 million. This all means that there is little room for any more borrowing lest council exceed its debt/revenue ratio set by the credit rating agency.
Some years ago Greg Brownless and I set up a voluntary rates account so that those people demanding extra amenities and services from council/ratepayers could actually contribute themselves to help pay for their wants/needs/deserves. Sadly this fund languishes at only $3570, with no contributions for a long time. Living proof that some of the people making excessive demands for extras on ratepayers are selfish and uncaring for a significant part of our community who simply cannot afford to pay extra, and in some cases simply can’t afford to pay at all.
This week’s mindbender from George Herbert: storms make oaks take deeper roots.