|Cr Bill Faulkner
It’s halfway through this council term time-wise and two-thirds of the way through having just completed two out of three financial plans for the term.
It’s a conundrum all elected members face, these financial plans, that bring home the reality of responsibility to the community. Vote for this and that service or project and there is the risk of increasing debt and rates. Vote against and there is the potential to reduce the levels of service and standards of living the majority in the community expects.
This year’s rating requirement of around 3.4 per cent is more than I wanted but is also less than expected. Some elected members still have dollar signs in their eyes and seem to think that council can help spend the city economy out of this financial downturn. Others, and I am one of them, don’t subscribe to this theory. To spend your way out of a downturn first you have to take the money from those you purportedly want to help – and that’s the bit these theorists miss. But as explained in last week’s column, there is probably going to be general public acceptance of a lower than expected rates bill.
Council property sales are budgeted to reduce city debt by more than $20 million in the coming years. There will not be a fire sale. Aspen Reserve, the site of the old Aspen Tree will not be sold and nor will Soper Park on Newton Street but nearby Tatua Reserve will be.
Council will seek a private/public partnership to go into the Phoenix Carpark in downtown Mount Maunganui, along with the proposal for a new library private/public partnership at Greerton, which has been initiated by the CEO. Sales of land that may be required in the future have been put on hold pending outcomes of decisions by government agencies. For instance, the 15th Avenue/Mayfair Street properties council/ratepayers own may be required for realignment and expansion of the Turret Road to Fraser Street intersection. Until that gets sorted, plus the dispersal of traffic from that intersection, there is no point in a tunnel into Welcome Bay or another bridge at Turret Road. Speeding up the traffic to get to the 15th Ave/Fraser Street traffic jam makes no sense.
The Bay Times did it again with an editorial slagging council for not funding a new professional lifesaver service at Tay Street. It’s really quite irresponsible to write that sort of thing when they chose not to have a reporter present. Had they been present they would have heard that council/ratepayers already cough up $1.4 million over the 10 years for a professional lifeguard service. Funding was created in 2008 to increase patrols to Tay Street and Papamoa. My informed information from the lifesaving sector is that the present situation copes well with the demand over the holidays.
Route K is budgeted to collect $2,178,538 and is now expect to pay itself off by 2041. This should make it more attractive for the Government to buy. Surprisingly we received no submissions on this subject.
How to measure the effects of inflation drew a debate. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a well known national measure but it is gauged by the price of food, alcohol, tobacco, clothing, footwear, housing and household utilities – all of which don’t have a great deal of bearing on council costs. Local government inflation, we are told, is better measured in a manner “that reflects the environment the council operates in.” The Local Government Cost Index (LGCI) measures nine categories – roading/transport, property, reserves/parks, water, staff, energy, pipeline, earthmoving, private sector wages. It is more relevant and reflects the great effects of inflation, which in turn increases the rates burden we are told. Reminds you of the rats on the roundabout doesn’t it?
Unfortunately central government seems unaware of the significant difference between CPI and LGCI and made comparisons that whilst politically attractive are largely irrelevant and certainly inappropriate according to Local Government NZ. You have to wonder how much successive governments are aware of how local government operates. They continually load up council/ratepayers with ongoing extra responsibilities and services, send no money, then bitch and moan about increasing rates. How does that work?
More stormwater issues are raising their heads, this time at Sulphur Point. It’s a longstanding problem where council owns land leased to an investor who has a building on it. $250,000 is the estimate to fix it and council will wait to see what options evolve from the marine precinct across the road that is currently awaiting expressions of interest so that the work can be co-ordinated. Internal submissions from staff some of which are items that have cropped up since the original draft were approved. Lots of roading projects, stormwater, wastewater and water.
A reduction of $12,145 in the elected members remuneration vote. There is $460,000 to be funded by a user pays loan for a trailer boat park on Keith Allen Drive opposite the boat launching ramp. As the port has taken back its leased land on Cross Road, the private boat park has closed. This will be the last opportunity for trailer boat owners to lease a permanent park near the ramp. Council does have some duty of care here. Allowing section sizes of 325sqm means there is no where to put a trailer, boat or caravan.
This week’s mindbender – a Chinese proverb: A man grows most tired while standing still.