Fruit painting postponed

A $30,000 paint job for Cromwell's Big Fruit sculpture has been delayed for a year as the Cromwell Community Board prunes its rates.

The board considered its draft estimates yesterday and approved a 6.8% increase in the ward component of the overall rate, trimming it back from a 9.6% increase, signalled in the long term plan. Central Otago District Council corporate services manager Susan Finlay said the $30,000 repaint of the sculpture was one of the major works in the reserves budget for the coming year, but board members decided to postpone the work for a year.

''Putting it back doesn't make it go away. We're just delaying it until next year,'' board chairman Neil Gillespie said. Board members said the work was planned to tie in with the town centre redevelopment and relocation of the information centre. Those projects were yet to be completed.

Cr Terry Emmitt said there was still talk about adding fruit - cherries and grapes- to the sculpture, so that should be decided before the repaint was done. Funds allocated for upgrading the Cromwell Memorial Hall and a grant towards a replacement for the earthquake-prone Coronation Hall in Bannockburn had also been delayed by a year.

Last week, the Roxburgh Community Board approved a 5.6% increase for the Roxburgh ward component of the overall rate. The Vincent Community Board will consider its draft estimates tonight, while the Maniototo Community Board will carry out a similar task on Thursday.

Those figures will then be combined with the district component of the rates. The Central Otago District Council met last week and was told the overall potential average district rates rise would be about 5.2%, depending on the outcome of the community board meetings.