The Dunedin City Council could switch the way it budgets for
income from its Waipori Fund investments, despite concerns
ratepayers could be left with a bill.
Councillors at Monday's 2013-14 pre-draft annual plan budget
meeting considered a report on the fund by council finances
and resources general manager Athol Stephens.
His report suggested the council could obtain more from the
$74 million fund if the mix of investments in equities, bonds
and a building was changed.
A stronger emphasis on property investments could generate an
extra $350,000 a year for the council's coffers from 2013-14,
It was a boost councillors were now already budgeting for,
following other decisions made on Monday to accelerate
stadium-related debt repayments.
The fund had, over the last decade, generated average yearly
returns of nearly $3.2 million for the council, reducing
rates by about 3% each year. The fund grew from $57.4 million
to $74.5 million over that period.
Mr Stephens' report considered three options for the future
of the fund, from selling the fund to pay back council debt,
to lending funds directly to the council or investing more
heavily in property providing higher returns.
Councillors supported the greater emphasis on property, but
Cr Jinty MacTavish went further.
Instead of forecasting returns and budgeting for them, she
wanted council staff to investigate taking proceeds from
investments only after they were earned.
Her suggestion won support from deputy mayor Chris Staynes,
although he doubted it could be implemented ''any time
Cr Syd Brown, chairman of the council's finance, strategy and
development committee, was more concerned, saying it would be
achievable only if the council took a ''breather'' from the
fund's income for a year.
That would result in ratepayers facing an extra 4% rates hike
to cover the shortfall from the fund for a year, he warned.
Cr Lee Vandervis suggested the fund could yet be cashed in to
repay council debt, saying the council should look ''at what
may be done with the Waipori Fund versus the debt that we
Cr MacTavish stuck to her guns, saying the change would
remove risk and uncertainty for the council's budget.
However, she suggested a transition over years could also be
investigated, to ease the burden on ratepayers.
''I would like to think we could do it sometime in the next
decade,'' she said.
Cr MacTavish also asked for changes to the fund's policy
document, including an emphasis on the need to protect its
capital over the long term, to ensure the fund's survival.
Councillors voted to accept the recommendations, including Cr
The change would be part of the draft annual plan to be
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