$50,000 fund to explore savings

Sue Bidrose.
Sue Bidrose.
The Dunedin City Council hopes more funding to investigate potential savings initiatives could create a snowball effect that benefits ratepayers.

Councillors at yesterday's draft annual plan meeting approved a new $50,000 budget - subject to public consultation - for council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose to allocate to investigate potential savings.

The money would fund the investigation of potential ''invest to save'' initiatives like last year's decision to invest $1.1 million of savings bringing forward the introduction of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in Dunedin's public libraries.

That decision meant the council would not have to borrow to fund the project, as planned, in 2016-17, and also generate annual savings expected to grow to $280,000 a year by then.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes suggested the fund, saying the council needed to pursue similar initiatives which could lead to potential savings that would benefit ratepayers.

Without a budget for the initial investigative work, the council was ''starting to cut off our nose to spite our face'', he warned.

Dr Bidrose said, if the money was available, the initial $50,000 had ''the potential to be a self-perpetuating fund'', with some of the savings reinvested to help find more.

However, larger sums required to act on any opportunities identified would need to be signed off separately by councillors, she said.

Yesterday's debate began when Cr Jinty MacTavish expressed concern potential savings from greater energy efficiency were not being pursued.

That followed last year's departure of council energy manager Neville Auton, who had led initiatives in that area, and reflected a lack of funding for the work in the council's budget, she said.

''For me, that gives me cause for concern, because I think we're missing out on potential savings as a result,'' she said.

A staff report presented yesterday predicted annual savings of $57,000 once the Civic Centre switched to energy efficient lighting by June.

A lower-than-expected subsidy from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority meant the planned upgrade of the central city library could not be done within the $365,000 budget.

Mayor Dave Cull told the meeting the potential for savings in the area was nevertheless ''very significant'', so it was ''imprudent not to continue to invest in that area''.

Dr Bidrose said the lack of funding reflected cost-cutting across the council, but individual managers were now expected to be more conscious of energy efficiency and the potential for savings.

Councillors also voted to support Cr MacTavish's request for a staff report detailing funding needed for future energy efficiency improvements and invest-to-save options within the council.

She also asked for more information on funding required to implement the council's new city-wide energy strategy, once completed.

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