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Dunedin city councillors have passed up the opportunity to trim from an ambitious $1.5 billion capital spending programme before their draft 10-year plan goes out to public consultation.
The full programme - if approved by councillors in May - would propel debt from about $310 million this year to $869 million by 2031, smashing the previous $350 million debt ceiling.
"It’s a significant capital budget - nobody is pretending otherwise," Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said.
Councillors could decide which projects would remain in the plan after public consultation, he said.
Four councillors - Lee Vandervis, Jules Radich, Carmen Houlahan and Andrew Whiley - voted against the package of spending yesterday.
"Let’s can $133 million out of this budget straight away, because we know the public don’t want it."
Cr Radich said the proposed escalation in debt was too large.
Council chief executive Sandy Graham conceded delivering the full programme, including about $150 million next year, would be difficult and staff would likely have recommendations by May to help guide decision-making.
It also emerged at the meeting that a possible gap between the spending proposed and what the council could deliver had been noticed by the Office of the Auditor-general.
Much of the planned spending boost flows from ageing water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.
More than $395 million is proposed for work in that sector.
During debate about the council’s finance strategy, Cr Vandervis said ratcheting up debt to more than double the previous ceiling was "one of the more abhorrent suggestions I’ve seen in all my years on council".
Deputy mayor Christine Garey said the council was being prudent, given the state of its assets.
Cr Sophie Barker said she was saddened previous councils had failed to invest properly.
Cr Rachel Elder said Dunedin was a growing city, but a shortage of housing had to be dealt with.