Cairns gets in ahead of criticism

Stephen Cairns
Stephen Cairns
Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Cairns has attempted to head off critics of the council's proposed nil general rate increase by saying it had not "dropped off anything" to get such a good result.

However, he also reminded ratepayers the draft annual plan process was "very fluid" and there was always a possibility unforeseen events could force it to change.

His comments came as the finance and corporate committee (comprised exclusively of councillors) considered the draft annual plan yesterday before recommending it be put out for public consultation later this month.

It took "good stewardship" and "governance" by the organisation to achieve the 0% increase, Mr Cairns said.

"Some in the community might wonder what those sneaky so-and-so's have left out . . . the answer is we have not dropped off anything."

The decision not to continue with its new headquarters had impacted, but so had the greater returns in interest than had been expected, Mr Cairns said.

"The community needs to remember that we always try to be prudent."

Committee chairman Cr Duncan Butcher said it was "all good news", especially given many of the targeted rates had not increased, for the first time in many years for some.

Cr Bryan Scott said he was "personally very proud" of the result, but the council still had challenges ahead, like Leith Lindsay flood protection.

He was pleased the council was consulting on Taieri flood protection and drainage, the possible merger of Port Otago and the Lyttelton Port Company and continued work on air quality.

"We've also put on the table the strategy for non-point-source water quality."

Cr Stephen Woodhead said communities on the Taieri and Queenstown affected by targeted rate increases needed to be aware they were only rising because of capital investment in projects such as flood protection, drainage and transport.

A subcommittee was formed to hear submissions on the plan.

While its membership was not finalised, it included Mr Cairns and Crs Butcher, Doug Brown, Michael Deaker, Woodhead and Gerry Eckhoff.



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