City council crunching numbers on annual plan

A funding increase for Tūhura Otago Museum has been recommended by Dunedin City Council staff, after emphatic public support.

However, granting the museum’s request could help edge the council’s rates rise above 17.5%.

Other discussion points this week will include community housing rent rises, council cost pressures, funding for Dunedin’s wildlife hospital, the future of a performing arts venue and ownership of hockey fields that need an upgrade.

The council is deliberating on its annual plan this week in a meeting that starts today.

It proposed a rates increase of 17.5%, signalled a rise in debt of about $118 million and received more than 750 submissions about its planned programme.

Of 192 submissions about the museum, 187 favoured increasing its funding in line with inflation, rather than keeping it at the past year’s level.

Dunedin Wildlife Hospital director and senior wildlife veterinarian Dr Lisa Argilla (left) feeds...
Dunedin Wildlife Hospital director and senior wildlife veterinarian Dr Lisa Argilla (left) feeds and medicates a Haast kiwi (tokoeka) held by wildlife veterinary nurse Emily Brewer at the wildlife hospital yesterday. After caring for 755 patients last year, the hospital has admitted more than 300 patients so far this year. Since its inception in 2018, the hospital has cared for more than 3500 patients, including more than 1000 yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho). PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The museum wanted a 4.3% increase in its levy — about $213,500 more than the proposed allocation of just under $5m.

Granting this would be enough to push the rates rise up by 0.1 of a percentage point.

Council staff recommended councillors do so, or increase the levy by "another amount".

The Wildlife Hospital Trust is another organisation keenly awaiting funding news, having requested $75,000 to secure the salary of hospital director Dr Lisa Argilla.

Hospital trust manager Jordana Whyte said the council had been a cornerstone partner for six years.

Among the hospital’s patients this week are a royal spoonbill and hoiho from the Otago Peninsula, a sooty shearwater from Port Chalmers, a swan chick picked up at Tomahawk Lagoon, a takahē from Fiordland, a Haast kiwi from a sanctuary island in the Foveaux Strait, a Halfway Bush harrier hawk and a rare Antipodes Island parakeet.

The council proposed a community housing rents increase of 11% to cover the increased cost of operating the portfolio.

Of 171 submissions on the subject, 101 were against an increase this steep.

A plan for the council to take over ownership of Logan Park hockey artificial turfs and fund replacing them at a capital cost of $1m was largely endorsed by submitters.

It was backed by 209 out of 319.

The Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust requested $75,000 to support continued operation of the venue Te Whare o Rukutia for the next year.

Council staff commentary included that if the trust board decided it could not afford to continue running the venue, "staff will work to find a solution whereby Te Whare o Rukutia remains available as a community performance venue".