DCC staff warn against cutting water projects

Dunedin City Council staff have warned councillors against abandoning water infrastructure projects in an attempt to save money, as contamination of the city's beaches again hits the headlines.

The warning came as councillors at this week's infrastructure services committee meeting considered a report from water and waste services manager John Mackie which discussed ways budgets could be trimmed.

Mr Mackie had been asked by councillors at a workshop two months ago to identify possible savings within his department, which had an extensive capital works programme planned.

Speaking at this week's meeting, he said potential savings could come from deferring or abandoning a variety of projects, but warned cuts would in each case reduce the level of service offered to communities.

With budgets tight and many planned projects needed to meet resource consent requirements, he challenged councillors to pick the project they wanted to cut.

"For each one of them, there's quite a compelling reason they are here... I wouldn't want to be the one telling the people of Outram they are not getting their water plant," Mr Mackie told councillors.

The list of projects that could be deferred, identified in Mr Mackie's report, included planned upgrades for the city's stormwater system.

While it was "essential" not to reduce overall funding for stormwater improvements, there were opportunities to spread the costs - due to peak at $2.56 million in 2012-13 - over three years, his report said.

He acknowledged the city had a "serious issue" with stormwater contamination, but said spreading the spending would help save money without compromising the works programme.

It was "probably unlikely" the works programme would allow the completion of $2.56 million of stormwater improvements in one year anyway, he said.

However, Cr Kate Wilson questioned the suggestion that stormwater work be deferred, saying people were concerned about the contamination and there was not enough information about what specific projects would be cut.

However, councillors voted to redistribute the $2.56 million over three years, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, with the spending to be confirmed at next year's annual plan hearings.

Councillors also called for a report to next year's hearings on alternative approaches to funding, rating and pricing wastewater, stormwater and trade waste services, as council staff continued work on a possible new charging regime.

The new regime had yet to be formally proposed, but staff were preparing an impact report which would be considered by the council's trade waste subcommittee, Mr Mackie's report said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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