6.5% rates rise to boost capital programme

Necessary and important work will get done because of a 6.5% rates rise and continuation of a substantial capital programme, Dunedin city councillors say.

The level of the rates increase was confirmed at a Dunedin City Council meeting yesterday, when the council adopted the 2022-23 annual plan.

Capital work of $190million is planned and council debt is forecast to exceed $440million by the end of June next year.

Cr Mike Lord said people often told the council they wanted pot holes fixed and facilities to be up to scratch.

That came at a cost and Cr Lord was heartened by progress in getting planned work done.

The biggest capital spending activities planned for 2022-23 are Three Waters ($59million) and roading and footpaths ($52million).

Cr David Benson-Pope said a lot of development activity had been happening across the city, including from the private sector.

"Dunedin is transforming itself before our eyes," Cr Benson-Pope said.

Deputy mayor Christine Garey said the council should be proud of the decisions it had made.

Crs Lee Vandervis and Carmen Houlahan voted against adopting the annual plan.

Cr Vandervis said spending was happening to fix things that did not need fixing.

He cited the makeover of George St and development of cycleways as examples.

Unprecedented spending was happening at a time when the world lacked political and economic stability, he said.

Cr Houlahan said a rates increase of 5% would be "enough" and she would rather reduce rates than increase them.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said a rates reduction would create a funding hole of about $11million or $12million and result in cuts to service levels.

Voting against adoption of the annual plan amounted to "virtue signalling", Mr Hawkins said.

Cr Houlahan raised several points of order through the day — none upheld.

Cr Chris Staynes described rhetoric about cutting spending as naive.

The city would go backwards if investment in it was inadequate, he said.

Cr Andrew Whiley said putting off spending would create "headaches down the road".

Cr Jules Radich said the council's 10-year plan budgeting last year was set "in more buoyant times".

A cost-of-living crisis had emerged since and the world was probably facing a recession, he said.

Cr Rachel Elder said she was pleased about spending on playgrounds, as well as progress on a planned trail between Mosgiel and Dunedin.

 - The opening paragraph of yesterday’s article about the Dunedin City Council’s growing debt requires clarification.

Authorisation was being sought to use a maximum of $445million in debt — an increase of $105million on the previous ceiling — to fund and implement an extensive work programme.

The existing debt level was referred to further down the story.



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