Council's $854m vision

Dunedin city councillors have almost unanimously backed a big-spending budget.

Now it is the public's turn to decide.

The Dunedin City Council yesterday ended three days of discussion on the city's draft 10-year plan.

If there was any caution expressed in the lead-up to the meeting, it appeared to dissipate as the city's elected officials repeatedly voted for multimillion-dollar projects on grounds it would continue the city's economic development and recent population increase.

Those projects included $60million for a central city upgrade, and $20million for both an architecturally designed bridge by the Steamer Basin and an upgrade of the streets near the University of Otago.

The majority of councillors supporting what would be a major expansion of city spending was again and again 14 to one. Only Cr Lee Vandervis opposed the majority of projects.

The $854million of spending over the next decade would result in rates rises of 6.9% for the next financial year, and an annual increase of 4.5% for the nine years after that.

Debt could increase by $68million, and $63million of assets could be sold.

Councillors repeatedly argued that the council had an important role investing in the city, and that had to continue.

After going through each project and the budgets of each council department, the meeting arrived at its final votes, recommendations to approve the financial aspects of what had been decided for public consultation.

Cr Vandervis said the spending set the city up for a level of vulnerability to interest rate rises that was ''unprecedented in our history'' and ''the most worrying thing I have seen since the stadium''.

Selling property outside the city, just because it was outside the city, was ''simple, unbusinesslike, foolish parochialism''.

Selling property with a financial return and financial gain for ''prettiness in our own home town'' was ''a double-edged disaster''

Cr Vandervis wondered why the council would sell property that made money when it could sell ''liabilities like Aurora''.

Mayor Dave Cull responded the issue came down to perceiving the difference between cost and value.

''It's whether you look at life through darkened glass, where everything's bleak and nothing's positive, or whether you have slightly rose-coloured spectacles on and try to be little positive.''

Mr Cull said the assets did not have to be sold; that was up to the council.

''What we're looking at here is providing increased value to our community.

''If we only worry about cost nobody would do anything, nobody would spend any money at all.

''I don't think our community is going to thank us if we let the place stagnate because we are too scared to spend some money because of what might happen because we happen to be looking at the world through darkened glass.''

Mr Cull was supported in his views by the 13 other councillors.

Cr Marie Laufiso said she was not a business person, but the most valuable asset in the city was its people.

There were economic, social and environmental aspects to the budget, and she supported the recommendations.

Cr Kate Wilson said she was councillor in 2007 when the economy changed for the worse, and the council made changes as it went.

Cr Conrad Stedman said he wanted to be positive.

Dunedin was in a ''magic space'' in terms of growth.

Cr Christine Garey said debt ''is not a dirty word''.

''We're investing in our city, its environment both built and natural, and most importantly, in our people.''

Cr Andrew Whiley noted 60% of the budget was on renewals, which the council needed to do.

The council voted 14-1 to approve the draft plan for consultation.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

Comments

These assembled money wasters have voted for a 60% increase in rates over the ten years. I haven't seen that in any headlines.
Don't believe me then do the maths.

Here is an idea. For every increase in rates there is an equal percentage decrease in councilors salaries and perks. Mr Cull thinks a 6.9% increase is acceptable compounded by 4.5% every year afterwards. So let him accept the same reduction in his spending ability he wants to impose on all Dunedin ratepayers.
We would quickly learn what these people really think about value vs cost.

Again Keith a great way of thinking and bang on the money, I'm glad I returned to Dunedin after 25 years away, but even more grateful that we were in a position to leave again after 16 months and cut our losses. Cull and his Council are running Dunedin into the ground but making rate payers pay the price, Dunedin rates were as large as Devonport's. Cull will make the city bankrupt the way it is going. I was in Dunedin at the time of him being re elected, asked him questions and he could not answer them and would dodge them. As for the newly elected councillors they were quick to shut up and do nothing.