Decisions loom on possible rates freeze, deferrals

Aaron Hawkins.
Aaron Hawkins.
A rates freeze may be on the cards to ease the financial burden on Dunedin ratepayers, as the economic impacts of Covid-19 continue to bite.

But while some Dunedin city councillors appear relatively united on that front, decisions on whether to borrow millions of dollars to continue with capital projects, or defer the big-ticket items, appear more contentious.

Councillor Lee Vandervis prepared three motions for the latest council meeting, including one calling for a proposed 6.5% rates increase to be scrapped, but the meeting was cancelled due to issues about having a quorum online.

He also wanted to suspend penalties on the non-payment of rates for a year, and allow people to defer rates for a year.

Non-essential council projects should be deferred for 12 months, but infrastructure projects, especially drainage, should continue to keep local contracting businesses going, he said.

He criticised Mayor Aaron Hawkins for being set on continuing with the "ideological, extraordinarily wasteful" pedestrianisation of George St.

Yesterday, Mr Hawkins said he, too, wanted a rates freeze.

Rather than deferring projects, he wanted to borrow the money instead.

The rates increase would have generated about $10 million, he said.

"I don’t think now is the time to be slashing public spending, but I also appreciate that putting rates up from July 1 is an increasingly difficult proposition for a growing number of people.

"This way, we can do both."

He had asked council staff to prepare information for councillors about that option for deliberations in May.

He was against the idea of deferring major capital projects, such as the centre city and tertiary precinct projects.

Big projects were funded over several years, so deferring by one year would not make a huge difference, he said.

He also highlighted the importance of those projects to the local economy.

The council had taken measures to reduce spending in some areas, such as voluntary salary cuts for senior managers and deferring staffing appointments.

The council’s travel spending would also be minimal this year, Mr Hawkins said.

For Cr Andrew Whiley, the key was for councillors to have good information in front of them before making any decisions.

"This is uncharted territory for council, and for all councils around the country, and for any decision to be made off the bat, I really struggle."

He was unsure what would happen in terms of rates.

"I would very much like to support a zero increase in rates."

But an increase, albeit potentially a smaller one, could also still be on the table.

No matter what happened, the council should not stop investing in the community and in infrastructure, he said.

"I would support the debt being increased," he said.

"We have to invest in the community, and probably the one thing I’ve learned in the past six-and-a-half years in council is residents are very frustrated that not enough money has been invested in their communities."

Cr Rachel Elder said a rates freeze should be looked at, and she wanted councillors to consider the annual plan and individual projects again.

That was because the context under which it was drafted had completely changed, she said.

"I believe we need to have a good, long look at it, and consider a freeze, and figure out what’s important and what’s not so important."
 

Comments

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Time for the pet projects to go.
We need functional works, not 'visionary'.
We need to protect property and employment.
Have the mud traps been cleaned out yet?
We have had a very cold summer and all the indicators are that we are in for a wet winter.
The last thing we need is more damage done to our community because the council continued to neglect the basics.

Yay!!...Let's solve the problem by simply borrowing more money.

It's not like we have to pay it back, right?!

The time of continual rates increases, borrowing to the wazoo, to spend on non-essential projects is over. DCC spending should reflect the Southern economy not pipe dreams/vanity projects. Essential core spending only, the rest can be off to WINZ, where hard working kiwis who have lost real jobs in the past few weeks are queuing (online).

Vandervis is completely right on this. Hawkins and Elder's insane desire to borrow is exactly that: insane. And Whiley is equivocating. Get this straight: any rates increase and the pitchforks come out. And big infrastructure projects will do nothing but cause resentment. This is a time to rebuild sanity and health and community, not to indulge in pet projects. Do not presume on our continued tolerance.

Many many thanks to the ODT for keeping us informed. Champions!

Vandervis wanted a rates holiday for a year. What that archives is more debt for Joe Bloges who is already up to their eye balls in debt. Stupid idea.

"I’ve learned in the past six-and-a-half years in council is residents are very frustrated that not enough money has been invested in their communities."

Correct, however what residents are frustrated with is wasteful and corrupt spending, nobody complained that our rates are too small.

So contrary to all indications Dunedin isn't thriving then...

Quote- Aaron...Rather than deferring projects, he wanted to borrow the money instead.
Are you flipping kidding me? Just stick to the basics, we know little of what the future holds. This is only 'Round 1' of the pandemic situation. Increasing debt without knowing the future of a very fluid situation would be entirely irresponsible. The debt burden could well be more than we could afford for many years to come. Just stop, take a breath and collect the jolly rubbish, keep the mudtraps empty, the lights on, the water running and the waste drainage flowing.
All councillors and those in public office should be taking a huge pay decrease, the rates should be frozen, and no more talk of increasing staff by up to 30 odd people. In fact, there are some 'cuts' that could be made to the 'top heavy' management. Times have changed. If we stamp out the Covid19 virus due to our lockdown efforts, only then can we consider how to function in the new economy. Too much debt is something we will not need nor want.

Great idea get Vandervis on to it.
Wait he doesn't actually do anything other than complain. Well that's a waste of time then.

Not content with wrecking businesses in and within close proximity to the Octagon, he's adamant on doing the same with George Street businesses.

The existing obstacles on footpaths and protrusions onto the road are difficult enough for able-bodied and sighted persons to negotiate let alone for those less fortunate. I suppose there's another way of viewing his madness, once the businesses have either closed or moved away, there'll be no reason for people to be on George Street so any amount of dangerous placements won't matter anyway.

I'm not looking forward to Dunedin regressing to resembling a ghost town.

Once again Mr Vandervis showing real leadership while the greens are still firmly in la la land.
All the ego projects should at a minimum be delayed until the government declare the virus empidemic over. Besides that, just who do the greens think are going to build their dreams? Are we just going to have a single person in a bulldozer tearing up George st? Or should workers just gather in groups with some magical greens blessing to keep them safe. Yeah, just a stupid proposition.

Maybe its just that the greens know they only have 3 years to drive Dunedin and ratepayers to bankruptcy. And covid 19 is stealing much needed time from them?

Hawkins said: "I don’t think now is the time to be slashing public spending"...What??? When did DCC become a public works program? Sounds like the decision is based more upon stimulating the economy Vs actual need. This attitude is sickening. When you move into a position of authority in government, especially at the local goverment level, you have to embrace the same basic principles individuals use for their home budget. That requires individuals to balance their WANTS with their NEEDS. The same applies for Hawkins and the DCC. They need to balance what they want to do with a limited budget with what the people of Dunedin need. Hawkins thinks that he can stimulate the local economy by funding projects he WANTS but those the city of Dunedin doesn't NEED. That's not the way things work in the real world. Given the economic devastation this crisis will cause to the New Zealand economy as a whole, the money Hawkins wants to waste on these projects will have no effect od Dunedins' economy. Hawkins needs to study economics, his focus at the micro-level has ZERO effect and no real benefit. Invest in upgrading electric, water, sewers etc dont waste it on this!

Is it wise to let transient non- property-owning Dunedin residents vote? Especially when they are irresponsible party animal students and vote their student radio DJ in.

Madness, mind you I wouldn't expect any less from an ideological greenie, one who certainly won't be voted in again.

Can the tourist inspired costs now! They are saying viruses like these are going to be common occurrences in the future. Therefore there won't be much in the way of tourists visiting and spending anyway. So looks like a waste of money continuing to invest in tourism until we know more. At least put that spending on hold for now.

Has Hawkins offered to reduce his income to less than $600 a week, in solidarity with the rest of the workers?

Thought not.

Stop spending money we do not have! This council's actions are those of idiots.

If somebody was smart they would open a shop in the octogon selling pitchforks and tourches. If DCC raises rates they could make a small fortune.

For the love of god, can someone (with better wordsense than me) make a petition to get the George St one-waying and the tertiary 'upgrades' cancelled (or amended to the point where George St is still two way, with more places to park, but with a 15km/h speed limit instead?) and then share it around so we can all sign it?

Otherwise we can all kiss goodbye to well over $60 million for a couple little planter boxes and 20 litres of paint (and a number of empty shops, after they lose too much business). We need to stop this nonsense, especially with the unknowns around Covid-19!

Here's the page, someone please get one started! https://www.change.org/start-a-petition

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