Proposed 17.5% rates rise approved

Where to next? A bid for $75,000 in Dunedin City Council funding by the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust...
Where to next? A bid for $75,000 in Dunedin City Council funding by the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust to continue to operate the venue Te Whare o Rukutia was unsuccessful. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A few tweaks were made to Dunedin City Council budgets, but the overall result remains a 17.5% rates rise.

The council approved budgeting changes yesterday after two days of discussion about its draft annual plan, confirming the rates rise it had proposed.

Debt is also set to rise by more than $100 million and the council will post a multimillion-dollar deficit.

One funding winner yesterday was Dunedin’s wildlife hospital.

It had been budgeted to miss out, but was granted $75,000, securing employment for hospital director Dr Lisa Argilla for another year.

Wildlife Hospital Trust manager Jordana Whyte said the news was a relief, "both financially and that the council continues to recognise the contribution we make to conservation and supporting the local tourism economy".

"I know there were some very difficult decisions to be made this year for the councillors, so the support means the world to us," Ms Whyte said.

"We think Dunedin’s reputation as the wildlife capital of New Zealand is well deserved, and now we can keep doing what we do to help maintain that reputation."

Less successful was the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust, which had sought $75,000 to continue to operate the venue Te Whare o Rukutia.

This was not added to the budget, but there will be a review of how the space in Princes St is used.

The review is set to include talks with the trust board and a cost-benefit analysis of "a venue operating with a curated programme of events and a venue operating solely as a bookable community performing arts space".

Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust representatives said afterwards they were keen to explore any avenue available to keep Te Whare o Rukutia open to the creative community while it was still needed.

The venue has filled a void after closure of the professional Fortune Theatre in the city.

"We were humbled by the amazing community support for Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust continuing to run Te Whare o Rukutia throughout the annual plan process," the trust said.

At one point in discussions yesterday, the Cosy Homes Trust appeared to be at risk of a budget trim.

The trust’s vision statement is for everyone in Otago to live in a warm and healthy home and trust chairman Aaron Hawkins said there was no shortage of need in Dunedin.

"It’s good news that the council hasn’t cut funding to help insulate and heat low-income households — especially as we head into winter," Mr Hawkins said.

Decisions by the council on Wednesday included increasing funding for Tūhura Otago Museum, increasing community housing rents by 11% and taking over ownership of Logan Park hockey playing surfaces, which need to be upgraded.

The annual plan has been prepared against a backdrop of significant cost pressures in activities such as Three Waters and transport.

A revamped rubbish and recycling kerbside collection service starting in July is another driver of the rates rise.

The annual plan is due to be adopted on June 25.

Rates will then be struck.