You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Councillors this week signed off on allowing group debt for the council and its companies to be raised as high as $1.2 billion, if needed, but not before debate about the "value" of council spending.
Moving the debt ceiling - up by $225 million - was needed to finance work already approved by the council, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said.
Benefits from the council’s capital programme would last for decades and it was equitable for the cost of servicing the debt to be paid over decades, he said.
Almost two-thirds of the council’s $1.5 billion 10-year capital programme was to renew ageing infrastructure.
Group debt, including company debt, was forecast to be about $1.15 billion by July 2024, which would have breached the previous cap.
Cr Lee Vandervis said the council should not have earlier approved some of its spending.
"When you look at the debt graph that we are now about to tick off, it is the steepest, most massive increase in our history — and we’re not even building anything with it.
"We’re getting nothing for this debt.
"We are funding pet projects for which there is no real value.
"We have failed to look at our council companies and take control of them."
Cr Vandervis said repaying the debt at a $1 a minute would take close to 2000 years.
Cr Mike Lord said spending a councillor disagreed with was not the same thing as spending of no value. The council had to invest in a huge number of assets and rebuild roads, he said.
"You can’t say those things are valued at nothing."
Spending needed by council company Aurora Energy to make its network safer and more reliable and by the council to improve infrastructure were identified as the main drivers of a forecast increase in group debt.
The council’s spending had already been approved, but council borrowing arrangements require uncalled share capital from its companies to be greater than group debt.
Cr Sophie Barker said raising the ceiling enabled approved capital expenditure to happen.
Cr Chris Staynes said angst about rising debt should be offset by remembering to account for inflation.
Cr Jim O’Malley said the city had a strong asset base.
Cr Andrew Whiley said lifting the ceiling created room and it was "not about spending all the money".
Crs Vandervis, Carmen Houlahan and Jules Radich voted against raising the debt ceiling.
They also voted earlier this year against adopting the council’s 10-year plan that pushed up projected debt.
Cr Houlahan had voted for approving the plan, but against adopting it.