Shots fired in council spending debate

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The opening shots in debate about the Dunedin City Council’s spending programme were fired quickly and forcefully.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the council was between a rock and a hard place — or council spending and "the reality of available finance".

"The rock is becoming an enormous boulder sitting on top of a mountain of debt," he said at the start of deliberations yesterday on the 2024-25 annual plan.

The council has proposed a rates rise of 17.5% and signalled a deficit of $28.5 million and escalation in debt of $107m for the 2024-25 year.

Cr Vandervis said this was not sustainable.

Cr Jim O’Malley likened the commentary to a mixture of "the boy who cried wolf" and "Chicken Little".

The people did not want "a run-down city going nowhere", he said.

"These rates are not wasteful spending. They are a recognition of what we need to do."

Cr Marie Laufiso said the council needed to provide "service with love".

"We are at the coal mine with the people," she said.

"We are here not to worry about figures," Cr Laufiso said, before adding a warning about people being mindful of the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said the figures were "painful" and debt was a mounting concern.

The average rates bill would not be "a ridiculous amount to pay" for the value received.

Cr Steve Walker said he would "hate to live in a city like Wellington", which had been plagued by water and wastewater woes.

He also advocated for accessible public facilities.

Cr Andrew Whiley said the council could choose one of two pathways.

"We invest in the city or we watch it degrade."

Cr Mandy Mayhem said the council had to care for its infrastructure.

"There are no nice-to-haves in any of this."

Cr David Benson-Pope said the council was operating well within its borrowing parameters.

Cr Christine Garey said she had faith in the council’s sense of responsibility.

Cr Brent Weatherall said the city would not "fall over" if there were spending cuts.

Crs Weatherall and Vandervis voted against the indicated capital budget of about $207m.

Deliberations continue today.