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But suggestions the proposal made a mockery of the council's decision earlier this year to become involved in funding the stadium if conditions were met were "unfair", he said.
"It's not a slight on the stadium at all.
I'm disappointed; that was not my intention."
The council's involvement in the stadium project had been sanctioned by the district and city councils throughout Otago, which agreed it was a "regionally significant" project, even though it was outside core business, he said.
His intention was for staff to put together a policy paper to go to the council next year, looking at ways the council could "focus" its agenda on "core business" for the rest of this term.
"It's not retrospective.
It is time to stick to core business, partly because of the economic climate."
He acknowledged if the concept became policy, it could mean the council would not become involved in the future with such projects as the stadium.
Deciding what was core business would present challenges, Mr Cairns said.
He saw funding the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter as "almost core business".
"We'll consult on this.
It'll put the focus on what we do and what we won't do."
The paper was not a response to new Local Government Minister Rodney Hide's recent comments about reining in rates, he said.
The council had been discussing the concept for the past year.
Instead, it was a call for focus, for caution and to try to reassure the Otago community its rates were being used as appropriately as possible.
"Going forward, we have potentially some big projects in water infrastructure, which is the core business of this council."
Cr Michael Deaker said he supported the idea as every annual plan process, organisations "with absolutely no relevance to our core business" put much time and work into applying to the council for money.
"It's a fair thing.
We are not a credit union or a charitable authority," Cr Deaker said.
Cr David Shepherd said it was very timely given "the mood out there" and as many saw local authorities as "one-stop shops" for funding.
Cr Gretchen Robertson said more discussion on the policy was needed.
She believed the council should not restrict what it was hearing from the community.