Roads, sports fields eyed as council seeks savings

Multimillion-dollar spending cuts to stem runaway rates increases could result in the end of new road sealing, and the end of plans to upgrade the city's sports fields for at least the next decade.

Those are two major areas of spending cut after guidelines set for the Dunedin City Council's annual budget stated no new capital expenditure programmes could be included unless they were "urgent or externally funded".

Capital expenditure - money the city pays to buy assets, or add to the value of the assets it has - is one area targeted by council staff to rein in its budget.

The major cuts have come from the transportation, city development and parks and reserves departments.

Transportation has found $6.9 million of savings over 10 years.

The transportation operations department's seal extension programme has been dumped, resulting in a potential saving of $4.7 million.

Cuts to the budget in the past have brought howls of protest from councillors representing rural ratepayers, who have argued those voters needed a return on the high rates they paid.

Transportation operations manager Graeme Hamilton said this week sealing roads was "popular politically".

What made extending seal less popular was the cost: not only did 1km of new bitumen cost about $250,000, maintenance cost money, and sealed roads had to be resealed every 13 years.

Unsealed roads, Mr Hamilton said, were the cheapest to maintain.

Infrastructure services committee chairman Andrew Noone said the roads due to be sealed in the next two years were the second stage of Scroggs Hill Rd, near Brighton, McMaster Rd off Saddle Hill Rd, and Allans Beach Rd, near Portobello.

All were subject to final approval by the council, but were at the top of a priority list.

Items cut from the transportation planning budget include a Rattray St crossing, which had just over $1 million of spending planned for the 2016-17 financial year.

The crossing was once seen as an essential link in the council's harbourside plan, joining the area beside the Chinese Garden to the harbourside.

The plan to attract cafes, bars and apartments to the area was scaled back after years of mediation with local businesses concerned it would affect their operation.

The bridge was proposed last year, but received a lukewarm response and a report on the issue was left to lie on the table.

The demise of most of the harbourside plan has also resulted in the city development department removing $6.3 million over eight years from its budget, money that was to have been used for harbourside access and amenities.

Council policy team leader Nicola Johnston said that funding was no longer needed for walkways and recreational facilities, access and roading improvements, waste and water infrastructure and property purchases.

The other major capital expenditure cut is a parks and reserves department plan to save $4.2 million over 10 years by removing planned upgrades of city parks from the budget.

The budget for playground improvements has been cut from $3 million to $2.1 million, $1.7 million has gone from the Logan Park redevelopment, and plans to upgrade Bathgate, Hancock, Opoho, Montecillo, Chingford and Walton parks have been dumped.

Council community and recreation services manager Mick Reece promised the cuts, which would save $1.4 million, would not affect the parks' quality as sports fields.

"They will be maintained," Mr Reece said.

But upgrades that were to include renewing drainage systems and the "sand carpets" that sit beneath the grass turf would not go ahead in the next decade, as planned.

The cuts to the Logan Park budget were for items suggested last year, including the $1.3 million artificial turf for football, construction of a third artificial hockey turf, tennis court repairs, and landscaping and widening of the single-lane Butts Rd bridge at Logan Park.

The cuts would not affect the "sports hub" plan for the park, Mr Reece said.

Instead, the council's priority would now be to establish that hub from the former art gallery building at Logan Park.


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