Warning over council income

Being able to keep its general rate increase to 2.49% is good news but it is only thanks to the Otago Regional Council's ownership of Port Otago and its good investments, Cr Michael Deaker says.

''These sources are not rock solid. We need to think about contingencies and disaster management,'' he said at a finance committee meeting yesterday.

Councillors were commenting on the 2014-15 draft annual plan, which outlines the council's spending and work plans for the next 12 months.

The public needed to look at the ''bigger picture'' rather than just the rate rise, Cr Deaker said.

This coming year the council's revenue was estimated at $40 million, of which only $13.5 million came from ratepayers.

The rest came from dividends from Port Otago and interest payments, which all took ''a great weight off '' ratepayers' shoulders, Cr Deaker said.

Recent history showed no investment was risk-free and no port was immune from disaster so should not be taken for granted.

''It's important for all to understand one-third of the cost falls on ratepayers and rest of the sources are not rock solid.''

Chairman Stephen Woodhead said the plan, which focused on implementing water plan changes, 6A water quality and 1C water quantity, within specific time frames, meant a change in focus for the council, but that had been done within existing budgets.

The increase in general rates meant a very small dollar increase for households or businesses, he said.

Cr Gretchen Robertson said the inclusion of a new biodiversity strategy to identify and bring together all the work the council did in that area would be very useful.

''I'd like to see any gaps identified ... I think they may be in the coastal ecosystem area or estuaries.''

Cr Bryan Scott said the 20% reduction in targeted rates was due to the drop in the rate to pay for the stadium and in the clean air rate, which had declined due to the loss of Government subsidies.

Corporate services director Wayne Scott said the continuation of the stadium rate was the result of many factors, including timing, banking system practices and the fact a tax deduction reduced the council's payment term from 15 years to six years, producing ''massive interest savings''.

The draft plan will go forward for full council approval on March 26 before going out for public consultation.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz


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