$3m loan needed for Opera House

A $3 million loan will be needed to help pay for the $9.7 million Opera House upgrade in Oamaru, but an annual interest bill of $255,000 will not be paid by ratepayers.


The loan is needed because plans by the Waitaki District Council to sell property - in particular the delay to its Forrester Heights residential subdivision on Cape Wanbrow - have not come to fruition.

The council budgeted $3 million from its property division surpluses towards the project.

Now, the property division will have to get a loan to meet the shortfall.

Yesterday, the corporate services committee recommended the council transfer $3 million from the property development account to the Opera House fund-raising account by the end of this month.

Corporate services group manager Stephen Halliwell said the property account was in deficit, even though its projected surplus was more than $7 million.

"This will mean that it is likely the property development account will not at any stage have a $3 million cash surplus," he said.

The delay in realising that surplus had not been caused by the Opera House, and the Opera House project should not be penalised.

A $3 million loan to the property account would now be needed and the interest should be paid by the property account.

If the debt was with the Opera House account, the interest would have to be paid by ratepayers as part of the facilities' operating expenses.

Cr Rod Bidois said several councillors had warned when the project was approved by the council that a loan would be needed.

Cr Helen Stead said she was not confident, when the council gave the go-ahead for the project, about the money from Forrester Heights.

Cr Gary Kircher said some people could say the council should not have gone ahead with the Opera House redevelopment, but the cost to do it now would be greater than the interest that would be paid on a loan.

The approach the committee was recommending meant the council stayed true to its original intention that the redevelopment would not impact on rates, he said.

Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton was confident the subdivision would proceed, and the council would get the money it needed.


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