Considering council loan for village

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher
A third of the money needed to build a $15 million retirement village in Oamaru could be funded from council savings.

The public will have its say on whether Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS) should get a $5 million loan towards the project, if the Waitaki District Council agreed to lend the money, but Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher told the Otago Daily Times because it would be funded from money already collected and no extra rating was needed, there would be ''minimum risk'' for ratepayers if the loan was approved.

''Basically, our situation is we've got money in the bank and we see this as a great opportunity for economic development with the jobs it will create and also to keep more people in our community well after they retire.''

In September, the Waitaki District Council gave unanimous approval for its wholly owned company, WDHS, to set up two council-controlled organisations to build and operate the village on ''Hospital Hill''.

Mr Kircher said the council would consider next week whether to lend WDHS $5 million to support the development. A press release issued yesterday from Mr Kircher said the potential loan was one of the matters noted during last year's decision-making process, for future consideration.

''Although council is still a long way off from making a final decision to support the proposed retirement village, some matters need to be considered now, especially where council thinks that further public consultation is needed.

''Using the draft annual plan process, our people can have a say on whether council should agree to lend the money. This process will allow WDHS to proceed with the project as quickly as possible should council confirm its support for the project later this year.

''We're aware that the project is of considerable interest to the community and we think it's appropriate to include it in a public document such as the annual plan, which will go out for consultation in late March.''

The proposed village would have 21 villas of up to three bedrooms, 12 apartments, 40 rest-home care beds in individual en suite rooms and a community centre with a library, chapel, technology, media and music rooms, fitness suite, gymnasium, hair salon and provision for indoor bowls.

The almost 8ha site would allow up to another 21 villas, 12 apartments and 40 hospital care beds to be provided, depending on demand.

About 70 jobs would be created if the proposed retirement village went ahead.

However, even if the loan was approved, it would not constitute a rubber-stamping of the project, Mr Kircher said.

''Council still needs to consider a detailed business case before any final commitment is made. We will also need to see that there is sufficient benefit to the wider community and that there is adequate security in place to protect the funds.''

Waitaki Ratepayers and Concerned Citizens Association chairman Warren Crawford said the retirement village proposal had full backing from ratepayers, and he did not foresee any objection to the proposed loan.

''At the end of the day, we don't have a problem, as long as WDHS pays it back.''

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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