WDC ends up back at 1.7% rates rise

After more than eight hours of debate, discussions and negotiations, the Waitaki District Council came full circle yesterday, setting a 1.7% rate rise for next financial year - exactly where it was at the start of the rates meeting.

The council made what were basically final decisions on its long-term 2015-25 plan (LTP), which sets budgets and rates increases for the next 10 years.

Councillors started yesterday with a 1.7% rise in total rates to be collected next financial year.

They then went through additional projects proposed in submissions and new projects the council had put forward, adding and removing some, but still came out with a 1.7% rise.

Age Concern, facing an uncertain financial future, asked for $12,500 a year; the council approved $6000 a year for the next three years, to come from the $50,000 annual grants budget, funded by dividends.

Cr Peter Garvan opposed the grant and said, while it was a very worthy cause, there were hundreds of other worthy causes the Government was not funding and expecting local authorities to pay for.

Cr Colin Wollstein believed the responsibility for funding rested with others than the council and Cr Jim Hopkins said the council already paid Age Concern to manage its community housing.

Cr Melanie Tavendale said the services provided were ''absolutely invaluable''.

The council's proposal to cut down the Dunback Domain's macrocarpa hedge raised a storm of protest from the community, which Cr Kathy Dennison described as ''a clear message'' to keep it.

The council decided to include up to $15,000 to trim the hedge to a manageable height, but will consult the Waihemo Community Board before work starts.

It added $5000 a year for the next three years to contribute to Anzac events or projects throughout the district to commemorate the centenary of World War 1. Councillors agreed the money should be set aside, but some suggested it should go to one or more major projects.

Mr Kircher said the council was playing a greater role in Anzac commemorations since the North Otago Returned Services Association went into liquidation, but he hoped the branch would ''regenerate into a new form for commemorations and welfare''.

Mr Ross said it cost the council $10,000 for this year's Anzac Day commemorations and warned the council needed to be careful because more voluntary groups were asking for help.

The first stage of restoration of the Craig Fountain in the Oamaru Gardens will start, with the council deciding to use existing funds to dismantle and inspect it after the project was supported by some submitters, including offers of fundraising.

The 1912 fountain had extensive work carried out on it in 1990 but after the fountain leaked it was turned off during the 1990s and has not flowed since.

Another decision was to prepare a development and communications plan for replanting Cape Wanbrow, to go with $10,000 a year over the next three years, reviewed annually, for plants and maintenance.

If the council got the development right, Cape Wanbrow - ''a piece of natural architecture'' - would become ''a jewel in the crown of the district''.

Formal adoption of the LTP will not be done until June 24, but no major changes can be made then.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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