Mayor fears water plan may put towns at odds

Bryan Cadogan
Bryan Cadogan
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan says the public consultation process for the Clutha District Council's long-term plan early next year could turn ugly.

One of the key issues the Clutha District Council approved for inclusion in the public consultation for its long-term plan will ''cause extreme angst in the community and set one [community] off against another,'' he said.

His was the only vote against a proposal to amalgamate water, sewerage and stormwater rates in towns across the district and propose it to the public in the consultation document.

The council voted yesterday to include promoting living and working in the district to grow the ratepayer base, rates affordability, levels of service for roading, and the amalgamation of rates for the three water schemes in Clutha towns as the four key issues when bringing its long-term plan to Clutha residents in autumn.

Moving away from a current user-pays model for the amalgamated three water schemes rates would mask a problem of rates affordability in Clutha and would unfairly affect some ratepayers, Mr Cadogan said.

Under the amalgamated water rates proposal, a uniform rate would be applied to all Clutha town ratepayers for the three water schemes.

This would result in expected rates relief for most towns, but Balclutha, Stirling and Owaka - towns that pay less for their water schemes than other communities - would pay more.

Mr Cadogan said that since 1998, when he was first elected to the council, Clinton's rates had risen 292%. The problem that created that rise would not go away by sharing around the cost of each town's water schemes.

''If we look at the changes, Clinton's problem becomes Stirling's,'' he said.

He said to include the proposal to move away from ''user pays'' would ''stir up the community for no good reason''.

Cr Hamish Anderson said it was the logical conclusion to the amalgamation process that began in 1989 when the district was formed. He denied including the proposal in the consultation document would play one community off another.

''I could quite fairly argue I never swim in a swimming pool and I never use a library and I'm willing to pay for those things,'' he said. He said the district's rates represented good value for money.

''I think this is a good step towards fairness in our district.''

Cr John Cochrane, of Clinton, said consulting the public on an amalgamated water scheme rating system was about equality.

''We are bringing some equality into it because we're paying an equal price for an equal service,'' he said.

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