Infrastructure top of agenda

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Joining sixth-term Mayor Tracy Hicks at the Gore District Council table this October will be at least three new faces, and as many as five.

Uppermost on the eastern Southland district's agenda are a range of capital-intensive infrastructure projects, so it may behove them to brush up on their book-keeping skills.

Tracy Hicks has been re-elected for a sixth term as mayor of the Gore District Council.
Tracy Hicks has been re-elected for a sixth term as mayor of the Gore District Council.
Public concerns were raised recently about growing council debt, but chief executive Steve Parry was quick to reassure the district's 6019 ratepayers there was nothing out of the ordinary in its $19million of red ink.

Gore's $1500 per head of debt compared favourably to Auckland's $5000, Tasman's $3000 and most others, he said.

Nonetheless, balancing the books for what the council has called "once in a generation" infrastructure projects in water, roading and assorted smaller domains will be one of the key challenges.

During the next decade, Gore expects to spend $36.6million on so-called "Three Waters" activities - wastewater, stormwater and drinking water.

Facing the maintenance and upgrade of an extensive urban and rural water supply network, the council has said a vital first step is improving its knowledge of the district's underground infrastructure.

Roading, too, is expected to suck up considerable funds, both in capital and maintenance expenditure.

Co-funded 55% by the NZ Transport Agency, capital projects totalling $32.9million are expected, and another $22.5million of maintenance will be required for the district's 90 bridges and 896km of roads, 60% of them unsealed.

Affordability is a perennial bugbear for ratepayers nationwide, and Gore's new councillors will want to keep a weather eye on any breaches of a self-imposed 5% cap.

A 6.15% increase last financial year was predicted but, once again, careful fiscal management will be crucial to stay within bounds until 2028.

Elsewhere, civic minds will be focused on continuing Gore's push to be recognised as an attractive place to set up house.

Its tongue-in-cheek "Rural City Living" branding has entered the collective conscious, and the council has stated it aims to grow the district's current population of 12,000 through initiatives "creating a place ready for new businesses and people".

A longer-term target of offering residents the "Best Quality of Life in New Zealand" by 2048 sets a lofty bar for all.

Questions for Gore District Council candidates

What do the candidates in the 2019 local body election stand for? The Otago Daily Times gave nominees for the Gore District Council the opportunity to answer the following  questions:

1   What’s your position on balancing the council’s ballooning multimillion-dollar debt with efficient delivery of critical infrastructure projects during the next few years?

2    What are your goals and what should the priorities be for your council?

NICKY DAVIS

No response received by publication deadline.

 

Cliff Bolger
Cliff Bolger
CLIFF BOLGER

Ward: Councillor at Large.

Age: 64.

Occupation: Farmer.

Question 1: Gore district has moderate level of debt, at low interest rates. We will repay $1.5 million in capital this year. However, new loans will be required to fund new infrastructure and long-term upgrades required by government. Our present cost of interest is less than years ago and well within our ability to service, because we now borrow from the Government backed Local Government Funding Agency (LGFA).

Question 2: Improved domestic water supply and treatment for both Gore and Mataura and increased stormwater capacity and waste treatment for Gore. Encouraging and supporting commercial development and increased residential growth across the whole district so young people will have employment and housing as well as future-proofing the viability of the whole district.

 

Richard McPhail
Richard McPhail
RICHARD MCPHAIL

Ward: Councillor at Large.

Age: 53.

Occupation: Region manager Bovis Programme.

Question 1: As with any business, the council needs to be managed efficiently and effectively. The council's 10-year plan identifies significant investment in infrastructure, big-ticket items that bring with them growth in debt. We need to be mindful of our fiscal responsibility to ratepayers, balancing the essentials against the nice-to-haves, while all the time not losing sight of the need to invest in growing our population and our economy.

Question 2: I plan to work on the findings of the 2019 Residents' Survey, which identified our community's dissatisfaction with the communication and connection with councillors. My people skills, honed during my police career, mean I can comfortably relate to all sectors of the community. Growing debt is to the fore for all local authorities, as is an ageing population.The big question is how we meet these challenges, as standing still is not an option.

 

STEVEN BOKO DIXON

No response received by publication deadline.

 

DOUG GRANT

No response received by publication deadline.

 

Bret Highsted
Bret Highsted
BRET HIGHSTED

Ward: Gore.

Age: 50.

Occupation: Chief executive officer.

Question 1: We are facing ``once in a generation'' infrastructure projects, for assets originally built with government subsidies. Unless our central government funding policy changes, we have no choice but to fund via increasing debt to a level that we are all uncomfortable with. The alternative is to do nothing or increase rates to unprecedented levels. My role is to ensure we carefully manage our resources and finances well and by focusing on needs, not wants.

Question 2: We must live within our means and focus on core business issues such as addressing our ageing infrastructure in the most cost-effective and future proofed manner. Our district plan is under review and we need to ensure we have a framework that encourages business and employment. I see our role in economic growth to be one of facilitation and partnering with people or companies that have the commercials skills in that highly specialised space.

 

BRONWYN REID

No response received by publication deadline.

 

Glenys Dickson
Glenys Dickson
GLENYS DICKSON

Ward: Gore.

Age: 71.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Question 1: Essential maintenance and renewal of storm and wastewater infrastructure is now at a critical stage, to mitigate any unconsented discharges into the Mataura River.

With a small rating base, it is vital the cost of this infrastructure, is subsidised by central government, with council

debt utilising low-interest short-term loans, to relieve the burden on present ratepayers.

Prioritising essential services over non-essential is a must, keeping debt at a sustainable level.

Question 2: The council needs to stimulate growth through supporting small business by reducing unnecessary constraints where possible, support and welcome new residents into our community, promote tourism at an acceptable level and integrate wellbeing and environmental amenities in our community.

Work towards a long-term plan that integrates sensible and sustainable policy and investigate alternative funding tools to keep rates and debt at a feasible level.

 

NICK GRANT

No response received by publication deadline.

 

ADAM DUNCAN

No response received by publication deadline.

 

 

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