Big day for Mr Average
Palmerston North's Mr Average ratepayer Garry Buckman has made his debut in the city council debating chamber.
He made his submission on the council's draft long-term plan in the first of 14 sessions that began yesterday.
Familiar with his own themes about restricting rates rises and borrowing, he said he felt reasonably confident before the presentation – apart from facing intimidating questions from councillors.
"I'm not so good at speaking without notes, and you never know what you are going to be asked, and whether you can put together a coherent answer on the spot."
Living on a property with exactly the average city land value, Mr Buckman faces a $115-a-year rates rise unless the council trims back on the proposed overall 5.8 per cent increase.
He said it was becoming difficult for families facing rising living costs to find money for social activities.
As well as pruning the rates rise, he believes the council should not commit future generations to repaying loans on facilities it would be nice to have today.
So he has opposed projects such as the Esplanade aviary and conservatory rebuilding, the central bus terminal, and sealing more cycleways.
But he avidly supports the council providing more community housing and better supporting the arts and culture.
While confident with his notes in front of him, Mr Buckman said it became harder when councillors asked him questions. "There is always an agenda around those questions."
Councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell challenged him on why spending on the Esplanade and cycleways was not as valid as supporting arts and culture.
Mr Buckman said it was the difference between maintaining existing facilities, and new spending.
Cr Lew Findlay asked if he had added up how much the council intended to spend on cycling facilities in the next 10 years. Mr Buckman had not, but the answer is $3.5 million.
And Cr Jan Barnett asked him how the council could pay for extra community housing without borrowing.
"It was a bit of a trap, and was a little bit uncomfortable."
Next week councillors will hear from more than 100 of the 357 people who made submissions.
The most common issues raised are projects supporting the goal to become the best place to ride a bike. There are 64 submissions about sealed tracks along the Manawatu River, most in support, but with some concerns about the dangers for pedestrians as cyclists go faster and more quietly.
Projects that have drawn the most submissions include the Esplanade conservatory rebuild, the development of a wildlife rehabilitation aviary, the bus terminal, and skate park improvements.