The Kaikoura District Council has agreed to scrap plans to help fund a proposed new aquatic centre following calls from ratepayers to stick to core services.
However, the council is proceeding with plans for a new civic centre and has also earmarked funding for Kaikoura's integrated health facility.
The council spent last week hearing and deliberating on submissions to its draft Long Term Plan (LTP). A total of 19 submitters were heard throughout the day on Monday, with deliberations taking place the following day. The final decisions were signed off on Thursday afternoon.
More than half of the 41 submissions received raised concern over the viability of ratepayer funding going towards the proposed aquatic centre.
Although the concept had initially been sold to the community as having no burden on ratepayers, the draft plan showed a council commitment of $8 million, a step too far for many, particularly those in the rural sector.
Federated Farmers Kaikoura Branch representative Tony Blunt said if the project were to fail, as had happened elsewhere in New Zealand, ratepayers would be left with "colossal, escalating and obviously unsustainable debt".
Echoing the feelings of fellow submitters, Mr Blunt said if the aquatic centre was going to result in the profitable business anticipated, the private sector would be happy to fund it.
Other submitters felt the concept of the aquatic centre was a good one, but requested council put it on the back-burner until the economy looked brighter. They would prefer to see a satisfactory pool for locals to use to replace the current Lions Pool, which was at the end of its life.
Councillor Geoff Harmon said the council needed to recognise the number of people who had taken the time to make submissions on the subject, and agreed that if the aquatic centre promised to be a success, then someone else could pay for it.
Because of the volume of submissions on the subject and the fact that no detailed construction and operational costs had yet been determined, the council agreed to retain the aquatic centre in the plan as an "aspirational aim" but to delete the proposed borrowing of $8 million. It also agreed to reduce the proposed operating costs from $400,000 per annum to reflect just the ongoing running cost of the existing swimming pool.
At the point when plans for a new facility are determined, the council would seek an amendment to the plan, a process which would require public input.
The council also heard a number of requests from medical health professionals and community group representatives to underwrite a shortfall in the integrated health facility project. The Canterbury District Health Board has agreed to fund the project for $10 million. However, the overall cost of the project is estimated at $13.4 million.
Council chief executive officer Stuart Grant asked a number of submitters whether the shortfall should come from ratepayers. While many agreed it was not necessarily a core service, they would like to see money spent there before an aquatic centre.
Other changes to the plan include funding the hospitality suite at the Kaikoura High School to the tune of $29,000, increasing funding for Sport Tasman, and funding the Kaikoura Historical Society, Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura, and a new cycleway project. Additional harbour facilities will also be investigated.
Council expects to adopt the plan on Friday at 11am.
- © Fairfax NZ News