Spending changes spark rise in debt

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:49 06/06/2014

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Final discussion around Tasman's annual plan has seen the district's councillors flip-flop on controversial community issues.

The $3.7 million Golden Bay Community facility is a back on the agenda, on the proviso residents come up with some cash.

The Motueka Library project and the Golden Bay Service Centre rebuild have been deferred but life has been breathed back into the Wakefield to Spooner's cycle trail - as long as the council can secure half of the $600,000 spend from the Government.

Tourism body Nelson Tasman Tourism will continue to be funded by the council for the financial year to next June, while work on a new delivery model is carried out. The council has also agreed to spend $1.2m building a commercial development at Mapua Wharf as long as the proposal meets its business case.

The changes have resulted in a $1m increase in forecast debt. The council's 2013-2014 draft annual plan predicted a debt of $173m; the draft annual plan for 2014-2015 forecasts council debt at $174m.

The district's landowners will see an average general rate increase of 1.73 per cent. When the council's various targeted rates are taken into account, the total average rate increase will be 3.09 per cent.

However initial financial modelling on the council's forecast debt threw a temporary spanner in the works last week when councillors considering the 2014-2015 draft annual plan were told it could be $18m over budget due to carried over unfinished capital works.

Staff worked over Queen's Birthday weekend following last Friday's adjourned council meeting and found the uncompleted project costs had essentially been added twice.

Councillors met yesterday to confirm their project decisions on the basis of the welcomed information.

Spokesman Chris Choat said passionate pleas backed by large quantities of submissions were behind many of the plan's changes.

Among them were 89 who commented on the council's proposal to cut its funding to Tasman Nelson Tourism.

Tasman had proposed to cap its current $426,000 spend at $405,000 and cut its funding from next July. Now it plans to give TNTL $405,000 over 2014-2015 and work with Nelson City Council and other agencies to develop a new method of delivering regional branding and marketing services for future years.

Councillors have also approved providing $300,000 in the 2014-2015 annual plan to cover half the cost of the Wakefield to Spooner's cycle trial, and a further $15,000 for its maintenance, on the basis the funds will only be used if a matching $300,000 is secured from the Government or another third party.

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Choat said that would depend on the Government's funding priorities and the status of the national cycletrails project. No government funding has been secured by the council for any of the existing or proposed trail from Richmond to Kohatu.

Golden Bay residents came out in force to back the community's proposed $3.7m community facility, which had been deferred under the draft annual plan. A total of 128 submissions were received on the topic by the council including one of 680 signatures - the most on any issue.

The council has reversed its decision planning to include it in the 2014- 2015 annual plan with a capped council budget of $3.2m - expenditure, which will be spread over two years.

In return the community will have to raise $800,000 toward the spend and Golden Bay residents will face paying an annual $10 targeted rate from July to help fund it.

Choat said the project could now proceed with confidence, given there was financial support from the community and other funding agencies. The design work had yet to be completed and the project could be staged, depending on funding, he said.

However, both the $1.07m redevelopment of the Motuka Library and the $867,000 rebuild of the council's Golden Bay Service Centre have been deferred because of budget constraints.

The library spend has been put on hold because none of the alternative sites or options came within budget, although $76,000 of the budget will be spent over 2014-2015 for earthquake strengthening and minor improvements. The service centre rebuild has been put on hold to rein in costs.

Paying for the council's proposed $1.2m commercial development at Mapua Wharf will largely come from the council's closed Motueka Coastal Works Account, formerly the Port Motueka Harbour Endowment Fund. But first the project will have to face the test of a council business case proving it will be self-sustaining.

Choat said the councillors' decision was on the back of submissions from the community and commercial providers and the development offered an investment opportunity for the council.

The council's final annual plan is due to be adopted on June 30.

- Nelson

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