Projects under gun in black budget

Last updated 13:00 21/02/2014

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Debt-laden Tasman District Council has prepared a black budget with dozens of projects deferred and controversial decisions to be made on others.

Axed from the proposed spending list is the Golden Bay community facility, the next stage of the cycle trail and Motueka High St's undergrounding power project. Richmond's town centre project is trimmed.

The council is also expecting a backlash on its cuts in tourism spending, with Murchison's visitor centre allocated just $12,000.

The council is forecasting a total rise in rates revenue of less than 2.5 per cent.

Chief executive Lindsay McKenzie said if it were not for the need to repay debt, little or no addition rates income would have been required.

Councillors have held discussions since December and council staff are preparing the draft annual plan, which will give the proposed rate changes. It will be adopted on March 15 then released for public consultation.

Most of the forecast rates increase will be used to repay debt, which is forecast to be between $177 million and $180m at the end of June next year. That is down from the forecast in its long term plan for debt to be $193m by then.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne described the budget "as constrained as possible focusing on core services".

"The council has taken the challenge from ratepayers to reduce the previously proposed levels of debt and rates increases. The budget that is being presented enables a small but significant step to be taken towards that objective," he said.

One of the big decisions councillors have made is to vote against a recommendation to commit $3.5m towards the Golden Bay community facility. Mr Kempthorne said the decision was simply to reduce debt. Groups in Golden Bay have been working for six years on the project and $3.7m had been included in the long term plan. The report to councillors warned that there was likely to be a sector of the community that would be unhappy if it was deferred.

"What we need to know from Golden Bay is, is this something important they want. The benefit is that it does provide them with a modern sports facility, but is it something we should take on another $3.5 million debt for?" said Mr Kempthorne.

However, Golden Bay will get a new Takaka Service Centre.

Mr Kempthorne said it would be a complete rebuild on the Commercial St site but may incorporate the existing frontage and would include some commercial space.

The council has taken a tough stand on tourism funding. "We do not think the general ratepayers should be funding the tourism organisation, and I expect we will get plenty of submissions," he said.

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The council is looking at capping its tourism funding at $405,000 and providing $12,000 for the Motueka visitor information centre, $8000 for Richmond, $30,000 for Golden Bay and $50,000 for Motueka.

However, the report says Murchison is unlikely to be able to make a viable business case at that level of support.

It also warns that the effect of the council decision to reduce funding to NTT could mean NTT could not continue to trade in its current form without additional Nelson city and industry support.

Also axed is $600,440 for Tasman's Great Taste Cycle Trail from Wakefield to Spooners tunnel; $370,495 for Motueka's High St undergrounding power cables project and the district land purchase budget has been cut from $194,588 to just $20,000.

The Richmond Town Centre project has also been reduced, from $250,000 to $180,00 which the reports says is to better reflect efficiencies that staff were expecting to make.

The council is looking to spend in Mapua, including a new building estimated to cost $1.2m to replace the aquarium building that burnt down.

It is proposed to spend $50,000 replacing the roof over the Jellyfish Cafe and the Smokehouse and $50,000 on Mapua Wharf repairs.

The Motueka Library is to get a seismic upgrade plus some improvements but not an expansion, funding for Saxton Field developments is nearly halved to $350,00 but $60,000 is added for the cycle velodrome.

The council plans to sell its Fittal St property where the Richmond Reuse shop was and is budgeting $550,000 from the sale to be used to repay debt.

About $2 million has been cut from stormwater projects, from $5.1m to $3.1m, with 11 projects not going ahead in the next year and being deferred.

Nearly $1m has been cut in wastewater project spending with seven projects not getting funding, and $2m worth of water supply work won't go ahead but Richmond's $9.8 million water treatment plant will.

The transfer of the council's maintenance and operations in-house has resulted in savings to the council, the most significant being in professional fees which have gone from $1.62m in its long term plan for the next year to $600,000 for the draft annual plan for next year.

Roading costs are being carefully managed but with warnings there will need to be future increases to ensure the roading network does not deteriorate then cost tens of millions to repair.

Even small changes are being made to save money, such as using less gravel on unsealed roads.

"We have found that the amount of gravel previously on roads was too high and by changing the way we grade these roads less material is required," a report said

Disaster funds are also to be increased by $175,000 to $415,000, and $500,000 included for high priority upgrades to earthquake prone buildings.

The uniform annual general charge is recommended to remain the same, at $290 per rateable property.

Nelson City Council's draft annual plan, including its proposed rate changes, will go out for consultation on March 27.

Tomorrow: Reporter Naomi Arnold looks at whether Murchison may lose its information centre as Tasman District Council squeezes funding.

TDC BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS WINNERS

Mapua new building

Motueka library redevelopment

Takaka service centre

Cycle velodrome

Richmond water treatment

LIKELY LOSERS

Great Cycle Taste Trail

High St underground project

Tourism spending

Golden Bay community facility

- The Nelson Mail

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