Theatre boost on council agenda

The Theatre Royal will get a financial lifeline, the Modellers' Pond will get $500,000 and a start will be made to a Stoke community and sports facility under Nelson city's draft annual plan.

The projects are among a raft of decisions made in the draft plan, which councillors yesterday passed unanimously, that now goes out to the public for submission.

The council is proposing an average rates rise of 3.7 per cent to fund the work.

The draft plan proposes spending $400,000 to improve the Maitai River, a $200,000 upgrade for Bridge St, $200,000 to investigate and design a new community and sports facility at Greenmeadows in Stoke to provide a space for young people, and a $500,000 top-up for the city's disaster recovery fund.

The plan notes the Theatre Royal continues to experience financial difficulties despite high community use and commercial bookings, and the council will increase its operational grant by $115,000 to $220,000.

Businesses in multi-leased commercial properties will get some relief with a 75 per cent cut in additional SUIP (separately used or inhabited parts) charges.

Some projects were deferred under the previous council while others have been put off under this council.

New projects that have been deferred include Waimea Rd-Market Rd intersection upgrade and widening Waimea Rd and adjacent footpaths at Snow Hill.

Stormwater improvements on Shelbourne St have been put off to align with planned roadworks while Halifax St have been put off for other priorities as has further flood protection work on York Stream. Planting and paths under the Tahunanui Reserve Management Plan was deferred by the last council and remained deferred to prioritise other projects.

Mayor Rachel Reese said it was a balance between providing services to the community and balancing the books, but deferring projects would not mean a substantial jump in rates next year.

"It's about making sure you have the right level of assets to manage a city, and yes that does come at cost, but I am not seeing next year being a massive rates rise," she said.

It was about what the council could realistically deliver in one year and this year's plan reflected that, she said.

The Halifax St cycle lane has been removed, but the council is looking at alternative options and the Church St pedestrian connection to Montgomery Square has also been cut.

The draft plan also includes an update on projects already underway.

Ms Reese said the councillors and council staff had worked hard to produce the "well thought out annual plan", which reflected the council's priorities.

"There is lots in there for the community to comment on and I look forward to their feedback," she said.

"It's a good platform for the Long Term Plan and I think we have, like every city in New Zealand, got a challenge of making sure we balance our budgets and provide value for money to our ratepayers while continuing to ensure this is a vibrant, growing city."

Councillor Ian Barker commended the chief executive, Clare Hadley, for cutting staff numbers and saving money. Savings had also been made on corporate costs, such as staffing as well as capital projects.

Around the table councillors congratulated each other and staff who had prepared the plan.

The public has until April 28 to make submission on the plan.