Mayor uses casting vote to change rates

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2012

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Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno used her casting vote when her councillors became divided on introducing uniform rates for water and waste yesterday.

It was the second time in 20 years she has had to use that vote.

The debate has arguably been the most contentious issue in the district council's draft long-term plan, for which submissions were presented to councillors during a three-day hearing in Invercargill this week.

After an hour-long debate yesterday, the council found itself in a six-all split, forcing Mrs Cardno to make the casting vote.

Mrs Cardno said she believed the move to introduce uniform charges was the right one.

"I feel we've got to look at the big picture, and we've got to look at the future."

Water, in particular, was becoming increasingly important and the council had to provide leadership in its management, she said.

Long-time supporter of district funding for water and waste, councillor Lyall Bailey, said for smaller communities such as Tokanui, costs could become unmanageable.

In 10 years, households could face rates of $1580 if district-wide funding was not introduced.

It was the council's responsibility to ensure compliance and for struggling communities that could mean ratepayers were "just going to fall further down the hole" if a uniform rate was not introduced.

"You can take a short-sighted view now, but somewhere down the track it's going to rear its head again," Cr Bailey said.

Cr Paul Duffy said he believed it was in 2008, and by a margin of just one vote, that district councillors had last faced the proposal to introduce district-wide funding for water and waste.

"It got left with the status quo and I'm pretty sure we've sat around this table several times and regretted that decision," he said. "I think for the strength of the whole district, we need to act ... I think we have to take a district and long term view."

However, Cr John Douglas said he was inclined to stick with the status quo.

Ratepayers from communities like Wallacetown and Monowai had worked hard to ensure they had a sustainable, working system and the district council had a focus on empowering its communities.

He did not believe introducing a uniform rate would solve the problems of other communities like Ohai, he said.

"That would mask the underlying problems that exist there, and I believe as a council we are going to have to make some hard decisions ... by papering over the cracks, that's not really addressing the issues," he said.

District-wide funding of water and waste will be effective from July 1.

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alana.dixon@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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