About-face a 'genuine mistake' - council CEO
Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King says he made a genuine mistake when telling a public meeting in April that the council's $1.9 million funding of Venture Southland would not be paid for by residential ratepayers.
The council has included Invercargill homeowners among the ratepayers who are footing the $1.9m cost of funding its contribution to Venture, despite Mr King telling residents in April they would not incur the cost.
He said at the meeting: "We're not asking you as a resident to pay the cost of Venture Southland. That will be a charge from the commercial business rates."
Also at the meeting were other senior city council figures, including finance director Dean Johnston and senior city councillor Neil Boniface, and none of them contradicted Mr King's statement. In fact, their statements appeared to back up Mr King's comments.
When Mr King's taped comments were read to him yesterday he said he didn't doubt that he had said it, but he had been "totally mistaken".
He surmised that he may have mistaken Venture Southland with Vibrant Southland.
"I certainly wasn't trying to mislead anyone. I was wrong, it was a genuine mistake."
The council's Venture Southland contribution had always been paid out of the general rate and would continue to be, he said.
During a discussion at the April public meeting about plans to drop higher rates charges levied against commercial operators, the attendees were assured that homeowners would not have to pay more if the council dropped the higher rates for commercial property owners because, as part of the tradeoff, the businesses would have the Venture cost added to their rate.
Mr Johnston said yesterday that the city's residential, commercial and rural ratepayers had always shared the council's contribution to Venture Southland and no decision was made by the council to change it this year.
But it had been discussed as an option, he said.
"It was a thought that went up, it would have been discussed at the council," he said. "The decision was to leave it as it was . . ."
The intention was that the Venture costs would still be spread across all ratepayers and the CBD upgrade would be paid for by the city's commercial ratepayers because they were the ones who got the bulk of the benefit from the upgrade, he said.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, when rung about the council's about-face yesterday morning, said he only knew about it when reading it in The Southland Times.
"I haven't got the reasons why. I can ring up Richard [King] and ask him."
Mr Shadbolt did not get back to the Times yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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