OPINION: I am astounded that the hierarchy of the Southland District Council dares compare its proposed cycleway with the Hump Track as a successful council project.
In 1996, the council gave seed money of $19,000 and officer time. In the next five years or so, the committee opened the Hump Track at a cost of $3.2 million, including a debt of $200,000 written off over time by the Community Trust of Southland.
Significant sponsors were: Tourism New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs, $860,000 after GST; the Community Trust of Southland, $1,472,000.
The remaining $870,000 was raised by local effort, including the Wild Challenge, Amenity Fund, goods donated by Tuatapere businesses, helicopters and a huge amount of voluntary labour.
The Hump Trust paid resource- management hearing costs totalling $37,400 and building and track resource consents of $19,000 to the council. There was never a council ratepayer liability or levy.
It seems the locals who got the project started and continue to support it deserve any credit the council claims.
Because the council's annual plan does not signal a liability to ratepayers across our district, the councillors have no mandate to impose any widespread rating charge to cover the so far undisputed $4m or more shortfall for this proposed cycleway.
It is arrogant and concerning that the council has called tenders to start the cycleway without establishing proper costs, all rights- of-way, and explaining very clearly exactly who is to pay, why and how much. (The Hump Trust was required by the council at the resource hearings to do so).
There are many questions that deserve answers now before any ratepayers' funds or liabilities are committed to the cycle trail.
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