$28m at top of city list

A multimillion-dollar development at the TSB Stadium and Pukekura Raceway is the big-ticket item approved by New Plymouth District Council last night.

The more than $28 million proposed to be spent on the development, which would include the YMCA and users of the Waiwhakaiho netball courts, caused a division among the councillors.

The first to try to move the development off the draft long-term plan 2012-22 major projects list was Councillor Heather Dodunski.

Her distaste for the project was closely followed by that of Craig McFarlane, who favoured halting the project except for the relocation of the netball courts.

Cr Dodunski said the project was at such an early stage that it could be revisited in three years.

Cr Sherril George supported scratching the plan, saying the idea had only just been raised with council in a workshop last week.

"If we go ahead and put it in the plan, the community is going to think it's going ahead and that it's already in the process of being built," she said.

Quick to respond was sports commentator and councillor Phil Quinney, who said the development had been widely talked about for the past year.

"We're talking about wants and needs, and this has to be seen as a need," he said.

"Our current facility is 20 years out of date and doesn't meet the needs of the community."

Deputy Mayor Alex Matheson called for the council to give the community the chance to comment on the plan. "We're talking about a plan 10 years into the future," he said. "Don't kick it into touch; leave it and see what people have to say, because it's an innovative project."

Another big discussion last night was centred on the district's rubbish collection.

The council voted in favour of providing ratepayers with bins for general recycling, glass and food waste, and pay-as-you-go rubbish bags.

Free learn-to-swim lessons for school groups at public pools were also added to the plan, while a user-pays system at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was turned down.

Cr Lyn Bublitz said the issue of user pays had been discussed for 30 years and still hadn't happened.

Six councillors voted in favour of changing the draft plan to allow for a $2 entry fee at the gallery but it wasn't enough to win the ongoing debate.

The crucial number-crunching, which means ratepayers will pay 5.8 per cent more for their rates in the 2012-13 financial year, was given the green light.

Although subject to change and public consultation, it will mean rates will increase on average by 5.5 per cent until 2022, with a 7 per cent maximum in any one year.

A draft plan will be approved on March 13 that will go out for public consultation from March 28 to April 27.

Taranaki Daily News