Former New Plymouth mayor Peter Tennent is part of a team called in to rescue a Northland district council drowning in more than $80 million of debt.
Mr Tennent, mayor of New Plymouth from 2001-10, was yesterday appointed by Local Government Minister David Carter to a review team set up to assist Kaipara District Council.
The team, chaired by Northland businessman and former Kiwi Dairies chairman Greg Gent and assisted by Leigh Auton, who has 35 years of local government experience, along with Mr Tennent, has until the end of October to deal with a number of serious issues facing the council.
Debt totalling $80.7m, which includes about $60m for a controversial sewerage scheme at Mangawhai, and proposed average rate increases of 31 per cent are two of the more severe problems on which the review team will be providing advice.
Last month the Kaipara community's dissatisfaction led to a rally of more than 2500 people against the council's proposed rates increases.
Mr Tennent said he was happy to help in what was a difficult time for the Kaipara council and community. "The minister has made it clear the Crown is not intending to write a cheque to fix this or force amalgamation of any kind."
Over the next week Mr Tennent and his colleagues will meet with the council and be given a briefing of the situation.
"Rates will be set on June 30, so we will provide as much input as we can before then and then continue to do what we can to help before reporting back to the minister at the end of October."
Mr Tennent said the Kaipara community was justifiably unhappy with the current situation, as was the council.
"It's a terrible position to be in and we will be looking at all sorts of solutions.
"The review team, Kaipara council and the community are all singing from the same song sheet, as is the minister," he said.
Reducing the significant debt that was largely caused by a sewerage scheme blowout is the first hurdle to overcome.
"There is a lot of discontent amongst the community and our job will be to listen to those concerns and come up with some solutions," he said.
Ironically, in his time as New Plymouth mayor Mr Tennent had sewerage scheme blowouts of his own to worry about, when the Oakura sewage scheme cost ballooned from an original $7m estimate to more than $23m.
Mr Carter said the review team would assess the council's governance and financial management processes and systems, and make recommendations.
"I am confident the combined expertise of the team members will greatly assist the council in working through its issues," Mr Carter said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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