Public have say on bold plan

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014
JULIE HARDAKER
FAIRFAX NZ
JULIE HARDAKER: ‘‘I just want to get on with the business."

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Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker's bold plan for reinvesting back into the city will face its first test when the council hears public feedback on its draft annual plan.

The submissions hearing begins tomorrow with nearly 70 individuals and groups seeking time in front of elected members.

Hardaker, using new executive mayoral powers, has played a strong hand in drafting the plan with her initiatives already appearing to win favour with most councillors.

Key planks of the plan are a proposal to fast-track development at the Hamilton Gardens using a $10 targeted rate and the completion of a Waikato River plan for the city.

But a snapshot of 167 submissions show the public divided on many proposed initiatives.

Although 13 submitters favoured Hardaker's proposal to complete five themed gardens within four years, eight submitters opposed the use of a targeted rate.

Submitter Jason McQuinn said increasing rates to build more gardens and a river jetty were "absurd".

"Would I like my rates to increase so that the city gets some new gardens and doesn't decrease its debt ceiling? Not at all. I would, however, happily increase my rates to see infrastructure future-proofed but not before we're in the black."

The council has capped the city's overall debt at $440 million and plans to balance the books by 2017.

Similarly Ruby Liu said using a $10 targeted rate to fund the new gardens set a "bad precedent" for the city.

"Ten dollars is not a big amount of money - I think every property owner can afford it - but the problem is why charge the property owners but not the tourists, especially international tourists? Liu said.

Meanwhile, the Waikato branch of the Property Council said it opposed the transfer of bus operations from the regional council to the city council unless there was evidence to show the buses would provide a strong return.

Waikato branch president Rob Dol said the property council also questioned the proposal to increase rates by 3.8 per cent a year over the course of the 10 year plan.

"When compounded over the 10 year period, this equates to a total rates increase of 45 per cent which is exorbitant and out of line with inflation and increases in ratepayers' own income," Dol said.

Of the 167 submissions received, 61 related to fluoride - with 59 opposing its reintroduction into the city's water.

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- Waikato Times

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