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GDC financial ‘mess’ claims lack substance

As usual at council election time, the financial wizzes emerge — this time claiming the council’s finances are in a “mess”. I have never seen these people at a council meeting or been asked to explain the situation, so I can only assume the sudden interest is for election purposes.

As we know, rate rises have been at 2 percent which was a control put on at the time of the devastating financial crisis. The council reduced the size of its organisation to cut costs. More recently it has been realised that with many additional commitments, the debt and rates would have to rise. However, it is misleading to say the increases are due to deferred maintenance. Four years ago the 10-year council plan contained $400 million worth of infrastructure for renewal, maintenance and replacement.

For the 2018 10-year plan (I urge people to read it as it has all the information), there are four extraordinary projects together costing over $90m. These are additional to the increased spend on infrastructure. They are the Olympic Pool project, Waipaoa flood stopbank upgrade, further wastewater treatment and DrainWise dealing with sewage overflows in heavy rain events. All these projects have required a long lead-in time with investigation and planning, and either have started or soon will.

Much is made of the $105m peak debt and how it would be serviced. The 10-year plan has a very conservative figure worked into the budgets and is included in rates. Presently in this very low interest rate environment, we have been finding that the interest we have been paying on our loans is significantly below the budgeted figure.

A writer pledges to lobby central government for financial assistance. I can say I am surprised at the level of support this region has been getting. For council-involved projects the figure must be approaching $200m only recently. Council staff and the former mayor did a fantastic job in achieving this, with Ministers and the Prime Minister mentioning their effective lobbying.

Brian Wilson