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Annual plan provides talking points for Motueka

March 16th, 2014
[by David Armstrong]

Tasman District Council has released its Draft Annual Plan for the 2014-15 year, leaving some questions about the future of key projects in Motueka.

The biggest development item now in limbo is the redevelopment of Motueka Library, while the undergrounding of power lines along High Street up to Whakarewa Street remains an open question on which Council seeks opinions.

Several key changes to the proposed developments in the coming year that were established in the Long Term Plan (LTP) are caused by Council's decision to reduce debt and keep rates increases as low as possible - a new doctrine based on what Councillors believe voters demanded at last year's elections.

This has meant that capital expenditure (new projects) next year is proposed to be just over $30 million, down from the $39m that had been agreed by the previous council in the LTP. Debt will be up only slightly to around $175m, rather than the earlier forecast of nearly $193m.

Existing ratepayers will pay on average 1.56% extra for the general rate, and Council says much of this will go to paying down debt rather than new projects.

Following is a summary of the draft plan as the writer seeing it affect Motueka in general. You can download and read the 216-page plan (or the shorter 21-page summary) by going to this page on TDC's website.

Library redevelopment

The plan proposes that the library redevelopment not go ahead, saying that the $1.1m that had been allocated in the LTP was not enough to do the job properly. That amount nevertheless is included in the draft plan under capital expenditure, so part of it may be used to patch up the existing building and the rest be scrapped in order to save further money.

The notes accompanying this decision suggest that whatever library project is envisaged for the future, it should be part of a community hub and include a relocated Council service centre. The notes say:

"Last year the Council moved the Motueka Library upgrade to the 2014/2015 year. This delay enabled alternative sites and options to be further investigated, including the possible co-location with other facilities, but the costs for these alternatives proved to be considerably more than had been budgeted. The main alternatives that were considered were:

  • "Expansion of the service on the current library site. This option is estimated to cost $1.8 million and would require the removal of the Senior Citizens building to enable space for the development. Concerns with this site included limited future expansion into a community hub and the lack of carparking.
  • "Co-location with the Council's service centre in Hickmott Place. This option is estimated to cost $2.6 million and would provide benefits from both activities being located on the same site. It would also be the easiest site to build on, having no reserve status and has Council-owned parking adjacent to the site. Hickmott Place would provide better space for meetings including Community Board meetings, but there is little space for future expansion into a community hub.
  • "Decks Reserve, adjacent to the Information Centre. This option is estimated to cost $3.75 million, but would be partly offset by the sale of the existing Service Centre. The Decks Reserve proposal provides for a new building which could include both the library and Service Centre, and has future potential for a hub proposal. The site would allow for co-location of Council services and provide good meeting spaces, although there are some site constraints including reserve status of some of the land and loss of some open space.

"As none of these options are able to be delivered within the budget of $1.1 million .... the Council is proposing not to proceed with the upgrade of the Motueka Library. A portion of this money would be used to undertake seismic strengthening work and some limited improvements to the existing building."

Power line undergrounding

In a surprise move given previous publicity, TDC remains open to public input on whether or not it should contribute to undergrounding power lines between the roundabout and Whakarewa Street. The summary notes say:

"The Council proposed in last year's Annual Plan that it would contribute towards a Network Tasman-led project to underground the power lines along High Street in Motueka. The total cost to Council was initially thought to be approximately $1.2 million over three years but Network Tasman Limited has now advised that the cost should only be around half that amount.

"The Council's contribution would be approximately $180,000 for the 2013/2014 year, and $175,000 in 2014/2015. This compares to the original budget of $358,660 in 2013/2014 and $370,495 for 2014/2015.

"The Council is seeking public input on the importance of this project and whether remaining funds from 2013/2014 should be used to complete the second stage in 2014/2015."

Tourism services funding

The Council has completed a strategic review of the funding of tourism and proposes that the budget for Tourism Nelson Tasman Limited (TNTL), i-Site support and tourism-related costs for 2014/2015 be capped at $405,000. This would include up to $50,000 directly paid to Motueka's i-Site.

It would also retain, for one year, some money in the budget to meet any transition costs TNTL incurs as a result of these proposed changes.

Longer term, Council will consult the public as part of the LTP process on a proposal not to include any tourism funding from rates thereafter. The reason for this is that the Council questions whether rates sourced from all ratepayers should be used to directly fund one industry.

"The Council believes that the best method of supporting the tourism industry is through providing good quality facilities and infrastructure that not only bring visitors to the region, but are also available to residents and ratepayers," the plan says.

It is not clear whether that means the i-Site will get funding for only one more year or continue after that.

Water supply

The draft plan says the Motueka Water Treatment upgrade project has been reduced in 2014/2015 from $1.1m to $350,000. There is no further discussion on this topic.

Wastewater treatment upgrade

The draft plan is unclear on the spending to be done on the Motueka Sewage Ponds pumping main upgrade, but it appears that the main bulk of expenditure for this has been "deferred to better align with the wastewater treatment plant upgrade budgets in the next Long Term Plan, giving a reduction of $588,833 in 2014/2015".

However, the table showing the proposed budget for capital expenditure still includes an item for "Motueka wastewater treatment plant upgrade - $2,997,471". It is assumed that this is the figure to be spent, and that it is $588,833 less than had been proposed in the LTP.

Lower Motueka Flood Control project

As has already been widely publicised, the draft plan signals removed the $5m funding in the LTP for the river stopbanks project. Council also signalled that it would review the scope and timing of this project as part of its decisions to reduce costs when the Long Term Plan 2012-2022 was finalised.

"Significant work has been done to model and assess the effects of flooding in the Lower Motueka Valley and on Motueka township," the notes say. "Results of the most recent modelling suggest that in a major flood event the main street of the township might have up to 10cm of water. This is significantly lower than originally expected.

"There are also risks to parts of the township from heavy rain events coinciding with high tides, and from projected sea level rise.

Meetings and submissions

Motueka residents have the opportunity to learn more about the Annual Plan on March 26th, when TDC will run an open day information session at the St Johns Hall at 4.00pm and a formal presentation with questions and answers at 7.00pm.

Council says it wants to hear from as many people as possible what they think of these changes to the plan: not only what they do not like but also what they do like. Submissions to the draft annual plan close on April 15th. They can be made in writing or sent online through the Council's website.


Comment by Jim Butler:
[Posted 22 March 2014]

Debt remains the most serious problem for the residents of Tasman District and in particular, for those in Motueka. This year's Draft Annual Plan document, full of spin, colour and fancy photos, rather than providing useful information for ratepayers. This must double the cost of production which just shows TDC's lack of interest in saving ratepayers' money. Who is TDC trying to impress with all this jazz? For I doubt if more than one percent of residents will study the full Draft Annual Plan document.

An example of the lack of useful detail is the Motueka Ward's share of TDC's $174 million debt. Assuming it is about one quarter of the total which is not likely to be far wrong, the interest on this $44 million debt at 6% to be paid by Motueka ratepayers this year, will be about $2.5 million. This will be paid to some bankers somewhere, instead of reducing our rates or rebuilding the Motueka Library.

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