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Low turnout for long term plan information session

March 25th, 2015
[by David Armstrong]

The small number of people who attended last night's public information presentation by Tasman District Council at Memorial Hall suggests that most residents are happy with TDC's strategic direction.

Eight people heard Council's CEO Lindsay McKenzie, supported by four TDC staff and two councillors, explain the Long Term Plan Consultation document and answer questions.

Almost all of the presentation and questions focused on the financial planning aspects, including Council's debt level, rates rises and the Waimea Community Dam.

In particular, Lindsay and his staff explained clearly (as does the Consultation document) the strategies and mechanisms to be used to cap and then reduce the previously ever-growing debt level, and to constrain future rates rises to an average of no more than three percent. (See our story here.)

Items in the draft plan that relate specifically to proposed improvements in Motueka were mentioned only briefly in passing. Details on such works are contained in separate documents, which can be downloaded from the Council's website.

Lindsay explained that the main focus on the overall strategic and financial planning side, rather than a detailed list of hoped-for projects, was a direct result of new laws mandated by central government for this round of Long Term Planning.

Upon questioning, he said residents can nevertheless make submissions on any item related to Council work, not just on material contained in the Consultation document.

Under the plan, Council staff will be able to reverse the growth in debt levels mainly through a financial strategy that will see a gradual change in the funding of asset depreciation so that in time it will be via cash (from our rates) rather than through raising debt.

Another significant cost saver, already in place, has been bringing engineering services in house rather than using consultants, he said. A sound asset management system has also been crucial.

But the main factor in shrinking debt will be cutting back on almost all new, non-core expenditure, particularly in community facilities.

Lindsay said he believes that the trend (capping rates rises and reducing debt to around $100m - $150m) will be locked in, even if a future Council decides to begin investing in more assets from perhaps three to six years from now.

Cr Peter Canton, who chaired the meeting, said he was encouraged by the reactions he'd heard, both in Motueka and other centres including Richmond and Golden Bay (the information meetings for which were attended by even fewer people), suggestion Council staff had done a great job with formulating a workable and sustainable strategy.

He urged everyone particularly to make submissions, in particular to support Council's proposal to allocate nearly $2.1m for a new or enlarged library.


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