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TDC listening, but mind made up on annual plan

March 24th, 2016
[by David Armstrong]

Tasman District Council is asking Motueka residents what they think about the 2016/17 annual plan, but is unlikely to make any changes to it.

This was the clear message given by Mayor Richard Kempthorne (pictured) and corporate services manager Mike Drummond at the Motueka Community Board meeting on Tuesday.

They said they would like to hear from ratepayers and residents at a series of meetings around the district over coming weeks, about whether or not Council is following the right path. However, the plan is now set and will not be changed regardless.

At Tuesday's meeting, about eight people had the chance to put forward their own comments and opinions on matters related to the plan, but with only 45 minutes allocated to that agenda item it was decided that another less formal meeting dedicated to community input would be run in two weeks time.

People can also email their comments directly to Council or the Mayor.

Mayor Kempthorne said Council was proud to be able to go into the 2016/17 financial year in a strong financial position. Predicted rate rises will average about 1%, and Council's debt level will be unexpectedly $12 million lower than than predicted due to savings made.

He repeated the message put out by Council throughout the past year that Council has been "listening to the ratepayers" and wants to keep rate rises to the absolute minimum.

He said that councillors and Council staff are determined to keep the financial strings under tight control, and listed the small number of development projects the council will undertake in the coming year. Of note, very few of them related to Motueka.

Mike Drummond explained that the lower than predicted debt level was due to a combination of lowering interest rates, fewer adverse weather events than normal and lower inflation, calling this combination a "benign environment".

He said that council is now in a strong financial position and well within the national accepted limits of Council financial operation.

Mayor Kempthorne said he wants to hear from residents what they think of Council's direction, and if they wish to make suggestions about changes to the 2017/18 part of the Long Term Plan.

Several comments were made by people attending the meeting, only one of them complementary about keeping rates low and reducing debt levels.

One spoke of the lack of financial help in keeping the Motueka Museum alive and progressive, and pleaded that a small amount each year be allocated to help fund a part-time staff member for the facility.

Several complained bitterly about the lack of action and money from TDC on the freedom camping issue. Two complained about the way the Motueka library redevelopment has been placed so far out into the future.

Another speaker said that Council had gone too far in imposing austerity, with its denial of funds for even very small positive community developments being seen as mean-spirited and squeezing the life out of the community.

He said increasingly Motueka residents are becoming disillusioned and angry about Council's seeming lack of interest in Motueka's problems, even when solutions would require only small amounts of funds.

He also suggested that $1 million of the $12 million surplus be allocated to a number of small community development projects around the district rather than all that being put toward further debt reduction.

Community Board member Richard Horrell complained bitterly that TDC is not keeping up with the impact on Motueka of tourism growth. He said that problems such as litter and traffic congestion will only get worse if Council does not start addressing issues in longer-term planning.

Cr Jack Inglis said he would not like to see any further rates rises, and Motueka should not be asking for any further Council development projects for the town.

The public meeting to allow residents to voice their opinion will be held at the TDC service centre, behind New World, on Thursday, April 7th starting at 7.00pm.


Comment by Dale Boyce:
[Posted 27 March 2016]

Our rates will not be used in Motueka while the mayor can only think about huge spending to be done in Richmond, we are being treated like Golden Bay he realises we exist but Richmond seems to be his pet project.

Comment by Janice Gravett:
[Posted 27 March 2016]

Not that simple for low income families I don't think, however I think another question is "Is Motueka getting it's fair share of the rate distribution". I can remember when our mayor was 1st campaigning and coming to the door. He looked quite shocked when I pointed out to him that I hadn't heard the word "Motueka" once during his campaign.

Comment by Sue Clark:
[Posted 27 March 2016]

The question is a no brainer, we have to keep developing or the population will outgrow the town and its infrastructure.

Comment by Jim Butler:
[Posted 28 March 2016]

Mayor Kempthorne has said Tasman District Council is in a strong financial condition. But this is only correct because of present low interest rates. Any rises in interest rates on the proposed TDC $166 million debt, will rapidly increase the present 9% for interest payments included in TDC ratepayers rate demands. The Mayor has also said at 2016/17 Annual Plan meetings that TDC's rates and debts per ratepayer are in the higher end compared with other councils.

Secondly because Mayors and councillors are up for re-election this year and ratepayers have a greater aversion to rate increases than to debt, TDC is holding its proposed rate increase to little more than the increase in inflation. Thus having to make up the difference between income and expenditure by borrowing. However, because an increase of debt by $39 million was considered excessive, capital expenditure on new works has been heavily cut back, thus allowing it to be stated that there will be $12 million less debt. But TDC's $106 million operating estimate is virtually untouched.

Now I suspect that overheads on TDC's operations cannot be less than 50%. So if TDC pays a contractor $100,000 for a work, it will cost ratepayers about $200,000. About $400,000 if a 20 year loan is raised to to pay for this work. Can anyone prove I am incorrect?

Comment by Beth Bryant:
[Posted 29 March 2016]

I am shocked that TDC - and including our own Motueka representatives - are not supportive of an upgrade to the Motueka library. Libraries are very important in rural area. Libraries are recognized as especially important for those who have low incomes, as well as the young and the elderly. Many libraries contain games for young and old and become a resource for those who live alone.

Some may say books are 'on the way out'. However, overseas where it is recognized that libraries are particularly important for low income families, the most modern of libraries, lend out e-readers, have 3D printers, and are recognized as the hub of the community. (And who knows what other exciting innovations to share in the future!) Sharing these types of resources is the way to go.

Wake up Councillors. It's time to get yourselves up to date with modern community needs. And by the way, our Motueka librarians have done a great job of rearranging the present pathetically small space to cater better for children's needs. A big pat on the back to our local librarians for that.

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