Our industrious councils have released for public consultation their spending plans for the ten-year period beginning 2012/13.

It ain’t pretty. So many worthy projects (I’m sure), and so few ratepayer dollars to fund them with.

However, there’s little to indicate that true ratepayer affordability enters the councils’ planning process. As far as councils are concerned, we should be supremely grateful if and when the annual spending increases do not exceed the rate of inflation. That’s what ‘affordability’ means to councils.

Unfortunately, that measure is not particularly meaningful if you’re out of work (or working fewer hours), or don’t get raises that automatically match or exceed inflation, or live off diminishing retirement assets.

I’ve done just a first pass through the summary documents Hastings, Napier and Regional Councils made available last week. As a fairly diligent student of council activities, I find the summaries tough to follow and sometimes rather craftily written, perchance to obscure reality. If you pick one up, do not expect to find simple declarative sentences like: Next year we’ll be spending X dollars, of which ratepayers will be funding Y percent. And we’ll do the job with Z full-time equivalent employees.

Yet these brief presentations represent probably the most information most ratepayers will ever see or try to absorb … if even that much. So ratepayers are to be forgiven if they draw erroneous conclusions.

If you want to get the total picture of what councils are planning for Hawke’s Bay, you need to read five LTPs, which I strongly doubt any individual in Hawke’s Bay has ever done! And of course, each council uses a different format to present its plans, making key comparisons difficult … those will need to await an opportunity to decipher the full LTPs.

For now, here’s simply a list of spending projects valued at $1 million or more, as proposed by the three major (as in, biggest spending) councils. Keep in mind that you are footing the bill for two of these councils. So, for example, you are privileged to pay twice for some projects (e.g., sports parks, museums, cycle trails), first to your favorite district or city council, and then to the regional council.

Big Ticket Items — 2012-2022

Hawkes Bay Regional Council
Ruataniwha dam:                                $170 million (current estimate)
Ngaruroro dam:                                   $85 million
Hill Country Afforestation:                $47 million
Port of Napier improvements:          $32 million
Beefing up flood protection:              $15 million
HeatSmart assistance:                        $8.8 million
Solar hot water assistance:                 $6 million
Regional community facilities           $3 million
(e.g., international hockey park)
Economic development support:      $1.2 million
Fix leaky Council roof                          $1 million

Hastings District Council

Haumoana coastal protection:           $30.2 million
Rural road priorities:                            $13 million
District Aquatic Centre:                       $14 million
Civic Square redesign:                          $7 million
Compliance work on existing pools:  $4.5 million
Whakatu arterial road:                         $4.4 million
Haumoana managed retreat:              $4.3million
Regional Sports Park:                           $4.3 million
Flaxmere development:                       $3.6 million
Park/playground enhancements:      $3.2 million
Cycling/walking enhancements:        $3 million
Road safety:                                            $1.9 million
Public toilets:                                          $1.4 million
Te Mata Peak Visitors Centre:            $1.1million

Napier City Council

Wastewater treatment plant:              $32.7 million
HB Museum & Art Gallery:                 $18 million
Wastewater outfall replacement:       $13.5 million
CBD parking improvements:              $8.3 million
Recreation/reserve facilities:              $6.6 million
Taradale stormwater upgrade:           $5.4 million
Ellison St stormwater pump:              $5.4 million
Park Island sports expansion:            $5.3 million
CBD stormwater upgrade:                  $5.1 million
Water supply projects:                         $2.9 million
Marine Parade improvements:           $1.8 million
McLean Park improvements:              $1.4 million
Napier Aquatic Centre:                         $1.3 million

Note that in some cases, the amounts given above do not reflect full costs, because the council involved expects funding to materialise from other external sources — e.g., central government, private funders, other councils. Sometimes these promises are kept; sometimes not!

And in a few cases, councils are presenting spending options that they are still mulling over. So there are a few instances, not many, where councils really are testing the waters with ratepayers/voters.

No doubt you will have seen on the list a project or two that warms your heart, and a few others that chill you to the bone!

The submission windows are now open … make the most of your opportunity.

Regional Council LTP here.

Hastings Council LTP here.

Napier City LTP here.

Tom Belford

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