Splash Planet has been a financial albatross. And contrary to the impression left by a recent report in HB Today, it remains an albatross. Its continuing financial drain costs the community dearly in terms of the loss of other services and amenities of far broader value. Or, if you prefer, lower rates.

On March 11, HBT reported accurately that visitor numbers and income have been up a bit this season. But that’s not the real story!

Splash Planet will lose about $800,000 in the current fiscal year. In fact, the soon-to-be-released LTCCP projects it will lose about $800,000+ each year for the next ten years … that’s $8.3 million! And that’s not counting $450,000 each year in repayment of current debt on the gem … that’s another $4.5 million. Not only that, in addition to these operating losses and current debt, Hastings Council plans to dig into your pocket for even more — another $2.5 million in capital improvements in the six years beginning 2010/11.

That’s more than $15 million in losses and interest over ten years for Splash Planet … without an end in sight! I daresay most BayBuzz readers could come up with better ways to use (or save) that kind of money.

For example, these monies will be spent on Splash Planet, instead of:

  • No money for a new Havelock North skatepark (a popular youth facility in constant year-round use)
  • No money to upgrade playgrounds around the district, as proposed by a comprehensive “play strategy” that noted the poor condition of existing facilities (Indeed the staff budget document predicts: “Reduction in current level of service likely to receive negative public reaction.” Councillors weren’t impressed.)
  • No money budgeted for the routine maintenance of dozens of Council-owned community facilities, clubs and halls around the district, like Keirunga Gardens and rugby clubs (then the Council scrambles when — surprise — the roofs start leaking).
  • A grand $40,000 for sustainability initiatives (HDC hasn’t yet figured out what sustainability means, so maybe it’s better if they don’t budget anything … anyone still remember the Mayor’s vaunted post-election-mea culpa “Sustainability Forum”?)
  • And instead of keeping up to pace with footpath maintenance on a current basis via its operating budget (36% of footpaths are rated “poor” or worse), Council proposes — I guess as a favor to the community — to borrow an extra $3 million to “catch up” on the deferred maintenance.

Borrowing is a political bookkeeping device to catch up with delayed work, but keep it out of the operating budget, so that your rate increase for next year looks artificially low. The kids who don’t get the skatepark or the playgrounds get to pay for the adults’ loans in due course.

I’m sure you could fill in your own “instead of’s” — ways to spend $15 million over ten years to improve Hastings District services (or reduce rates) instead of splashing dollars on Splash Planet!

Share your priorities with Councillors Cynthia Bowers, Kevin “It’s a world-class facility” Watkins and Norm Spears in particular … they just can’t seem to spend enough on Splash Planet.

This is budgeting Hastings Council style. And to make matters worse, most Councillors find it just dandy! Every time Councillor Wayne Bradshaw asks a “what the heck are we doing here?” question, most of them glower or yawn, thinking, I’m sure … Wake me for something really important, like how many councillors get to go to the annual Local Government Conference!

Tom Belford

P.S. It gets even uglier: Splash Planet is peanuts compared to the financial risks involved in the sports park, if it happens. Stay tuned.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi there,

    Firstly I'd like to say I do like what you guys do, and I 100% with you with the ocean beach argument but heres my concers on this comment:

    I worked for HDC as a student for the last 2 years over summer. and in my first summer I did a suvrey at Splash Planet. The people who I surveyed loved the place and it really has a lot of potential.

    As for money spent else where, this year I worked in park department and they are doing what they can to upgrade parks. So I am a bit annoyed by this article.

  2. Yes, I second your sentiments.

    Splash Planet is the proverbial white elephant- the ' gift' that just keeps on taking. It's time the plug was pulled- literally.

    Grandiose ideas on Sport's Parks too, given the current economic climate, are just bizarre.

    As a middle-income NZ'er who receives little from the government, I find paying rates difficult at the best of times. When my monies get spent so extravagantly I become downright resentful too!

  3. I read in the HB Today in the past couple days that the redevelopment of the "Hawkes Bay" (Hastings) Opera House will also burden Hastings Ratepayers to the tune of $100,000 PER MONTH for five years!

    What the name of all things small and furry are they doing?

    One of the councillers was quoted as saying they didn't want to "look before they lept" as with Splash Elephant, Lowetown and the Regional Running Track on this project, but geez, when it's costing you one hundred grand a month for just sitting there, you've got to wonder who's running this circus!

    HDC: Stop thinking about the wants of the money and start focusing on the needs of the many!!

  4. It is time the HDC faced financial reality and pruned its budget expenses to meet the income received and practised living within a budget as ratepayers have to. Hind sight is a wonderful thing, but if we are stuck with 'white elephant' projects which are not profitable, it is important that we do not add more expensive projects before we sort the present liabilities. The rate payers are not 'cash cows' for wealthy councillors to 'milk' for every exciting project they dream up. Consult the ratepayers before getting us further into debt.

  5. Excellent update on Splash Planet and much "food for thought."

    Sadly, I imagine it will fall on deaf ears.

    However, it is time we Hastings District Ratepayers started to vote with our feet and attempt to rally the electorate to find people who believe in fiscal responsibility who will stand at the next election – next year. Don't be fooled by the wings and mirrors of Yule and Bowers et al as to their grandiose gesture of giving us the lowest rate rise in NZ for the 2009 – 2010 year.The quantum of borrowing to achieve this will see higher rate rises in the years to come, and if the insane expenditure for Splash Planet becomes a reality and the Sports Park proceeds, we'll be well and truly up the Swanee!!!!!

    HB Today is not serving its reading public by giving HDC an armchair ride. There needs to be far more rigorous analysis of what is going on and an in-depth critique of the seriousness of the Council's over-spending.

    Is the Council unaware of the Recession? Or are they on some kamikaze mission to take us all down with them?

    As an accountant, one would expect the Deputy-Mayor to advise the Mayor to insist on a more prudent path with OUR MONEY.

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