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!
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.