Photo credit: Corena Hodgson

Next Thursday (11 March), the Napier City Council will adopt its LTP consultation document.

It’s a shocker in several respects.

Perhaps most significantly, its forecast of external debt – rising from nil today to a peak of $320 million over the life of the plan.

This might be the shocker of all time to Napier ratepayers, who have been deluded by previous NCC regimes into believing (or at least wishfully thinking) that the city could have safe drinking water, properly dispose of stormwater and wastewater, and stop regularly fouling its national natural treasure (aka, the Ahuriri Estuary) without having to pay a bill.

Last laugh goes to Lawrence Yule, who during the amalgamation debate was trashed by then-Mayor Dalton for carrying a $100 million or so debt at HDC, which Dalton claimed would be fobbed off to Napier ratepayers in a unified council.

Well, that deception has finally come to roost … to the tune of $320 million to gradually upgrade Napier’s waterworks from Third World status.

A present condition that underscores the fantasy of chlorine-free water. The consultation document will nevertheless cling to the fantasy, the decision memo suggesting there’s a “pathway from the current status quo to a future proofed resilient system with a residual disinfection that can then progress to a chlorine free network”. Uh huh!

Debt aside, rates over the next three years are being tested at 8%, 7% and 7% for the next three years, then rising to 9% (deferring that reality to the next group of councillors).

Faced with these core infrastructure costs, NCC residents will be asked if they want to go slow on making the water supply fully compliant (i.e., taking 10 years) or briskly (taking only five).

In ‘pre-engagement’ around the draft LTP, Napier residents responded to this ‘pacing’ question:

“There are a number of projects in the pipeline over the next ten years that are not related to infrastructure, such as a new aquatic facility and a new library. Do you think Council should delay projects, to help reduce the pressure on rates?”

61% responded in favour of delaying the non-water projects. 51% of respondents rated drinking water as their top and a further 31% as their second-to-top. The light bulb has gone on!

One overdue casualty: The National Aquarium of NZ. The decision memo comments: “funding in the Capital Plan for the redevelopment has been removed, but Council will continue to maintain the facility while options for the Aquarium’s future are investigated.” Eventual closure is one option under review.

Another deferral: Napier Aquatic Centre. The decision memo, again citing ongoing “investigation” of options, comments: “Funding for the redevelopment has been removed from the plan to be considered when we next review it in 2024.” Tossed off to the next crew.

And don’t expect to hear much about a new library/Civic Precinct before 2024.

All in all, it seems like reality has set in for NCC councillors. Next to be seen in the LTP consultation process, do Napier ratepayers ‘get it’ as well.

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  1. Tom, your comments suffer from a significant lack of understanding of the sciences. Chlorine isn’t the solution for our water supply here in Napier and to compare our water supply with say Havelock Norths water supply as reasons for chlorination is utter stupidity. We have had 100 years of water supply to the Napier city without infection. If it was a third world water supply then we would have a history of infections, we don’t and there is good reasons for this . The old city water engineers were fully aware of these facts and they were installing real first world solutions. Utter ignorance prevented these solutions from being completed. Now we are faced with downgrading to third world type solutions that only the ignorant would consider an upgrade and all this at a huge cost to our community. The Dutch methods result in infection rates five times lower than any chlorinated supply and Napier already has water that is complaint with their standards without any treatment. Adding chlorine is utter stupidity especially considering that most first world countries are trying to reduce chlorination due to the negative health impacts. You have the opportunity to come and discuss the details with me any time.

    1. Dirk, chlorine is the least of my concerns. When I refer to Napier’s water infrastructure as Third World. I’m thinking of sewage in the streets and e coli and industrial chemicals in the Ahuriri Estuary.

      1. Clearly, you haven’t spent time in third world countries. We do have problems in all aspects of our Cities infrastructure but nothing like third world countries.
        The real question is why are we in this predicament and why is it an endemic throughout NZ.
        There has been a fundamental removal of high-quality engineering capability within councils because managers don’t want to know about problems. The best way to remove a problem is to remove the people that identifies issues. Consultants are hired who have no long term knowledge nor do they have skin in the game and are driven by managers and salesmen who are driven by profits.
        My favourite saying is whose interests are best served. We have seen ridiculous and stupid numbers around just our drinking water upgrades and every time they are questioned we see huge reductions in these estimates.
        We are seeing the engagement of international corporations to take care of our water infrastructure often at huge cost to the community both short term and long term. Central HB case in point. As a result, we are losing funds and capability that should be retained in our local community, retaining local knowledge and capability is helping to grow local employment, training and education that only benefits our community and grows jobs.

  2. Ohh shucks !! Debt free Napier! Don’t want amalgamation now in Hastings – why should we take on Napier’s extreme debt?

  3. Unfortunately Napier’s problem is similar to many other local councils, and does go to show that councillors are no different anywhere, and find it difficult to make the hard decisions with regards rate increases versus current and future cost requirements. That and the increased burdens placed on them by central government mean at some stage ratepayers were always going to face reality – if we want all the feel good stuff we must be prepared to pay for it.

  4. At last the council is getting their priorities right. Safe clean drinking water has to be priority as it is an essential basic human need for all residents.

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