Photo credit: Corena Hodgson

Last week we posted, When will the s**t hit the fan?, referring to Napier City Council’s long neglect of its water infrastructure. Something BayBuzz began warning about in 2009!

Well, it just hit the fan big time!!

NCC will borrow nearly $300 million over the next five years after years of “underinvestment” in assets! The change in policy was signalled but buried in the coucil’s latest long term plan:

“Historically we have not spent enough money on looking after our key assets – under the ground, on the ground, and in our community…

“To achieve the right balance, we’ve had to make some tough calls on what can be done within the next 10 years. We’ve taken a hard look at our spending and have cut our costs down. We’ve had to move some projects out a few years to save money and we are also looking to borrow $339m to catch up on maintenance and replacement of our key assets. There are consequences to this approach. We’re borrowing more than we ever have before, and our budget will not break even until 2031.”

Napier ratepayers have the regimes of mayors Allan Dick, Barbara Arnott and Bill Dalton to thank for this miserable situation. One could say ratepayers had their chances on numerous occasions over the last 20-some years to rectify this neglect. But of course there’s no such thing as public accountability for such mismanagement, especially when there’s no local newspaper to understand and call the question.

Uninformed voters simply drink the Kool-aid and former elected official just fade away.

Proudly and stupidly, the council currently has no ‘external’ debt, but will reach an estimated $298m in external debt by 2026. Half of that money will be spent on water infrastructure.

Now, after years of ‘internal borrowing’ shell games, Napier ratepayers are about to shoulder the debt they deserve. And they’ll probably blame the current regime. Such is democracy.

My sympathies in particular to chief executive Steph Rotarangi. The CEO is an experienced real world firefighter, but now she has a political inferno on her hands. I’ll bet this was a big surprise to her!

Ironically, through the media NCC is admonishing: Think before you water!

How about: Think before you vote!

And if you want local journalism that actually digs into these issues, support BayBuzz.


Join the Conversation


  1. Remember when amalgamation was put to the people and Napier stated loud and clear that they didn’t want Hastings’ debt – because Napier was debt free.
    How things change – at the time many of us said that Napier was playing silly buggers with their debt hiding, and the huge deferred maintenance liability – but that was shouted down by the “experts” in Napier. Now, why would Hastings want to amalgamate with such a debt ridden council such as Napier. Not the point, but it just shows that the citizens really have no idea of what is going on in their own area, and that they are totally unable to question the official line because of apathy and ignorance. I’d think that the $280m is possibly only the first tranche of borrowing for long ignored infrastructure failings

  2. So true Grant and remember how the then Mayor of Napier and his cronies ridiculed and abused amalgamation supporters via social media? It is quietly satsfying to get this reinforcement that we were right but this is of no comfort to Napier ratepayers. They have a hard road ahead.

    1. Part of the reason I opposed amalgamation was because it was obvious – although obviously not to Napier citizens! – that while Hastings was addressing its infrastructure problems, Napier was not. Now the chickens are roosting and the old thinking (see David Bosley’s comment) would still deny the problem; rates can only be kept affordable if maintenance is NOT deferred and essential services are paid for incrementally, instead of being left to build to crisis point and consequent huge cost impact. For the same reason, I oppose the current 3 Waters regime, because Hastings does not want to share Napier’s “hidden” costs.

  3. I see the NCC has just recently unanimously voted to spend 15,000 Dollars opposing the Government’s 3 Waters Proposition. Notwithstanding the Labour Government intends to mandate it. Surely with the information, now released to the public, Council NEEDS to reacess its present position as soon a practicable! After all, if this government is offering to throw millions of dollars at it, why squander iratepayers hard earned money hopelessly trying to oppose it? Napiers rates NEED to be kept AFFORDABLE.

  4. Time to pay the piper me thinks. Like everything, deferred maintenance always comes back to bite you. False economy, so now, like Wellington years of rate rises lie ahead. I suggest working with the Government Three Waters. It should ease the pain and get the desired result,good water systems. Good luck.

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