Ratepayers in the Hastings District … have you spent any time yet pondering the questions posed by the Hastings Council’s budget/LTCCP survey?
You know, that clever mailer each ratepayer household received awhile back with the detachable freepost reply card.
I’m told about 300 surveys have been returned so far. Hopefully, many more will be. I applaud the effort by HDC to elicit more feedback from its electorate. I just wish some of the issues could have been more — shall we say — “forthrightly” presented. And some real trade-offs presented.
Take, for instance, questions #2 and #6 in the survey.
Question #2 asks our opinion on “advancing” footpath upgrades over the next three years at a cost of $3 million, to be loan funded (so throw in some interest too). Reference is made to a “footpath renewal backlog.” This is bureaucratese for not admitting that needed routine repairs have not been getting done as they should have been … and paid for out of current rates as they should have been.
For $3 million we won’t be “advancing” anything; we’ll barely be catching up, and paying for past neglect with loans so that Councillors can avoid the pain of a full hit on rates. The real questiona are: Who has an explanation for why routine repairs on footpaths have been neglected? And what did Council spend our rates payments on instead?
Meantime, on Question #6, we’re asked to support “continued investment” of $2.9 million in Splash Planet over the next ten years. The supporting discussion carefully avoids mentioning that this “investment” would come on top of the $800,000 Splash Planet is projected to lose — at ratepayer expense — on operations over each of the next ten years! So together, operations losses plus new investment, that amounts to an annual ratepayer subsidy of about $1.1 million for ten years.
When it comes to good money after bad, Splash Planet is Hastings’ version of AIG!
Hmmm! That’s $1 million plus interest per year for footpath repairs, versus about the same amount, $1.1 million per year for waterslides. Maybe ratepayers should have been asked directly which one of these two expenditures we would prefer?
That would provide a real test of priorities. But I guess if Councillors felt unable to front up to that trade-off themselves, they must have supposed that mere ratepayers were equally spineless.
Something tells me that ratepayers, unlike Councillors, are prepared to make these choices … if asked. Seems like a no-brainer to this ratepayer!
P.S. Please do return your LTCCP survey if you’re a Hastings ratepayer! And of you don’t like their questions, ask and answer your own!