Tauranga City Council's involvement in the Hairy Maclary waterfront sculptures project could escalate into helping pay for installation costs.
The council meets tomorrow to consider a new level of cash involvement in the sculptures, beyond the announcement it was looking to waive or defer the need for Creative Tauranga to pay an up-front $150,000 maintenance bond.
The special meeting will include an additional option that the council contributes to the cost of installing the sculptures on the downtown waterfront.
Cr Murray Guy responded that he was appalled at the prospect the council could help with installation costs.
He said he wanted to create a win-win situation to get the sculptures in the ground earlier but the door, which had been opened a little to help Creative Tauranga with its bond, was now being "kicked wide open".
He said the council was being asked to roll over from its original undertaking that there would be no impact on ratepayers. It reminded him of the escalation in ratepayer support for the Art Gallery from a grant to funding most of the annual operating bills.
Tomorrow's meeting will hear how money in the council's waterfront budget could be reallocated to pay for landscaping around the sculptures, together with possible in-kind assistance from the council's city partners.
Options for the $150,000 bond was for the council to meet the maintenance and repair costs from its existing waterfront budgets, or give Creative Tauranga three years to pay off the bond once the sculptures were in the ground.
Cr Guy believed the council was honour bound to respect the original agreement with Creative Tauranga that there would be no impact on ratepayers. Although the size of the bond was "a bit harsh", he was uncomfortable with the option to defer payment for three years.
Cr Guy said Creative Tauranga was not in a particularly good financial position and the council was living in a fool's paradise if it did not identify a greater level of security for ratepayers. He suggested the bond be repaid in instalments over three years, with the backstop that if Creative Tauranga did not pay the money would be deducted from its annual $280,000 council grant.
Councillor Larry Baldock said most of the council was positive about helping to get the sculptures installed sooner rather than later. He said they were being gifted to the city so it was not too much of a stretch to help get them in the ground and take care of them. If the money could not be found from shuffling priorities in existing budgets it would have to go through the 2014-15 Annual Plan.
Cr Baldock's response to Cr Guy was "you can't develop a city and do good things with this hard and fast attitude".
He is chairman of the council's City Centre Taskforce which was recently addressed by Creative Tauranga CEO Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell.
The five councillors on the taskforce and the Mayor would be enough to swing the vote 6-5 in favour of helping the Hairy Maclary project.