$1m rates charge for stopbank

By Laurel Stowell of the Wanganui Chronicle -
Horizons Regional Council building. File photo / APN
Horizons Regional Council building. File photo / APN

Greg Cox has got his fellow Horizons councillors to agree to a $1.02 million repair of Wanganui's Anzac Pde stopbanks next summer - with the cost paid "in one hit" the following financial year.

The decision was made before Horizons Regional Council approved its 2013-14 annual plan yesterday, with an average rate rise of 1.75 per cent.

One of the most unhappy about the stopbank decision was Mr Cox's fellow Wanganui representative on the council, Bob Walker.

The motion, a late addition to the agenda, was passed with Mr Walker and Cr Murray Guy voting against it.

When the repair is done the 2.025km stopbank will be able to withstand a 50-year flood - the level it was designed for.

The council agreed that the rest of the region would subsidise the work at the rate of 30 per cent (about $300,000). The usual subsidy by the whole region for work of that sort is 20 per cent, though an amount of 25 per cent had been agreed for Stages 2 and 3 in Wanganui - protection work to 200-year standard at Anzac Pde, Putiki and Taupo Quay.

Mr Cox made the case that Horizons' Wanganui ratepayers had already subsidised major and expensive work in Palmerston North over a number of years.

Councillors agreed that was so, but several were still worried the higher subsidy would set a precedent that other parts of the region would use to their advantage.

Mr Cox said it would be a one-off for Wanganui, because the district wouldn't be asking for Stage 2 and 3 flood protection. "I'm sure Wanganui is capable of paying a one-off hit and not pushing it out to other generations."

People in the flood zone will pay the most - Mr Cox has estimated the cost to them would be $84. Urban residents not in the flood zone would pay $48 and rural Wanganui people, $33. Paying the whole cost in 2014-15 would minimise interest payments.

Mr Guy said the council had just been through a major exercise to keep rates down. It had used some reserves, and this extra cost would add as much as three per cent to a rate increase "bow wave" in the 2014-15 year.

Mr Walker said 50-year flood protection was ludicrous, and the money should be saved for moving the 57 houses in the flood zone - the "managed retreat" option.

He wasn't aware of any consultation before yesterday's agenda item, but Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said that took place in the annual plan submission process when Wanganui District Council and the Wanganui Rural Community Board said they wanted the stopbanks repaired.

Mr Walker suspected lobbying behind the scenes.

"There's been consultation going on away from this table. I'm concerned the way things have panned out."

He said Wanganui people didn't want the repair done and Mr Gordon was out of touch, to which the chairman replied: "You're out of touch yourself."

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