Draft plan goes out next week

By John Maslin

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Whanganui District Council
Whanganui District Council

The Whanganui District Council's 2016-17 draft annual plan, with an overall rate rise of 4.5 per cent, will go out for public consultation this week.

But not every councillor gave it their blessing at Tuesday's council meeting. Rob Vinsen was one strident opponent when the council debated amendments to the original draft before voting to put the document out to the public.

Mr Vinsen was worried about the potential risk around costs for the new wastewater treatment plant, currently sitting at $41 million, because council had still to nail down agreement with industries as to how much they were prepared to pay to discharge waste into the system. He said not having that agreement finalised "places a very high risk" on the final costs.

But he failed to get support around the table to have the project put on hold until those agreements were signed off, with other councillors not prepared to stall the start of the treatment plant rebuild.

Councillor Martin Visser said council was talking with industries and more dialogue was needed, "but we can't delay the project any longer".

Councillor Jenny Duncan said council had no control over big ticket items such as the wastewater treatment plant and damage from last June's record-breaking rainfall event. "Take these two items out of the plan and the rates increase would be minimal. But these items are out of our hands."

Mr Vinsen was also concerned about a 4 per cent increase in council personnel costs which he said could be pared back to no more than 2 per cent. And he questioned the iwi consultation budget of $150,000 .

Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said she did not believe operational costs had been looked at closely enough and also expressed concerns about the costs of the Sarjeant Gallery.

The 2016-17 annual plan has added three significant changes to the 10-year plan.

The first is the treatment plant rebuild; the second is a special rate to cover the clean-up costs of the June weather event (1.7 per cent of the rates); and the third is the Westbourne-Gonville stormwater project (0.3 per cent) to reduce the effect of ponding and flooding in those areas which occur in the wake of even medium-sized rainfall events.

The annual plan is out for public consultation until May 6.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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