Support for some controversial and pricey Tauranga City Council projects will be tested tomorrow as some councillors push for more cost-cutting.

The first of up to three days of deliberations over the council's Annual Plan got off to a tense start today as councillors debated whether deeper budget cuts were needed.

The council reviewed a plan by staff to defer around $100 million in spending on capital projects to later years, without cutting anything completely.

The deferrals would allow the council to keep the average residential rates rise for 2019/20 to 3.9 per cent, but do little to rein in ballooning debt that could see the council hit its debt ceiling by 2023.


Councillor Steve Morris said the council was consistently seeing projects come in significantly over budget and now had "an opportunity to rein in some of the past... blowouts".

"Let's give our new chief executive time to sort out the legacy he inherited."

Chief executive Marty Grenfell said the council was already reviewing many projects, including some streetscaping projects connected to the Heart of the City programme.

Plans for Wharf St and The Strand to Memorial walkway were examples, he said.

The council approved $190,000 last year to create detailed designs for turning Wharf St into a pedestrian-friendly stretch with outdoor dining and recently took its plan for the walkway to the public for feedback.

Grenfell said there was "little point proceeding" with Wharf St unless landlords in the area supported it, and better understanding of the costs of the walkway was needed.

He said the council's next Long-Term Plan in 2021 needed to be a "complete reset" and "one with reality".

Grenfell said the council was also reviewing its top 20 transport projects to both see how they aligned with the Government's goals and look for risks of sparking public ire by, for example, making safety-based changes that made congestion worse.


Staff were questioned about plans to put traffic lights at Ninth Ave and Cameron Rd.

Acting infrastructure manager Martin Parkes said that project was primarily aimed at improving safety and encouraging walking and cycling.

Councillor John Robson backed Morris up.

Robson said the council was "sitting in chaos" and some budget blowouts had yet to be made public.

He said the 2018 Long-Term Plan was "a fantasy" designed by well-intentioned people who "overestimated the ability of the organisation to deliver".

Robson rejoined the council towards the end of that planning process after winning a by-election.

He repeated a call he made during that process for the $35m central library rebuild - due to be finished by 2022 - to be put off.

He called for the council to go through its planned capital projects "line-by-line".

Councillor Larry Baldock said Robson's was just "one person's opinion" and Robson was attacking the 2018 plan "to make fiction into fact".

Baldock supported working through the staff report, but in a straw poll a majority of elected members supported reviewing all capital projects on the council's books.

The deliberations will continue tomorrow.