Last month's advice to Westshore residents - who are the most highly rated in the city, that the promised 150m breakwater would not now proceed demonstrates the failure of the mayor and councillors in prioritising the use of our rates.

The reason given was that the original budget had blown out from $1.2 million to $2.2m.

As anyone knows, when you earmark an estimated figure 10 years ago, have indeterminable "hui's" and no "do'ey" over a decade then inflation takes over and costs rise exponentially.

The breakwater is vital in not only protecting ratepayers' homes and critical council infrastructure but also preserving our beach.


Interestingly, there was zero concern from the council when the failed Velodrome project rocketed up from an initial $15m to more than $25m in a mere 18 months.

How was this huge increase addressed?

Simply by wasting more than $600,000 on two reports which clearly demonstrated the project was an absolute financial dog, something many ratepayers had advised them of over the previous two years.

Undeterred, the council continued to push for their favourite project until Sport New Zealand advised that funding was not available for a facility with no public support and guaranteed losses for ratepayers to meet.

Indeed, they stated funds had never been promised which was at odds to what Bill Dalton had assured us over the previous 12 months.

Regrettably, this is symptomatic of our council.

Basic council responsibilities in protecting ratepayers' properties, health and wellbeing are being sacrificed for funding huge commercial gambles and exorbitant consultants fees.

The former refer to our decrepit infrastructure resulting in the city's sewage flowing into the Ahuriri lagoon during heavy rain and the continued chlorination of our once pristine drinking water.

The first has resulted in citizens being hospitalised while the second is here to stay.
The mayor claimed eight months ago that the chlorination of our water supply would only be a temporary measure for 30 days.

I have been advised by council officers that chlorination will be permanent.

I challenge the mayor to state otherwise.

Despite the millions required to address these vital and current issues our hapless council wish to roar ahead with a $50m (GST included) expansion of our loss-making aquarium.

Clearly signalling to ratepayers that captive fish have a far higher priority than the health and wellbeing of the people they purport to represent.

This huge commercial gamble will make the dud Deco Bay buses and the failed MTG project look like highly successful investments.

The fact that the aquarium has already cost ratepayers well over $20m in costs, losses, depreciation and deferred maintenance is clearly of no concern to these individuals.

There are two upsides for some of the people involved.

One, is the $1m voted on to pay consultants to undertake a "feasibility" study of this new project.

Two, is the fact that the mayor and CEO enjoyed a ratepayer funded trip to sunny California to "investigate" similar facilities in the richest state in the union.

California has a population of 40 million and a similar number of tourists annually.
Napier has a population of 55,000, if this project proceeds then expect massive rate increases to fund the ongoing costs and losses.

Last year's rate rise was 500 per cent above the rate of inflation.

That will be only a minor blip if the NCC proceed with this white elephant.

When the CEO went cap-in-hand to the HBRC for $4m in funding he was met with only insightful questioning regarding the financial projections and no money.

Not to be deterred, the highly paid and increasingly large PR department of council raved about this "exciting" project to all and sundry.

Indeed, "exciting" is the most common adjective used by this department whenever describing the commercial gambles undertaken by the NCC.

Similar shouts of unmatched joy and "excitement" rang through the council offices when the dud Deco Bay buses were purchased and lost more than $2m in 16 months.

Worse, there was the same delirious "excitement" when the MTG project was launched costing more than $20m, could only accommodate 40 per cent of the collection and attracted a mere 4 per cent of promised paid patronage.

It is time for this council to disabuse itself its skill in risking our money on commercial gambles that have collapsed in the past and will continue to cost us dearly in the future.

The NCC must put their citizens' health and wellbeing first by aggressively addressing our water and sewerage issues plus the protection of homes and livelihoods from erosion.

I realise it is not an "exciting" option but it is no longer an option to continually ignore.

If the NCC continue to waste money on vanity projects at the expense of our health and welfare then they should resign en masse and have a commissioner appointed who will effectively address these ongoing issues.

John Harrison is a former Napier city councillor. All opinions are the writer's and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.