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Annual Plan Hearings

The public hearings ended late today with patience stretched by the large number of ‘no-shows’. I think most councillors were suffering from caffeine overload by the end of it all, but for today at least, retained their good humour.

Spare slots left plenty of time for caucusing, but even this is unlikely to prevent some heated discussion tomorrow when the limited pool of funds will need to split vertically and horizontally between area of benefit and district over a range of Community Board projects, and organizations that consider they have a claim on our rates.  We heard from them all yesterday and today – all worthy, and some desperate, but nearly all outside the Council’s core business.

It is a fact that more and more organisations have come to rely on Council financial support for their very existence – each year it seems a few more get added because of the pitch, or councillor involvement. An example is the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust that wants $25,000 in the first instance to maintain its Whitianga holiday base. This was eminently predictable when they invited themselves onto the Peninsula last Christmas, and is but one of many – it clearly had wide support around the table.

What I could not understand was why we would support this as opposed to the Hamilton based Westpak helicopter operation which seems to have served this district for a very long time, on donations and sponsorship alone. There was no supporting evidence from the Auckland, or Waikato DHBs. I just hope that they are not competing for patients.  Chopper on the spot will win every time of course, but should Council be paying for it?

It could go either way tomorrow, with several councillors clearly enamoured with the prospect of the proposed additional borrowing permitting all manner of generosity to evolve – hence the caucusing, or horse-trading. It may be difficult to hold the line on the proposed over the limit 1.8% AP borrowing increase. No doubt Financial Controller, Steve Baker will be doing some rapid calculations as we move through the meeting.

At the end of the day, rate-payers foot the bill. I will report tomorrow evening on any evidence of restraint that shows through during the day.




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