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Stormwater & 'The Big Save'

Okay, now the truth is out.

The reason that our Council has been able to meet new financial targets incorporating a nil rates increase has been through the simple expedient of delaying all stormwater infrastructure expenditure for three years.

It only came out towards the end of yesterday's LTCCP meeting, when Council passed the motion to approve this action with virtually no discussion - in other words, it had been already decided in a 'closed door' workshop and delivered on a plate as instructed.

Here is the wording of the staff recommendation on page 67 of Attachment D of the Draft Forecasting Assumptions - it is instructive to say the least:

In light of the Council's direction to align the annual rates increase to CPI, staff recommend Option 2, decreasing spend in this activity (Stormwater) for the next three year period.

I have separated the three year Stormwater Capex spend out from the the 2009- 2019 LTCCP and arrived at the figure of $10.294m. - more than enough to meet the target. 

This, or a figure very close to it represents the savings achieved by a stroke of the pen. What a brilliant achievement. In other words, the acclamation and self congratulation that I observed over the last two days was entirely down to this courageous, self-sacrificing  action by our Councillors.

I am sorry, but I do not endorse their self congratulation. They have kept this secret from rate-payers from the outset of their deliberations, and today's press release continued this dishonest action by claiming that the savings had been achieved 'through natural attrition and improved internal processes'.

Such savings would not come within cooee of of achieving the rate reduction - these could only be achieved through capital cutbacks, as telegraphed through the budget shortfall indicated in the 28 February accounts. This represents the first stage of cutbacks leading into the 2012/2022 LTCCP.

Readers of these posts will recall that I have previously drawn attention to the strange, almost unprecedented $11m. under-spend on the current 2010/11 capital works budget, so this revelation will come as no surprise.

This matter deserves reference to the Auditor General, and I will certainly be giving consideration over the next few days to making such a reference.  This in my view is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and in effect, hide the means by which these savings had been achieved.

Further, these measures represent changes to long term planning of stormwater infrastructure in this District that should only be undertaken with serious consideration - not the result of short term political expediency.

I quote from the Funding Rationale Summary as contained in the 2009-19 Ten Year Plan - see Page 66

The provision of adequate stormwater reticulation benefits the whole District in that it can prevent flooding and landslip, thereby ensuring the public generally continues to have access to all area of the District. The extensive work undertaken in many of the town centres and in the high-use public areas also benefits the broader community, even rural rate-payers who frequently make trips to town.

This summary is changed in the current 2012-2022draft assumptions to: 

To ensure that stormwater is controlled, disposed of, and when required treated, in order to protect the health and safety of people and property.

NB: this is slightly different to the objective in the 2009-2019 Ten Year Plan, and is more succinct. Yeah right!

I challenge our Mayor and councillors to front up and explain to  rate-payers exactly how these savings have been achieved.

We don't need any further spin.




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