It never ceases to amaze me how fiscal responsibility is not one of the top considerations in Council decisions. We have a global crisis on our hands, with countries in lock-down, stock markets crashing, and businesses shedding staff. And yet it appears that our ratepayers still have unlimited funds to meet all the spending demands of the current Council.
In the Regulatory Committee meeting this week we spent in excess of an estimated $150 000 for an early partial review of the dog bylaw. There was another considerable sum spent on the in-committee item. This was all unbudgeted expenditure.
Unfortunately, this is not the exception but has been the norm this year. Every meeting seems to consist of unbudgeted spending being allocated. In an ideal world, these “small” increases might be manageable, however, we are not living in an ideal world. We are living in times of extreme hardship ahead especially for many of our lower-income ratepayers. Those working will be facing reduced hours if not job losses. Retired people will likely have had many thousands wiped off their net worth in the Stock market over recent weeks, and those with money in the bank will be reduced to spending capital as interest rates head toward the negative.
As if this is not bad enough the rot of the Waimea Irrigation Dam is starting to fester out with another $25 million added to the initial $21 million overrun.
There are no signs of the overruns abating as they continue to dig into “the unknown.” Unknown that was pointed out at various stages during the investigation and consultation phases but apparently ignored by the various parties involved.
Extreme overrun risk certainly didn’t come through with the story that was being pitched by the likes of head of TDC engineer Richard Kirby (P95 it can’t go over budget), John Palmer who was in charge of getting the project over-the-line (some have questioned that he crossed the line), and later by the now CEO Mike (we’re on bedrock ) Scott. Nor was it mentioned as a concern by the TDC appointed directors who paid themselves $324 000 over and above their directorship fees to review and manage the early stages of the project. Especially when compared to the extreme risks we warned about in constructing riverside storage ponds.
The first hint that the various parties had been hiding the true risk of overruns was at the dam ground breaking ceremony where the comments were setting us up for the true cost of the dam yet to be revealed. Perhaps if the gruelling process of the 17-plus years of investigation had shone a light on the risks the former mayor might have found it easier to imagine a scenario where Council might have pulled out of the project.
Any reasonable person…
One thing is certain from this whole process – Tasman rates will not be dropping from the ranks of the most expensive district in New Zealand list any time soon. In fact, I think we will soon be a clear winner. A true legacy to Mayor Kempthorne and his band of faithful Councillors. Many of whom are keeping that legacy alive and thriving in the current Council.