Mayor Kempthorne goes it alone and agrees to invest an extra $3 million in the Waimea dam project and to underwrite $25 million dollars of irrigator loan. Well, he voted alone using his Mayoral privilege to cast an extra vote in a hung council verdict, but the money comes from general ratepayers.
A robust debate around the table followed a number of public speakers having their say on the dam. The options presented to councillors were to vote for more money to take to the negotiation table or to walk away from the negotiation table causing the collapse of the project in negligence of our duty.
Councillor Wensley tried to present another motion where council remained at the negotiation table with the mandate to hold to council’s position as presented in the long-term plan 2015-2025. This was unable to be voted on without the failure of the tabled motion. A chance the Mayor scuttled.
Questions raised by this decision include:
- Why is council around the negotiation table at the 11th hour trying to establish a business model for the dam? It would have seemed to me to be good practice to have established Governance and funding responsibilities before spending millions of dollars of ratepayer money.
- Now that council has over-committed itself in the business model negotiation phase of the dam, and the irrigators have been bled dry, who is going to pick up the tab for any inflation in quote price or construction over-runs?
- Is there any point in this process where those pushing the dam would consider it too expensive as beneficial as it may be?
Ironically the last time council was deadlocked over a decision it was to do with setting the rates for the current year. A number of councillors wanted a modest 1.5% percent rate increase this year to help pay down our mountain of debt. The Mayor and many of the others who voted for the extra dam spend said we had to hold the rates at the 0.6% because there are residents in the Tasman district who cannot afford to pay their rates, and Tasman is near the top of the rating table amongst our peer councils.
I asked where these poor people had gone, as over the next five years council will be struggling to maintain rate rises below the 3% cap — a total of 15% in five year’s time (actually 16% if you take the cumulative content into account). This is without any further overruns and assumes council has the ability to maintain the 3% cap. I was not given an answer.
Those of us who voted against the motion were not voting against the dam. We were voting against the increasing of the council’s commitment over and above the increase that a percentage share would involve as per the business model presented to us when the current council was established.
The chance to vote yes or no on the dam is yet to come following a public consult. Theoretically, we will have more facts around the build cost of the dam, the level of contributions that all parties will be investing, and perhaps the cost of a viable plan B (however, inferior in benefit delivery).
I believe that all the facts should be on the table in order to make a fully informed decision. Inflated positions to persuade a decision one way or the other help no-one. If I am going to be held accountable for my decision (as I would expect to be) then it needs to be based on a lot more facts than have currently been tabled.