Friday, 07 August 2020


Skatepark survives as councillors vote to lift rates by five percent

Work will commence later this year on the new Whitianga Skatepark with the hope that the facility may be ready to go by mid to late summer.

The success of the community, led by the Mercury Bay Skatepark Trust, in fundraising $180,000 towards the overall cost of the facility, proved the critical factor in securing the previously promised $469,000 from Thames-Coromandel District Council, against a backdrop of spending cuts and cancelled projects.

After numerous rewrites, a wave of public criticism and a global pandemic, councillors finally signed off on a spending budget and rates rise for the new TCDC financial year (which started on 1 July) at a special meeting last Tuesday.

TCDC mayor, Sandra Goudie, led the chorus of appreciation for staff who eventually produced an Annual Plan that elected officials believed the public could live with, halving the originally planned 10 percent rates rise. “We are living through extraordinary times and an extraordinary year due to the impact of Covid 19,” Mrs Goudie said. “Everyone has had to make changes to the way we live, work and play.”

The changes Mrs Goudie referred to could be even more far-reaching in the coming months as a more permanent fix for the widening gap between what TCDC receives and what it spends will need to be found.

Councillors had already agreed to a raft of cuts in both operational and capital spending to arrive at a 4.98 percent average rates increase. However, the reduced expenditure - mostly in staffing - was not enough to avoid a $6,000,000 potential hangover in the form of a smoothing loan which ratepayers will need to pay for over the next five years. Council will collect $72.4m in rates and a further $12.2m in fees and charges during the new financial year. Even with additional income from grants, subsidies and development charges this was still short of the $98.8m the council needs to operate for the next 12 months.

“Further rates increases or other revenue sources and/or savings such as reduced service levels will be needed to service the smoothing loan and to make [we] can operate a balanced budget going forward,” TCDC warned in a statement. “This will be considered as we develop [our] 2021-2031 Long Term Plan.”

Communities will face the stark choice of paying more or having less as they participate in the Long Term Plan consultation process which will likely commence later this year.

The fee increases signalled during the Annual Plan consultation period earlier this year will also go ahead, the most significant being in the area of waste collection and disposal. The cost of the official blue council rubbish bags goes from $2.80 to $3.90 while charges at refuse transfer stations go from $197 to $260 per ton for general waste and $126 to $164 per ton for green waste.

Infrastructure spending has been restricted to essential works along with projects where contacts are already in place. Many have been carried over from council’s previous financial year as a significant amount of work was not completed due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Spending for the next 12 months in Mercury Bay will total $2.27m, including footpath rehabilitation ($66,000), footpath construction ($150,000), the Hot Water Beach Bull Paddock car park sealing ($55,000), the Hot Water Beach Domain car park sealing ($95,000), the Whangapoua boat ramp ($397,000), the Whitianga Skatepark $469,000, the Taputapuatea walkway and footbridge ($159,000) and the replacement of Domain Road at Hot Water Beach ($199,000). The Mercury Bay Library will get just $3,400 for new books, as a result of a one-off 90 per cent cut in the allocation for library purchases across the Coromandel Peninsula

The first rates installment of the new TCDC financial year will be due in October this year.

Pictured: Construction of a new skatepark at Taylor’s Mistake in Whitianga will commence later this year, despite Thames-Coromandel District Council cutting costs and cancelling a raft of other capital projects.



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