One tunnels trail was backed, some capital spending was accelerated and Dunedin remained on course for a 6.5% rates increase.
Deliberations about the Dunedin City Council’s draft annual plan were dealt with all in one day yesterday and councillors did not deviate from the path that had been budgeted.
It meant effective endorsement of a capital programme in 2022-23 worth $189.5million, which has been described as very ambitious to deliver and which is about $30million more than had been considered necessary when the 10-year plan was approved last year.
Few extra funding requests came in from the community and none not already on the council’s radar received money.
The annual plan is to be adopted by the council at the end of next month, when the rates will be struck.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins re-emphasised the council remained focused on what it had said it was going to do.
Deputy mayor Christine Garey thanked her colleagues for what she said was a constructive and robust discussion.
One big winner from the annual plan process was a planned trail between Mosgiel and Dunedin, featuring two disused railway tunnels.
Cr Rachel Elder, who has pushed the project, said the result of deliberations was a dream come true for the Dunedin Tunnels Trail Trust and its leading advocates, Gerard Hyland and Kate Wilson.
Bringing forward spending on the project and making it a priority for cycleways spending attracted 200 submissions, almost entirely in support.
“Congratulations,” Cr Elder said.
“Your dream has got wheels.”
Another winner was the former Sims Engineering building at Port Chalmers.
Council staff had already found room in budgets for work to make the old foundry site safe and free of contamination.
The work could cost the council as much as $715,000.
Building the planned South Dunedin community library complex appeared to be a loser, as it was deferred while the Community Care Trust remained a tenant, but council chief executive Sandy Graham said the council remained determined to see the project completed.
Construction of the facility at the corner of King Edward St and Macandrew Rd looks likely to start in 2025.
The most substantial discussion was about accelerating Three Waters capital spending.
Cr Lee Vandervis made strong representations against the accelerated spending, worth more than $50million over three years.
He suggested the council should not only abandon the spending acceleration, but pull back.
The council had to face rising interest costs and higher fuel costs, he said.
Cr Carmen Houlahan appeared to sympathise and was wary of committing more money to assets of which the Government was minded to dilute council control.
Most councillors were resoundingly of the alternative view, that it was better to spend the money now than do so later when costs would be higher.
The council also wanted the assets to be in sound shape if or when the Government’s planned transfer of activities to a regional entity occurred.
Crs Steve Walker and Sophie Barker said the public had been clear it wanted ageing infrastructure dealt with.
Cr Jules Radich said the work needed to be done and Cr Jim O’Malley used inflation as a reason to get with it.
Cr O’Malley asked: “Why would you expose yourself to increased costs by slowing things down?”
Speaking about capital expenditure more broadly, Cr Andrew Whiley said he could not see a “bad spend”.
— Grant Miller