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Council meets on 15 July to finalise Annual Plan

City Council meets on 15 July to finalise its Annual Plan

Christchurch City Council meets next week to debate and approve its annual plan and budget for 2003/04 and Cr Alister James believes the proposal being put up by his committee balances the needs of a growing city with the desire to contain cost increases.

If approved, the Annual Plan to be considered on 15 July would result in an over-all rates increase of 3.12 per cent. The breakdown by sector is: residential +4.22%, commercial/industrial –0.53% and rural +4.77%. The City Council budget year runs from 1 July to 30 June.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to keep our rate increase to around 3 per cent and that the indicative changes for future years are also modest,” says Cr James. “We’re doing that at the same time as maintaining existing levels of service for a growing city and providing for some new services and facilities.

“The South Christchurch Library is about to open and we’ve brought forward some money into this year so that we should have a start on a new library for Parklands later next year. The same is true for the Jellie Park pools upgrade.

“One fairly large change between the draft and this final plan going to Council is an extra $540,000 in capital this year for the North New Brighton War Memorial Hall project,” Cr James says. “That community’s presentation was very strong, persuasive and positive. The committee members were impressed and I think it made a big difference in what was decided. This extra money means that work can now start and the total upgrade’s likely to be finished this financial year.”

The Draft Plan was open for public comment from 23 April until 28 May. More than 300 people and groups made submissions, with more than 200 asking for more to be spent on current and new schemes. Many of these were from community organisations. Of about 100 pleas to do with streets issues, many asked that work be started earlier than has been planned.

Cr James says several other items in the Plan are likely to be of interest to councillors when they meet next week. These include:

Road works (including kerb and channel and surfacing): The price of this work continues to rise at a rate well above that of general inflation. The committee report warns that, despite a 14% rise in the budget set aside for these works, planned projects for the year may overrun budgeted costs.

Theatre Royal: The committee is recommending that $2.3m in capital funds be given to assist the theatre’s $6.8m restoration project. It is hoped the public and central government will provide the other two thirds of funding needed. Another proposal, for money to help buy and renovate an old theatre on Tuam Street, was turned down.

“For the city, the Theatre Royal has to be the priority,” Cr James says. “It’s loved and well used and it’s an important heritage building.”

Growing city: The plan predicts $2m more in rates revenue from growth – new subdivisions, building additions and new developments inside the city.

Lake Isaac Watersports Park: Cr James’ committee suggests the Council commit to a capital investment of $12.4m in 04/05 and 06/07 to build the lake. He warns that this is more an indication than a firm commitment.

“We’ll want to know that we’re getting satisfactory tenure in the land and that this is something the community wants and that it fits with land-use issues in that area,” he says. “We also want to see a strong business case that it can survive on its own once it’s built. This is a significant item that wasn’t signalled in the Draft Plan so it will need full public consultation before we can go ahead.”

Clearwater Golf Classic: Over the next three years, the committee is recommending that the Council grant $400,000 a year to this international sporting event. The Council had been asked for $500,000 a year.

“The case put up by the organisers was pretty compelling,” Cr James says. “There’s nothing else in the South Island that gives such a huge international television audience and it seems that, without this support in its early years, the tournament would be lost to New Zealand. The committee I think saw this as an economic development issue.”

Youth initiatives: Several projects which aim to assist the city’s young people have been earmarked for additional support. These include the 198 Youth Health Centre, the Canterbury Youth Workers’ Collective and Youth and Cultural Development.

Aranui Renewal: “We had a number of submissions in support of the work being done under this umbrella idea,” Cr James says. “It seems to be generating positive outcomes and the committee wants Council support to continue.”

Notes on budget

- Each year, the full cost of City Council operations are met by the rates take and earnings from investments and dividends from the companies which it owns or part-owns and from fees and charges.

The plan going before the full Council on 15 July has an operational budget of $287 million. A little under half of that ($132m) will come from income other than rates. This plan’s capital spend is expected to be $97.4m.

The Council’s policy is to borrow money only for projects which create or improve a capital asset, not for general operational spending. What this means is that extra spending such as money grants from the Council or higher payments for fuel and wages directly push up rates, while money earmarked to refurbish a hall or build a new library do not have the same direct effect.

ENDS

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