KCDC Mayor Rowan happier after meeting Nick Smith
Kāpiti Mayor Jenny Rowan says she is ‘cautiously relieved’ after attending a briefing at Parliament last night about proposed changes to local government.
Mayor Rowan says there are still a lot of questions to be answered but she’s hopeful that most of what the Council is doing in areas of community well-being will be retained.
Mayors and Chief Executives from the lower North Island, attended the briefing, addressed by Local Government Minister Nick Smith and Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule.
Determining the ‘public good’
“Under the new legislation councils will have to determine whether its programmes are ‘for the public good’ or ‘provide local benefit’, she says.
“ I can’t see a problem with that because there is nothing we are currently doing that doesn’t have a public benefit.
“For instance, we give money to surf life saving clubs. Surely that is for the public good. If you look at economic development, which is one of Council’s priorities, we do it for the public good and for local benefit.”
The Mayor says it would be a shame if any of the Councils community well-being programmes, such as the green gardener, energy efficiency advice, and support for youth, older citizens and disability services were lost.
‘Filling the gaps’
“We act as conduits in that social environment. We are definitely not doing anything central government is doing but we are filling the gaps on work they are not doing,” she says.
“If we were to lose these services and support, it would redefine our community’s way of being and not for the better in my view.”
Ms Rowan says the Minister has made much of the debt levels of various councils. “Our debt currently stands at $76 million, which equates to around 10.3% of Council’s equity. This is well below the 20% policy ceiling we operate under.
“The bulk of the money raised is used to fund infrastructure such as roads, waste water, water and storm water, the kind of core activities the Minister is talking about.
Ms Rowan says the one clear signal that came out of yesterday’s meeting is that amalgamation is inevitable and will continue to be discussed at the Regional Mayoral forum.
“I think there are some benefits that could be achieved by joining with our neighbours but my concern is and always will be our ability to retain our identity and our sense of community.”
“This is very much an inter-generational issue where Council is investing in capital works that have a life time of 50 to 70 years, but where we plan to pay the debt off in 30 years or less.
“If we pay the debt off too early, then current ratepayers are paying a premium to fund an investment that will benefit future ratepayers. Conversely, if we take too long, then there is an unnecessary cost-burden. Clearly there is a trade off between the two.”
According to figures released by the Minister yesterday, Kapiti has one of the lowest per capita rating levels in the country (42nd out of 67 Territorial Authorities) with a per capita figure of $806.