Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ratepayers Association Questionnaire

             The Greater Dunedin Team Answers Ratepayers
                                       Association Questions.

Greater Dunedin candidates declined to answer the Ratepayers Assoc questionnaire, the answers to which are to be published in D-Scene. Framed as either/or questions, the requested yes/no answers would oversimplify the issues with many of the questions. More importantly Ratepayers chairperson Lyndon Weggery acknowledged the Association would edit and "analyse" longer answers and distribute the results privately to Ratepayers Association and ex-Stop the Stadium members. We have no confidence that would be done in good faith. Mr Weggery (also on the committee of ex-STS) has signed STS newsletters containing untrue claims and misrepresentations about Greater Dunedin mayoral candidate Dave Cull's views on the new stadium, and endorsing another candidate. Dishonesty and partisan commentary are incompatible with a purportedly independent survey.
However all the Greater Dunedin team recognise voters’ interest in our views and their right to hear them expressed publicly. We wholeheartedly promote transparency and also believe our views and positions on most subjects, while diverse, probably resonate with most of the membership of both the Ratepayers Association and what was Stop the Stadium. To that end we have each fully answered the questions posed by the ratepayers Association and posted them on our website: http://www.greaterdunedin.co.nz/. We encourage readers to read them there.
Greater Dunedin’s aim is to engage with and serve the interests and views of the whole Dunedin community. We welcome feedback, ideas, concerns and comments from all.
Following are the Ratepayers Association questions and my answers.

1.If you are sitting Councillor seeking re-election did you vote for the signing of the Contract to proceed with the construction of the New Stadium?


2. If elected will you endeavour to make sure that the Forsyth Barr stadium does pay its way as a CCO and not become a future drain on Ratepayers funds?


3.Do you support the retention of Carisbrook in the meantime as a multi - sportsground?

Undecided yet. The future recreational and sporting needs of the whole of the South Dunedin area need to be assessed and weighed against the benefits to that community of other uses for the site. To that end I moved a resolution at the Finance and Strategy meeting on Monday 13th September asking for a report on those issues.

4.Do you think the current level of DCC funding for rugby is fair to other sports and cultural activities?

The funding and other support Council and Council companies give “rugby” is more for the ORFU/Highlanders business than for grass roots rugby. It does seem that those businesses have been favoured for support above others.

5.Are you concerned at the increased debt level of both DCC and DCHL?

Very much

6.Do you support the introduction of further new Capital Project spending by DCC within the next five years?

No. Any new capital spending, which is inevitably debt funded, would be undesirable. First ratepayers cannot afford more interest costs on their rates bills. Secondly taking on more debt could adversely affect Dunedin’s Standard & Poors rating. That would increase the interest rates the city would have to pay for all new debt. Thirdly, the city is already breaching its prudential limits for debt.
However we don’t know what spending demands we will face from unforseen events. For instance if erosion of the Middle Beach sand dunes threatened to inundate South Dunedin, the city may have to raise debt to deal with that.
Reckless borrowing agreed to by the majority of the current Council has placed us in this very difficult position.

7.Will you strive to keep future rates increases “affordable” for the average Dunedin ratepayer and householder?


8.If the Water/Wastewater/Stormwater Business Unit becomes a CCO do you support the introduction of water meters as a “user pays” initiative?

I believe there are two acceptable reasons for introducing water meters.
First if in the future demand or climate change meant the city had to reduce rising consumption.
Secondly in order to make the cost of water more equitable. Currently a single person, for instance a pensioner, in a unit, pays the same amount for water (by targeted rate) as a large household with several bathrooms and a swimming pool. A much reduced uniform targeted rate could entitle every household to the average amount of water required per day (say 1000 litres). Meters could measure any extra used and high users would be charged for that. The total amount of money being collected across the city for water supply would remain the same, but heavy users consuming well above the average would have to pay for that and not be subsidised by modest or average users who are often on lower and fixed incomes.
This would enable the rates demands on lower income ratepayers to be kept down.

9.Have you concerns with the current pay and display parking system in the CBD?

No significant concerns. However I am aware of the opinion that a return to free parking in the main street would improve the vitality of the area and would consider that.

10.Do you support the retention of free time - restricted parking in other areas of the City e.g. South Dunedin/Port Chalmers?


11.Do you support the retention of the City Library in its current location?

Yes at the moment. But if a better location became available and it cost no more I would naturally consider it.

12. Do you support the establishment of a Branch Library in South Dunedin?

Yes, in the context of a South Dunedin Community hub that might include for instance a service centre, cafes, computer club-house, market area etc.

13.Do you support a balanced approach between vehicles and pedestrians/cyclists to the question of future access along John Wilson Ocean Drive?


14.Do you support the retention of Open Public Recreation Space within Dunedin City e.g. Bathgate Park?


15.Do you support the continual involvement of the DCC in low - rental housing?


16.Do you support the retention of  Heritage Buildings within Dunedin. e.g. the three Gold Rush Era Buildings on Princess St between Stafford and Carroll Sts?


17. Do you support a comprehensive review of policy regarding the recent credit – card spending by 36 DCC senior Managers and four personal assistants?


18.Are you concerned that the number of DCC Managers reporting to the Chief Executive now stands at 45?

No. I am concerned if the number leads to lack of appropriate oversight.

19.Are you concerned that the DCC has added the equivalent of 86 FTE staff since 2004 pushing its total FTE from 601 to 687 as at March 2010?

It depends what the staff are doing. Central government has loaded considerably more responsibilities on local authorities in the past few years. More usefully than simplistically counting staff increases, I think it is imperative operational efficiencies and savings are sought within Council. That might allow the staff to achieve more for less cost.

20. Do you think there are too many Agenda Items unnecessarily discussed in Closed Committee?


21.Is engaging in meaningful and sincere consultation with the Dunedin Community over future public issues a priority for you?


22.If City Councillors were to receive no remuneration, would you still consider standing for Council?

No. I devote more than half my time to Council work. That prevents me from earning an adequate outside income.