21 Jun 2018

Calls for cash-strapped Kaikoura district to be split up

From Checkpoint, 5:55 pm on 21 June 2018

There are growing calls for the cash-strapped Kaikōura district to be divvied up between its neighbours.

That comes as the Kaikōura District Council considers a 17 percent rates rise in each of the next two years to pay for desperately needed repairs to quake-damaged and ageing roads, bridges and sewage infrastructure.

While it was not the first time the idea has been raised, councillor Derrick Millton said splitting Kaikōura district up between its neighbours was now a no-brainer.

"You've got 2800 ratepayers, a very small numbers compared to other places," he said. "We provide a lot of services [to tourists] that are funded by ratepayers, but don't necessarily help ratepayers themselves."

Kaikōura is not alone when it comes to having to fund tourist infrastructure from a small ratepayer base but that had been compounded by damage caused by the November 2016 quake.

Post-quake, the district was essentially split in two due to huge slips at Ohau Point.

Mr Millton said the small community north of that slip, where he lives, was effectively already served by the Marlborough District Council in some ways.

He believed all parts of the area north of Ohau Point should go to Marlborough, and the rest of the district should be rolled into the Hurunui District Council.

"We live in the north end of Kaikōura district, so that means we want to be doing our business in Blenheim," he said.

"Secondly, Hurunui's much bigger, it does have a tourist centre in Hanmer Springs which is run very well."

Kaikoura main street

Kaikoura main street Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A Marlborough District Council spokesperson said some people in the northern Kaikōura area had expressed interest in joining Marlborough, but it had not received a formal approach about a change.

"There has been no discussion recently about this at Marlborough District Council".

Hurunui mayor Winton Dalley said the same, noting that if his council was approached he would consider it.

'We have a very viable Kaikōura District Council'

But not everyone around the Kaikōura District Council table was keen on the idea of a split.

Councillor Tony Blunt said there was no need to ditch the current council.

"Staff have worked incredibly hard and done a fantastic job, and to that end I think we have a very viable Kaikōura District Council going forward."

Fellow councillor Craig Mackle was also not keen on a break-up.

Kaikōura mayor Winston Gray was not available for an interview.

This is not the first time amalgamation has reared its head, it was also proposed 10 years ago but never made it over the line as Hurunui's council voted no to a tie up with Kaikōura.

Then-Hurunui mayor Garry Jackson said at the time there was no benefit for Hurunui ratepayers.

"The geography of the new boundaries, including the expansive length of the coastline, would be immense and pose a whole host of new problems," he said in 2008.

"In fact, except for our mutual strengths in tourism, it is difficult to find many synergies between the two districts."