Hurunui seeks Three Waters funding while staying opposed to reforms

6:29 pm on 29 November 2022
Three waters...The Hurunui District Council voted to apply for Three Waters Better Off at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Three waters...The Hurunui District Council voted to apply for Three Waters Better Off at Tuesday’s council meeting. Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News

Hurunui District Councillors voted to authorise chief executive Hamish Dobbie to apply to the Department of Internal Affairs for the council's share of Better Off Three Waters funding at a council meeting on Tuesday

But they directed Dobbie to ask for clause 2.10, which councils around the country fear could impact on their right to speak against the proposed reforms, to be struck out.

Dobbie said he had reviewed various legal opinions on the offending clause.

"It depends on who has commissioned the lawyers, because they all vary slightly. It varies from 'it is all standard, there is nothing to be afraid of, to it will affect your ability to oppose the legislation.

"My opinion is the funding agreement is strongly written to dissuade dissent, but it does not forbid you from dissenting or put your funding in danger."

He said the clause was "very one-directional", as it did not prevent the government from "criticising councils in any way it sees fit".

If council declined the funding now, there was no guarantee it would be offered again, he said.

Hurunui's share of the funding was $2.67 million in tranche one, with the possibility of a further $8.01m available from July 2024.

Expectations exceeded

Revenue and expenditure exceeded expectations as the Hurunui District Council came through the 2021/22 financial year with an operating surplus of $5.5m.

The council adopted its 2021/22 annual report on Tuesday, 29 November.

Revenue for the year was $61.1m, $7.65m above the budget, while operating expenses totalled $55.6m, which was $6.7m higher than expected.

The extra revenue was due to wages subsidies received during last year's lockdown, emergency roading funding following the heavy rain events, development contributions from three sub-divisions in Amberley and the increased value of council assets.

Wage costs were higher than expected, while the rain events and depreciation costs added to the council's expenditure.

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Chief financial officer Jason Beck said roading had a big impact, with a 30 percent increase in costs in the new roading contract contributing to the 10.5 percent rates increase adopted in June.

"The increase to the value of the roading assets was 58 percent, pushing the value of the roading assets from $267m to $421m," he said.

The council's debt remained at $38 m throughout the year, lower than the $41.5m anticipated in the budget.

Bridge no longer serviceable, social housing units maintained

Councillors voted to permanently close Kilmarnock Road in Greta Valley and to authorise maintenance to the council's social housing units in Waiau.

This followed a bridging engineers report in 2020 stating Deans bridge was no longer serviceable as a public road bridge and should be removed from service.

Following discussions with the neighbouring landowner, staff recommended the road be closed at the council's expense and the road and infrastructure be handed over to the landowner, who would accept liability for the bridge.

A recent property inspection of the social housing units in Leslie Street, Waiau, found the plywood panels in each of the units was damaged at the bottom edge, exterior painting was faded and mould was starting to grow.

The costs will be covered from a budgeted surplus of $23,841 from the social housing units, which were established following the November 2016 earthquake.

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