21 Mar 2012

Southern mayors reassured on local govt reforms

12:38 pm on 21 March 2012

Mayors in the South Island say they feel more comfortable with local government reforms after a meeting with the minister.

Nick Smith is planning legisation for a cap on rates increases and to get councils to focus more on infrastructure and public services.

Dr Smith has been quickly briefing councils since announcing the reforms on Monday and on Wednesday held a breakfast in Dunedin with the mayors and chief executives of councils south of the Waitaki River.

Central Otago's mayor Tony Lepper says the group came out feeling better about the changes then when they went in, though some small worries remain.

"The only lingering concern that I've got is the fiscal cap. If we've got to spend a lot of money on infrastructure projects, will that the affect the other side of the balance sheet and do I have to cut some expenditure somewhere - and that may be in community programmes."

The mayor of Clutha district, Bryan Cadogan says he now feels happy with the reforms.

"It's time that we started moving with the pace that our ratepayers can handle."

Mr Cadogan says there are still some grey areas in the plan, but Nick Smith reassured them community programmes were still okay as long as infrastructure was done first.