Otago regional rates to rise 21%, then 23%

This is a bit of a shock – ORC plan adopted, rates to rise 21.1%

A 21% rates rise is on the cards as the Otago Regional Council finalises its long-term plan.

But wait, there’s more.

General regional council rates will rise 21.1% in the next financial year and are predicted to rise another 22.8% the year after.

Targeted rates will rise 5.4% in the next financial year and 5.7% the following year.

That means that rates of say $200 now would rise to $330 over four years.

The plan includes about $650 million in spending over the next 10 years and tackles new projects such as increased water monitoring, urban water quality initiatives and better preparing the region for climate change.

The cost of going green?

Also in the ODT today: Plans for $200m hotel complex

That’s plans for a hotel in Queenstown. Probably instead of a proposed hotel inn Dunedin, which once again faced vocal opposition and planning approval difficulties.

The man behind a so far unsuccessful bid for a five-star hotel in Dunedin’s Moray Pl has moved his attention to Queenstown.

An Environment Court appeal over his Dunedin five-star hotel planned for a site across the road from the Dunedin Town Hall was withdrawn last month, but he indicated at the time he was not giving up on the project.

Sounds like he has given up on Dunedin, like developers before him.

 

7.84% rates rise “a normal part of the cycle”

Saying that a 7.84% rates rise will be “in the lower quartile” won’t mean anything to ratepayers who face increases of $200-400. I am horrified by this level of increase – and it sounds like it is what much of the country should be expecting.

ODT: DCC approves second highest rates increase since 1989

The Dunedin City Council has backed a higher-than-expected rates rise of 7.84%, after agreeing to a series of last-minute funding boosts yesterday.

Plus:

The council has also signed off on a 4% increase in most fees and charges.

The waffle:

But Mayor Dave Cull insists the rates hike, like the fees and charges, are just a normal part of the cycle as cities invest in their futures.

That was within the council’s new self-imposed rates limit of 8% for the first year.

That’s about four times the rate of inflation.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said the city’s rates would remain in the lower quartile, while other centres across the country eyed increases of between 3% and 15%.

Lower quartile, about average, that’s tosh when trying to make excuses for an increase of about 8%.

It’s not as bad as 15%, but that’s like saying it’s not as bad getting two teeth pulled by the dentist as getting four teeth pulled.

Mr Cull said cities went through cycles of investment, leading to periods of higher rates increases, but the alternative would be worse.

Those cities that kept rates artificially low by not spending in the short term were eventually forced to catch up, leading to ”massive rates increases” later, he said.

”They pay the price in the end. The idea is to try to keep it smooth, but every now and then you have got to invest,” he said.

More nonsense. I think that rates have been rising ahead of inflation for yonks.

This is budget day news. I don’t expect to get any joy from the Government today either, but the budget shouldn’t be this bad.

Largest health building project ever

The Government announced plans today that confirmed the largest health building project ever in New Zealand, a new regional and teaching hospital in Dunedin.

Building will begin ‘before the next election’, it will employ 1000 workers at it’s peak, and is set to be completed by 2026.

Importantly it will be built in downtown Dunedin, on separate land to the existing hospital buildings, ensuring minimal disruption during construction.

The now closed Cadbury chocolate factory site will be used, as well as another whole block. A down side for some will be the closure of the Cadbury World tourist attraction.

ODT has maps and details – Dunedin Hospital announcement: What you need to know

This is big news as well as very good news for Dunedin.

Dunedin’s WW2 defences

I wrote last week in an ANZAC Day post that there were armed sentries protecting the remote Fiordland power station at Monowai during World War 2. Defences were established all over the country, and the Dunedin City Council has posted archived photos and information that shows the extent of these were not just the gun emplacements and and radio station on Otago Peninsula.

DCC: World War Two – #FBF

World War II affected the average Dunedin citizen more intimately than other wars, with shortages and blackouts, especially after the entry of Japan. Slit trenches appeared in various parts of the city, as well as concrete pipe shelters in the parks. Air raid shelters were built in many buildings across the city.

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Air raid trench shelters and pipe shelters, upper Octagon, 1942.

It’s hard to see those trenches as being effective from an air raid, but it should be remembered that Pearl Harbour was attacked in December 1941 and Darwin in northern Australia was attacked by air on 19 February 1942  so concerns in New Zealand were understandable.

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The Emergency Precautions Scheme (EPS) was set up by the government in 1935 to coordinate a national response to natural disasters or enemy attacks. EPS began as an early version of Civil Defence but during World War II it shifted its focus to air raids, fires, and poison-gas attacks, as well as earthquakes.

Preparations included flour bombing exercises and blackout practices – A new experience for the city’s residents. During the war, nearly all civilian New Zealanders were involved in the EPS to some extent. Thousands of civilians prepared against attack, built trenches and shelters, planned evacuations and protection of school children, fire watched and policed the blackout.

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Queens Gardens air raid trench shelters and pipe shelters, 1942.

In late January 1942, enrollment in the Emergency Defence Corps (which included the EPS and Home Guard) was compulsory for all able-bodied men aged 18 to 65 who were not in the armed forces. There was some overlap between EPS and Home Guard, and men could be part of both. Women were asked to volunteer for the EPS, and once enrolled could not resign at will.

Some information courtesy of Te Papa, for more from Te Papa go to their EPS collections https://bit.ly/2JueIug #FBF

Otago coastal fortifications in WW2 (from Coastal fortifications of New Zealand)

  • Rerawahine, Otago Peninsula – 2x6in Mk 7 guns
  • Tomahawk, Dunedin – 2x6in Mk 7 guns
  • Harington Point, Otago Harbour – 2xTwin 6pdr guns, 2x6pdr H&N
  • Cape Wanbrow, Oamaru – 5in Mk 7 gun (USA)
  • Bluff – 6in Mk 7 gun

It’s hard to imagine all this from a safe and lucky post-war generation, but the gun emplacements can still be seen:

Tomahawk Battery

Constructed in 1942 and the installation of two 6-inch Mk-VII guns was completed in September 1942. The Tomahawk Battery was camouflaged to look like a beach house and shed.

Harington Point Gun Emplacements

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Rerewahine Battery

Rerewahine Battery gun emplacement

Photo of one of the gun emplacements during a shoot, circa 1943

I know someone who worked there as a radio operator. She is now in her nineties.

I don’t know if the Armstrong Disappearing Gun at Taiaroa Head was commissioned for WW2, it was installed at the time of a Russian scare in the 1880s, and is still in place and functional.

60% rates rise proposed

It’s not uncommon for mayors and councils to play down rates rises. Like this:

Wellington Rates Snippet.png

Gwynn Compton:  Spin cycle shrinks rates as well as clothes

But for Wellington City Council, an attempt to spin the merits of reducing a potential 7.1% rates rise down to 3.9% has ended up with an announcement that they’re reducing rates down to 3.9%, which would be a 96.1% cut!

In this case, the words “rise” or “increase” appear to have been omitted from the article.

In contrast, in the ODT today:  Rates must rise to maintain momentum, mayor says

Dunedin faces a 7.3% rates rise as the Dunedin City Council eyes a decade of increased investment, but Mayor Dave Cull says it is essential for the city to keep riding a wave of activity.

Mr Cull was commenting before today’s start of public consultation on the council’s latest 10-year plan, which outlined proposed spending for the decade to 2028.

However that is a bit misleading too – the 7.3% rise is proposed for the first of ten years. More detail:

Rates would rise by 7.3% in the 2018-19 year,
by 5% the following year,
and by 4.5% each year
until 2027 when the increases would drop to 4%.

That amounts to about 60% over ten years.

Modest rates of $2000 would rise to $3190 after ten years.

2018   2,000.00
2019 7.3%   2,146.00
2020 5.0%   2,253.30
2021 4.5%   2,354.70
2022 4.5%   2,460.66
2023 4.5%   2,571.39
2024 4.5%   2,687.10
2025 4.5%   2,808.02
2026 4.5%   2,934.38
2027 4.5%   3,066.43
2028 4.0%   3,189.09

And that is without any knowledge of future inflation, which would presumably add to the increases.

The council had come out of a period of austerity, during which rates increases were limited to 3% and spending was cut, as the focus shifted to driving core council debt down below $230 million.

Rates had still risen faster than inflation over the last ten years.

At the same time, core council debt – excluding companies – was forecast to climb from just over $200 million now to $285 million by 2028.

So debt is forecast to rise despite the large rates rises.

Not helping, from ODT at the same time: Tender troubles mean more delays for cycleway

Dunedin City Council staff have voiced frustration after a call for tenders to complete an Otago Peninsula safety improvement and shared pathway project came in $20 million over an already-inflated budget.

The council last year announced a revised budget to complete the project alongside Portobello Rd and Harington Point Rd, which rose from an estimated $20 million to $49 million.

This is not the first ‘shared pathway project’ (cycleway) where the costs have blown out.

So even with large rates rises there must be little confidence that the ‘increased investment’ wouldn’t increase substantially more.

This was Mayor Cull’s pledge last election:

In the six years I have led our Dunedin City Council we have reduced rate increases.

That’s much like the Wellington example above – rates increases were ‘reduced’ to above inflation.

I wonder how what he will pledge if he stands again in next year’s local body election.

Ardern speaks to students in Dunedin

ODT: First-year students urged to tackle NZ’s biggest problems

New Zealand needs you.

That was the simple message Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the country’s future leaders gathered at the University of Otago’s convocation ceremony last night.

During her speech Ms Ardern encouraged the 4000 first-year students in Forsyth Barr Stadium to make the most of their abilities and not let self doubts impede their potential.

“You may assume I had embarked on a degree in politics with some assurance of where I would go, that I was confident, I was on a path to be an MP or at least work in politics.

“You would be wrong.”

Ms Ardern told the new students the country needed them to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing New Zealand, such as climate change, inequality and child poverty.

“That is why we need you, it is why we need your education and why we need your confidence.”

In return, Ms Ardern promised her Government would take the same approach.

One of the biggest cheers of the night came after Ms Ardern mentioned her Government’s policy of first-year, fee-free tertiary study.

“You’re welcome,” she said with a smile.

That’s not a surprise, given that the students are the first recipients of a major government handout.

National & Labour in Thieves Alley

Stalls from and at Dunedin’s ‘Thieves Alley’ market day today:

Different to their election slogan, recruitment rather than soliciting votes.

No slogans for Labour, but focusing on raising funds rather than raising membership.

At least they are both out trying to engage with the public. In Germany the parties are funded by taxpayers (arranged by the parties presumably), and they risk getting too out of touch with people outside politics.

Alarm at more Dunedin flooding

In June 2015 a surprisingly bad storm caused bad flooding in the reclaimed but still low low lying south Dunedin area. In the aftermath there were admissions of poor maintenance of drainage systems (storm water drains, mud tanks, screens and pumping stations). Changes were made with assurances things would work better in the future.

A near record 160.2 mm of rain fell in a day then.

Leading up to yesterday, in January this year, there was low rainfall of 26.4 mm (at the University weather station), and most (16 mm) of that was in one day two weeks ago. Things were very dry.

There was ample warning of impending heavy rain, so there was plenty of time to be properly prepared. Yesterday there was 109.6 mm of rain, significantly less than when the 2015 floods happened.

But there was still serious flooding in south Dunedin, not as bad as in 2015 but bad enough to have a state of emergency to be declared and for homes (and a rest home) to be evacuated.

ODT: Stormwater system overwhelmed

Torrential rain overwhelmed Dunedin’s stormwater system yesterday, flooding parts of Mosgiel and South Dunedin and sparking evacuations and road closures.

History repeated itself for many residents, who faced similar flooding in 2015 and wake this morning facing  another clean-up. A state of emergency was declared at 2.20pm. Dunedin  had received 18mm of rain an hour in the previous two hours.

“That is more than our system is designed to cope with, even though it has operated exactly how it is intended to,” Mayor Dave Cull said.

This is an alarming admission.

South Dunedin’s stormwater system was unable to cope with the 2015 deluge, and struggled with the amount of rain which fell in a short time yesterday.

“It was just the sheer volume of rain in such a short period of time meant that some of the groundwater entered the wastewater system, and that’s what caused the problem,” Civil Defence controller Leanne Mash said.

So two and a half years after major floods in part caused by poorly maintained drainage systems, the improved drainage systems still can’t cope with just two thirds of the rainfall.

This is alarming, not just for those who were directly affected by the flooding, but also by at least one ratepayer, me.

How bad will flooding be if we get a repeat of the 2015 rainfall?

Early summer, continued

We have had an extremely good run of good weather in Dunedin, and around most if not all of the country.

Apart from some morning harbour fog and some occasional cloud we have had an extended run of fine mild weather for nearly two weeks.

Temperatures have been maxxing in the low to mid twenties every day – unless exerting yourself these are very comfortable temperatures. I think that 20-24 is the optimum comfort zone, and that’s what we have been in, with enough night time cooling to be comfortable for sleep time as well.

In Central Otago the temperatures have been higher with November records being broken, enough to cause complaints. Cromwell must be up to day 12 or 13 days of 25+ temperatures, with some highs in the low to mid thirties. A few days of that can wear you down.

A few days of weather like this is not unusual, but two weeks is abnormal, especially for November which is often quite unsettled. Here it can swing from warm nor’westers to plummets and hilltop snow via sou’westers.

The Dunedin forecast promises more, with 23-27 highs and dry for the next week except for 18 and rain on Wednesday. Things are drying but aren’t too bad yet, but that rain will be welcome – if we get it.

A thing you learn in Dunedin is to appreciate and make the most of good weather, because variability and swings are the norm.

So this extended run of very nice early summer weather is great bonus.

Enjoy!

Heritage clash harbour

Given the strength of opposition with any development that clashes with existing heritage buildings and precincts this is a radical proposal for harbour redevelopment:

HarbourFuturistic

Video view and details at Our future?

The cost of such a design could be a killer, even if people accept the futuristic look.

My first impressions are not favourable, it seems to be quite out of kilter with the strengths of Dunedin’s appeal.

This is, believe it or not, a pedestrian bridge over the railway line.

Habourbridge

But it is unlikely to happen, it will be opposed, it will struggle to get RMA approval, and finance it will be difficult to afford.