Mayor's column October 2017

(Posted on: October 18)

From the Mayor- October 2017

The isolated weather event which hit the north of our District back in July has to date cost Council $877,000, with an estimated further $518,000 required to complete the repair work and another $2.1M needed for permanent road reinstatement work for the 17 dropout sites and one large slip. The NZ Transport Agency provides subsidies for such approved emergency work but this still leaves us short to find around $1.1M from our local ratepayers.

Normal practice has been that funds for emergency work get transferred from the Roading Reserve Fund. However this fund is currently in deficit. So Council had to consider 2 options - we either take $1.1M from the 2017/18 annual roading budget which means some planned roading work for this current year gets dropped off the list, getting even further behind in our roading maintenance, or we agree to borrow the $1.1M required to maintain levels of service and return our roading network to the condition it was in prior to the storm. Council reluctantly agreed to borrow the funds to ensure this work gets done and planned works continue.

This raises a need for a serious discussion about how our District handles future emergency events. Unknown major events costs big dollars and we need to plan better how we manage these. The 2004 flood event costs were over $26M, the 2010 event was another $3M and the 2015 event around $6M.

Should we plan for these events by building up a roading reserve? Even though the frequency, scale and therefore cost of such events is unknown, or do we cross our fingers, hope they don’t hit too often and increase our debt by borrowing the funds for the work when they do. Both these options affect rates. Or another option when the event happens is to take the cost of emergency work out of the current roading budget, meaning less new planned work is able to be done. The risk of the latter option is that as roads deteriorate due to lack of maintenance, they are then harder hit, if and when, an event happens, costing us even more. Council will be debating this further and asking for your input.

The past few weeks have seen many reasons to celebrate and come together as a community. Rex Wheeler was farewelled after giving 46 years of service in education around our wider district. This is on top of his outstanding service with St John. Council held its annual Community Honours ceremony to recognise Bill and Marion Abbiss, Anne Williamson and Sally Reed for their outstanding services to our community. Ohakea Air Base celebrated the Battle of Britain with a special dinner and around 300 people turned out for the Alzheimers Memory Walk. Our community hosted the National Secondary School Cycling Championships, the National Alpaca Show and the Business Awards Dinner was a special highlight recognising those businesses in our District who excel in customer service. Well done to all our winners!

We also took time out as a community to challenge ourselves as to how do we best support and educate our vulnerable residents to ‘say no’ to synthetic drugs, following the sad passing of young Bradley Wahanui. Following our public meeting, a new taskforce is now planning a free family day, simple messaging images going up around the District and our schools have been invited to hear from our local agencies focusing on getting the message out to our youth.
Thank you to everyone who is spreading our ‘say no’ message.

Helen Worboys