Residents not aware of Events Centre implications - 19/12/2008Wanganui District Council Community Development Committee Chair Ray Stevens believes residents are not fully aware of the implications of going ahead with the Events Centre/Velodrome project.
"People I've spoken to said they voted for the project in Referendum '08 because they want the velodrome to be covered," Cr Stevens said.
"However, they didn't have the option of simply voting to cover the velodrome but had to vote for the full-blown Events Centre project. We could cover the velodrome for $5-6M and that would attract a lot of outside funding, with the effect on ratepayers being a lot less significant.
"The financial implications of going ahead with the whole Events Centre project would be huge. The Council's debt level is already around $70M and the project would add to that. It also relies on some unrealistic projections about how the Events Centre would create income and attract external funding."
Cr Stevens said the Council has estimated the cost of building the events centre at $22.1M and project costs are indicative only. The Council cannot guarantee that sum and external funding is not confirmed.
"The cost assumes $6M in donations – we are in fantasyland if we think we can get that amount in these economic times. In reality, people don't have the money to donate at the moment. The additional $93 on every rates bill in year one for this project will be significantly more if the Council has to fund the whole project.
"If Council has to borrow the entire amount, we will be very close to the funding limits in our borrowing policy. That would stymie any other project that the Council wishes to do in the 10-Year Plan and doesn't allow for any adverse events."
The Council estimates the net worth of the project to the Wanganui economy to be $1.5M per year, not the $4M per year claimed in the project group’s publicity. It would also require a private entrepreneur to stage seven concerts, each attracting 2000 people paying $100 a head, to make the Events Centre figures and operational finances work.
"The implications of the Council putting this project into our 10-Year Plan are huge and the impact on ratepayers would be significant," Cr Stevens said.
"This project may have ranked highest in Referendum '08 but we need to think long and hard about making a commitment to it. None of the referendum projects can go ahead in the next two years anyway and I believe that, once they realise the impact it will have on their pockets, our ratepayers will have something to say if we include the Events Centre in our plans."