Council makes key decisions on 'Heart' project, Council pay & tender policy - 13/07/2007The District Council's finance and administration committee yesterday made some key policy decisions that will be referred to the full Council for confirmation on Monday, July 30.
1. New Projects Referendum – 2008:
The most far-reaching decision is that the 'Heart of Wanganui' project – and its constituent parts – will go to district-wide referendum in February/March next year. But the projects will compete against other intended capital works to determine their public and funding priority. Those other projects include the Events Centre/Velodrome and the redevelopment of Kowhai Park.
In moving the recommendation, seconded by Cr Randhir Dahya, Mayor Laws said that "Council has a number of worthwhile projects on its books but only a finite sum of money. The best way to determine the priority for those projects is to invite the public to participate in making that decision".
"We proved that the concept works with 'Referendum '05'. That has had the effect of Council currently completing the top four on the public's list – the Splash Centre extension, the riverfront development, increased annual funding for footpaths and the refurbishment of Wanganui's airport terminal."
Mayor Laws said that the "first round of public consultation on the 'Heart of Wanganui' concept has been very successful. We will now refine the choices around the council table, update the likely costings and put them alongside other desirable projects".
"That includes the Events Centre/Velodrome and the redevelopment of Kowhai Park. Probably the least costly will be the latter, but I must admit it is the project closest to my heart. I'd love to see Kowhai Park regain its mantle as the best children's playground in New Zealand. We have a great foundation – now let's build upon that."
2. Councillors vote not to accept salary increase:
Councillors also unanimously voted to forego a salary increase for the remainder of 2007, and instead request the Remuneration Authority to return the surplus to the Council's accounts.
The situation has been brought about by the resignation of Cr Sue Reynolds (formerly Pepperell) after her family's relocation to the Hawke’s Bay. The law requires her foregone salary to be redistributed amongst the other councillors. That would see deputy mayor Dot McKinnon's annual salary rise from $35,100 to $38,700, council chairpersons' salaries rise from $28,000 to $30,900 and deputy chairpersons' salaries from $22,800 to $25,200.
At the recommendation of Crs McKinnon and McGregor, the council will request that the salary increases be returned instead to the general pool for spending upon council services.
Mayor Laws said that he was delighted "that councillors have taken this approach. It shows a measure of restraint that sets the model for local government throughout the rest of the country. It remains, in my view, a grossly over-compensated sector".
3. Local Tender Policy:
A policy decision made in 1999, relating to favouritism being shown towards local businesses with regards to tenders, was confirmed unanimously by yesterday's finance and administration committee meeting.
Wanganui businesses are given preferred status when bidding for Council contracts provided that their price is not more than 5% above out of town tenderers. The policy applies to all contracts under $100,000.
Mayor Laws said that the tenders policy "is something of a balancing act between encouraging local businesses and ensuring ratepayers get the best value for their money. It gives the chief executive the discretion to favour our own".
"All things being equal, the Council should shop first in Wanganui. If that means that, on occasion, we pay a little more then the difference should be seen as economic development. Charity begins at home, and so should commercial support."