The Press reports:
Three months ago, it seemed unlikely Christchurch City councillors would find common ground and reach agreement on how to dig the city out of its financial hole.
But some deft manoeuvring by Mayor Lianne Dalziel has the council inching closer to unity.
The budget proposal she outlined on Friday was both clever and pragmatic. It did not shy away from an unprecedented sell-down of council-owned assets but it spread the timing out over three years, which gives the council more wriggle room and time to finalise exactly how much money it needs to finance the work it has to do. …
A $200 million-$300m reduction in the council’s capital works programme coupled with $40m in projected savings from the council’s operational budgets has also allowed Dalziel to propose a lower rate rise than originally forecast. Rates in Christchurch will still rise significantly over the next few years but the burden will be a little less onerous than originally thought.
There is a trade-off though. Having lower rate rises means we might have to wait longer for some capital projects, including road repairs. Just what projects will get pushed out or axed altogether is unclear. Some initial cuts have already been made but the bulk of the re-prioritising work will occur in the second half of this year when external advisors will be brought in to help the council separate the capital programme’s nice-to-haves from the must-haves.
A lot of work still has to be done but Dalziel deserves credit for putting forward a proposal that charts a clear course to a sustainable financial future.
Dalziel has shown commendable pragmatism in seeing the wisdom in using existing assets to help with the purchase of future assets. I wasn’t sure she could leave ideology behind, but she has.