The Dom Post editorial:
Wellington City Council is full of big ideas and grand announcements at the moment. Plenty of them are worth supporting.
But confusion and secrecy too often seem to follow in their wake – especially when it comes to the money involved.
First this week came word from three councillors that the costs of the Island Bay cycleway – already political dynamite in the south coast suburb – had blown out to more than double its projected $1.7 million budget. Yet council chief executive Kevin Lavery said that was completely wrong, and the cycleway was on track to meet its budget.
This yawning difference is amateur stuff – all four were in the same meeting. One side is barking wrong, and ratepayers need to know which it is.
Yes, we do.
I’m generally supportive of cycleways but the Island Bay one appears to be a clusterf**k. It has made the area more dangerous.
Meanwhile, the council’s triumphant announcement that Singapore Airlines will fly a new route from Wellington to Canberra from September also turns out to have strings attached for ratepayers.
The council, it emerges, is set to pay as much as $800,000 a year in subsidies to the airline for the next decade. The money will come from its Destination Wellington fund, which aims to “attract business, talent and investment” to the region.
Like the council’s Economic Initiatives Development Fund, which sank $300,000 of ratepayer money into the recently-failed call centre business CallActive, it also seems wreathed in secrecy.
But why should Wellington City Council applaud the arrival of an airline without revealing that it will help bankroll the new route? That isn’t commercial sensitivity; it is a sort of deception on the ratepayers.
It is deception and it also shows the Council a soft touch with ratepayers money. Other businesses will be lining up to try and get some dosh.