The Dunedin City Council and Otago Regional Council in May confirmed they were considering the potential benefits of merging.
### ODT Online Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Editorial: The role of local government
Local and central government are set to go head to head when the issue of what councils would like and what they can afford to provide for their communities is debated as part of the Better Local Government law changes before Parliament. Prime Minister John Key has called for local authorities to cut spending to keep rates affordable and has said the Government would like to see more council mergers. Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand conference in Queenstown last week, Mr Key told delegates the job would not be an easy one. They faced high expectations – but “we all have to face up to making difficult choices”. That is correct, of course. Businesses and households make difficult choices every day. And decision-makers must realise increases in public spending often put pressure on those who can least afford it. There is no doubt council spending on big-budget projects, viewed by many as “non-core” council business, fuels frustration in communities.
One thing is certain: if local authorities are against changes to their structure, and communities remain as divided about such matters as whether ocean-side drives should be for pedestrians or vehicles (or even dog sleds and skiers), the regional debate about those issues – let alone rates, priorities and costs – will surely drown out the current discussions in Parliament.
Dunedin City Council is over extended… the result of ten years of imprudent debt funding (core business and pet projects), and a lack of overall conservative management on behalf of residents and ratepayers. Cr Syd Brown claims the council’s debt – excluding its companies – stands at $217 million, following the transfer of stadium debt to Dunedin Venues Ltd. This is how your elected representatives and council staff operate, entirely through obfuscation and fudging of true debt levels and annual spending by the city council and its entities.
### ODT Online Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Costs will rise: mayor
By Chris Morris
Ratepayers across New Zealand – including those in Dunedin – could be left to foot the bill as local government reforms drive up the cost of borrowing for councils, it has been claimed. The warning came as Dunedin city councillors prepared to complete their response to the Better Local Government reforms at a Dunedin City Council finance, strategy and development committee meeting today. The reforms – unveiled in March – included plans to introduce new benchmarks to assess the financial performance of councils, as part of a push to control local government debt levels and limit rates increases. However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the reforms “run the risk of doing exactly the opposite” by forcing up the council’s debt-servicing costs by $1 million a year.
Local Government Minister David Carter rejected the claims last night, saying “the exact opposite” could happen if new rules inspired greater confidence in council financial decision-making.
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr