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DScene: Dunedin needs “decisive leadership”

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### DScene 28 Nov 2012
Editorial
DCC needs to shape up (page 7)
By Mike Houlahan
Land transactions under investigation, illegal road building, a debt mountain, monumental building projects, possible credit downgrades. No, not some obscure Balkan country or African military dictatorship, but our home town. There is a vociferous body of opinion that Dunedin is going to hell in a hand cart and events of recent weeks have done nothing to persuade them otherwise.

Delta’s land transactions coming under Audit Office investigation, and a damning court verdict – which has seen Dunedin City Council cop a six-figure court costs order over the State Highway 88 realignment – follow an auditor’s report trying to establish the final cost of building the Forsyth Barr Stadium, and a controversial bailout of the Otago Rugby Union.

A “we will fight them on the beaches” opinion piece from Mayor Dave Cull last week sounded desperate. The announcement soon after from Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services that it had revised its outlook of Dunedin City Council from stable to negative made it look desperate, too. A negative outlook means a one-in-three chance of a credit downgrade in the next two years – unwelcome news for a city well in hock before it borrowed millions more to build the stadium.

The agency does offer a ray of hope – if the DCC’s budgets strengthen, as forecast, its rating could revert to stable. But having just stated doubts the DCC could achieve the financial targets in its long-term plan, Standard and Poor’s are going to take a lot of convincing all is well.

In response, Cull – sounding like a rugby captain before a test – said Dunedin “was up to the challenge of continued financial belt-tightening.” Sadly, in this comparison Dunedin is probably Scotland rather than the All Blacks. Quiet reassurance is no longer enough. If ratepayers are to have faith in the DCC as chamberlains of their assets, they will want to see decisive leadership.
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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