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A day of debate on long-term plan for 2021 - 2031 - Whanganui District Council

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

On Tuesday, 25 May, Whanganui District Council allocated budget for the Davis Library extension, youth spaces and places, town centre regeneration, a coastal plan and housing - after a day of discussion and debate on its Long-Term Plan 2021-2031.

A motion to roof the Whanganui Velodrome at a cost of $20 million resulted in a split vote, which meant the motion was defeated. A further motion for the council to include $2.5 million across years 1 and 2 of the long-term plan for the existing velodrome facility was passed with a narrow majority.

Mayor Hamish McDouall says, "We received 608 submissions - with most submitters expressing views around the future of the velodrome.

He says, "We have invested time in reading every single one of them. In particular, I have been reading into the tone, the wisdom and the ideas expressed in these contributions from the community."

While the council’s preferred option initially was to support the lower cost roof for the velodrome, the Mayor says the reality is most of the funding for this would need to come from grants, requiring a significant commitment from supporters and central government.

"We heard from our community that there are concerns about the debt burden on ratepayers and the running costs inherent in a velodrome facility," says the Mayor. "Many feel the money could be better spent elsewhere."

"We are very aware that this will be a disappointing decision for many others. I do recognise the efforts of all those - the Regional Velodrome Development Trust, the cycling community and others - who have worked to realise this aspiration for the velodrome over many years.

"I acknowledge that successive councils have failed to resolve the problem, largely because it was so difficult to make a convincing case to government. As a result we have all been through two decades of frustration and debate.

"We urgently needed to get to a decision - and it was not ever going to please everyone. Now at last, in 2021, this decision has been made and we can move on as a community."

The Whanganui Velodrome was constructed in 1995 and was considered the fastest facility in New Zealand. Aspirations to see it roofed and further developed hinged on a bid to government in 2011 to be New Zealand’s Cycling Centre of Excellence.

"Unfortunately Whanganui did not win that bid," says Mayor McDouall, "And government investment went to Cambridge."

The ‘Copeland’ design for a multi-purpose events centre seemed to have exciting potential at that time. However, the Mayor says estimated costs escalated well beyond $20 million and the proposition was not affordable.

"Whanganui is already very well catered for with many venues for sporting events and other activities, so the need for an additional multi-use facility is not high."

He says conversations will be held with stakeholders and, in particular, the cycling community about next steps.

An average rates increase of 5.7% for the 2021/2022 year is proposed. Mayor McDouall says this is one of the lowest rates rises in the country. "Many councils are looking at double-figure rises because they have outstanding infrastructure costs, but we are fortunately not in that position."

He says, "This long-term plan is a conservative plan. It doesn’t have great comets of innovation in it. It has to be conservative, because we have to be wise. No one knows how COVID will play out over the next few years."

Budget inclusions for the Long-Term Plan 2021-2031 included:

Youth places and spaces - $10,000 in year 1; $386,000 capital expenditure in year 2 of the long-term plan and then $46,000 per year.

Extension to the Davis Library - net $1.9 million in the budget across years 2 - 4 (2022-2024). $920,000 of grant funding is anticipated as part of the funding for this project, leaving the council to fund up to $1.9 million.

Development of a coastal plan for the Whanganui district - $50,000 in the 2021/22 budget; to $1.1 million across years 2 - 4 (2022-2024) for implementation and $1.3 million across years 8 - 10 for further implementation.

Housing Strategy implementation - $500,000 in year 1 and $3.7 million across years 2 and 3.

Town centre regeneration - $3.3 million across the ten year period.

Airport Control Tower - $145,000 in 2021-22 for fire compliance for the Whanganui Airport Control Tower.

New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust - Le Quesnoy - up to $30,000 of matched funding from the community over years 1-3.

Whanganui Regional Museum - yearly funding increased by $150,000 (from $975,000 to $1.125 million).

Waimarie Trust - underwriting of up to $50,000 for the vessel out of water survey.

A number of requests received during the consultation process were referred to the appropriate committees for further consideration.

The council’s long-term plan will be audited and is scheduled for adoption on 22 June, 2021. A meeting to strike the rates is set to take place on 13 July, 2021.

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