Sunday, 23 November 2008

Opinion article for publication in Blueskin News: Letter to Rodney Hide

Dear Rodney,

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Local Government. I
was delighted to hear that one of your proposed polices is to put a
cap on rates rises. Many people down here in Dunedin will be greatly
relieved if the escalating rates imposed by both the Dunedin City
Council and the Otago Regional Council were curbed.

Can I suggest that a "back to basics" policy for local government
might be a useful guide for councils who are tempted to overspend?
Water, waste and roading should be the top priorities for the city
council followed by social polices which meet the needs of diverse
communities. The Regional Council should be focused on the
environment; management of resources and protection of biodiversity.
Large scale projects, which do not fit in with these criteria, and
which require long-term loans and force rates up, should be abandoned.
We would be very pleased if you could help get this message across to
the leaders in local government.

You may have heard that the Dunedin City Council is planning to build
a huge, covered, rugby stadium, which will be a major drain on rates
for the next twenty years or more (and will not be a suitable venue
for ballroom dancing). The present economic situation is challenging
as you know; we have already had hundreds of Dunedin people made
redundant and many other local businesses are struggling. Dunedin has
an aging population and many people are on low incomes. Large rates
rises have a considerable effect on households, which are already
under stress.

The Otago Regional Council has also lost the plot and is spending an
enormous sum building a grand new office block. Many local people do
not support this plan as it appears to be an unnecessary investment.
Its location in the middle of an industrial area far from the centre
of town and any public transport routes is also very controversial.

Rodney, if only you could focus on reining in Local Government
spending and keep your hands off the Resource Management Act you will
make lots of friends down here in the far south.

Are you planning to carry on wearing the yellow jacket? If you were to
tone it down with a bit of blue you might blend in quite well in
Otago.

Yours truly,

Geraldine Tait

(Geraldine Tait is deputy chairperson of Waikouaiti Coast Community Board)


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