Tauranga City is looking at some tough times caused by the city’s growth, which under existing law has to be paid for by the ratepayers.
Among the major works being shortlisted for the next long term plan are the $117 million Waiari Water Treatment scheme, plus $55m for Te Maunga treatment plant upgrades, and the millions and millions required for infrastructure for new housing projects at Te Tumu and Tauriko.
The government is prepared to loan the city $230m for the growth projects – but the amount may cap out the city debt ceiling, already expected to hit $400 million next year.
“The cost of infrastructure moving forward and providing for growth is probably going to be horrendous,” says Mayor Greg Brownless.
“But when we look at what we want to do, we need it. And we have to think, how do we fund it? Because we can’t do it with rates, we just can’t.
“It’s going to be impossible. The government is clearly coming to the party in Auckland, and especially now that there is a new government, I’m expecting them to come to the party here too and in the same proportion.
“So if they are going to be funding big transport projects in Auckland, I want to see that happen here.
“We just want things to be fair. I am slightly worried that a new government may not take as much notice of us, but I’m hopeful on the other hand that we have got three MPs, albeit list ones, who are members of the ruling coalition
“At least we will be able to get to talk to them, but we do have a real problem here in that the major source of our income is rates.”
The government has enjoyed huge and increasing revenues over the last few years, says Greg.
“Unless that’s frittered away suddenly, then some of that should be coming back to the regions which generated that wealth.”
Tauranga City is required to provide zoned and serviced land for housing, and it has to plan 30 years in the future.
“Now we have to pay for that as ratepayers, until the stuff gets sold,” says Greg.
“I don’t really want to do that. The government has offered a loan but I would prefer that loan was a grant and even interest free. It still has to be re-paid and it goes on our balance sheet.
“They are the same old problems that have pretty well confronted us for the last year, but now we do have a new government and things have got to actually happen.”
He’s holding New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to his promise that GST generated by regional tourism will be returned to the regions.
“I’m expecting that to happen,” says Greg. “People have been calling me naïve, but when you say something, I expect it to happen.”