Election issues decided today
Electoral representation and the Tarras water scheme are the two issues Central Otago District Council will be deciding on when members meet in Alexandra today. Central Otago ratepayers said a firm ‘‘no’’ to both proposals at a submissions hearing in Alexandra last Friday. The council’s proposal to change from ward-based to at-large elections and to reduce the number councillors from 10 to eight plus the mayor, received 96 submissions in opposition, mostly from the CromwellBannockburn area, and 24 in support, with 12 people speaking at the hearing. Cromwell Community Board member and councillor, Gordon Stewart, had strenuously campaigned against the move. However, Mr Stewart said at the meeting he had been advised to curb his opinions. He later told the Mirror all councillors had received an email last week, reminding them of their Standing Orders, that while they were allowed to have an opinion, they could not go into a public hearing with a ‘‘closed mind’’. The over-arching opposition to the changes was that smaller more sparsely populated areas would lose their representation ‘‘by people who knew their issues’’. The council’s big step to support a Tarras water scheme was judged too big a leap by many ratepayers. People voted overwhelming against a recommendation in one of the more hotly debated public consultations the district had seen. The Tarras irrigation scheme received 36 submissions, with 27 against the council’s proposal to underwrite 20 per cent of the scheme’s capital value ($35.6 million) for five years, and nine in support. This re-iterated early opposition to the project, that the council would be using ‘‘public money for a private scheme’’. A submitter at the hearing, Anna Skeet, who spoke to the Mirror before last week’s meeting, indicated that she and probably many people were confused about the extent of the council’s proposed commitment to the scheme. She was assured at the meeting that no funding had been promised and the council would only act as guarantor for the applicant Tarras Water Limited, which was borrowing about $26m. The council said the company would get lower interest rates if it had support from Central Otago district and the Otago Regional Council, which was also proposing to underwrite dry equity shares of 30 per cent. Mayor Tony Lepper said the council would only get involved if there was 70 per cent buy-in from farmer shareholders and if the regional council also backed the scheme.