Elec­tion is­sues de­cided to­day

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

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.

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