Village funds stoush
Porirua suburbs risk having city projects snuck into their village planning budgets, Porirua city councillor Tim Sheppard warns.
Council officers are putting forward their own civic projects for consideration in the village planning scheme, Mr Sheppard said at a Te Komiti meeting last Thursday.
‘‘[Officers] develop local community plans with their own priorities. They’re not initiated by the local village and they’re not a priority for the local village, but [rather] they’re initiated by council,’’ he said.
Mr Sheppard was referring to a council suggestion last month that Plimmerton complete a missing section of the Ara Harakeke walkway within its village planning budget. The community rejected the idea.
‘‘That is not consistent with the original concept of bottom- up decision-making,’’ Mr Sheppard said. ‘‘I wouldn’t like [projects] to be leveraged so that the community felt they can’t really afford them and they have to fund their own people to project manage it.’’
The attraction of village planning for council officers is its $600,000 budget at a time when many city projects are squeezed for cash, council chief executive Gary Simpson said.
‘‘From a staff point of view, the village planning budget is guaranteed. It was a consistent funding source, regardless of the merits of the project. There’s a second bite at the cherry.’’
The behaviour undermines the democratic ideals of village planning, Mr Simpson said.
‘‘The purpose of village planning could be threatened if it becomes a more widespread process.’’
The line between a village priority and a council priority can be tricky to draw, said council villages planning manager Ian Barlow.
Projects like Ara Harakeke are not a priority in Plimmerton, which already enjoys a large section of the walkway, but are embraced by communities such as Pukerua Bay.
Some council projects won’t get completed for years unless they are embraced by villages, Mr Barlow said. Plimmerton’s village planning would be able to get a 50 per cent subsidy from the NZ Transport Agency for improving walkways which could be accessed now through village planning budgets, he said. But that deal could be withdrawn by the time a new walkway project is submitted through the council’s annual plan process, and then the council could not afford the project.