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Plan Steers Council Towards Community Wishes

Story Courtesy of Waipa District Council

Waipa District Council's Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) attracted a total of 235 submissions and has already been effective in steering the Councils priorities over the next ten years. The Plan, which was released for public comment in March, was prepared from community feedback sought 15 months earlier and has helped set the future priorities for the Council.

The draft plan was prepared after widespread public consultation and after hearing from the public through the submissions process, the Policy Committee of the Waipa District Council has recommended some changes to the draft Plan to more closely reflect the community's wishes. In recommending the changes, the Committee was mindful to minimise additional expenditure, which would have to be met by ratepayers and wherever possible the Committee looked to reprioritising projects to meet community expectations rather than increasing expenditure.

The draft Plan signalled the future development of new Museum facilities in both Cambridge and Te Awamutu in the next 5-10 years, and public feedback was clear, particularly from Cambridge residents, with 190 submissions seeking a covered heated swimming pool as a matter of priority.

In consideration of these competing priorities the Committee's recommendation to Council is to provide a 'community amenities' capital budget, but to leave the exact nature of the facilities to be developed subject to further detailed consultation with the community. The Committee has recommended funding of a feasibility study for a new pool in Cambridge that will identify the best design, location and cost options to form the basis of specific community consultation. The feasibility study could start almost immediately after the expected funding approval at the end of June.

Mayor Alan Livingston acknowledged the level of demand and support for a covered pool for Cambridge.

"The idea of a new pool for Cambridge has been talked about for a number of years, and the number of submissions clearly indicates a level of support within the Cambridge community. Council is mindful of Cambridge's growth, and such a facility would be an appropriate initiative to support the continued growth and development of the town".

A number of other submissions sought increased funding for community organisations, many of which rely heavily on volunteer support. These include the Citizens Advice Bureaux, Information Centres and Museums. The Committee has recommended that Council increase in the level of funding currently provided for these groups.

"It is important that Council continues to support these groups given the importance of their services to the community and the benefit they provide to residents and the District" said Committee Chairman Alan Empson.

The Committee increased the grants by a total of $ 34,750.The outcome of the Committees deliberations resulted in an increase of 0.4 % in the proposed rate increase in the draft plan 3.37 to 3.77%.

A number of submissions also expressed concern at the level of debt in the draft Plan increasing to $50 million over the next 10 years, primarily as a result of funding upgrades to essential infrastructure such as water and sewerage systems.

Chief Executive John Inglis said the Council had been looking closely at debt for sometime.

"Council has financial reserves that are dedicated to various activities, including water, storm water, sewerage and roads. These funds had to sit in their respective accounts until the projects for which these funds were allocated were started. There is an opportunity to borrow from these accounts for capital work rather than raising loans from banks. This will provide savings and reduce exposure to interest rates" he said.

This ability has only recently become available and is expected to reduce the overall level of debt by about $8 million without any adverse effect on planned activities or services.

The Long Term Council Community Plan has been developed to encompass much wider community consultation and participation in Council decision-making and covers the 10-year period to 2014. It will be reviewed by June 2006, and then three-yearly. The Plan is expected to be formally adopted at the June Council meeting.