Wise Spending

11 September 2016

We have a clear choice about the future of Nelson. This election will help set Nelson's course for years to come. Either, we can have a vibrant, healthy city with a positive future driven by vision, ambition and confidence. Or a dysfunctional one dragged down by cynicism, timidity and penny-pinching mentality.

Some have said that council's finances are shambolic, debt is out of control and rates remain unaffordable. Only savage budget cuts, eradicating debt and getting rid of profligate councillors can save the city, so they say.

Lets set the record straight. The council runs a budget surplus on operating expenses. This 2015/16 year the projected surplus is expected to be about $4.6 million. The last financial year in 2014/15 it was $8.9 million and the year before it was $15.4 million.
Rates provide about 60% of the revenues for the council's annual budget of just over $100 million. The rest comes from a variety of sources, such as fees and charges, subsidies from New Zealand Transport Agency and dividends from the council’s shareholding in likes of Nelson Airport Ltd and Port Nelson Ltd.

The council is net borrower, not a cash holding facility. To upgrade existing assets and to build new ones, the council has to borrow the money. It is fair to spread the cost this way since the assets will benefit people for decades to come. Prefunding projects when the interest rates are low doesn’t provide any advantage as margins are lost when those funds are reinvested and runs the risk of over hedging and creating inflexibility

Previous mayors and councils were delighted to claim they were able to hold down rate increases and stingy on debt only to allow the city’s infrastructure and amenities to become run down and broken. We are still playing catch up.
Worse still critics would have us building just enough to get by for the time being. This is just an inefficient and expensive way of operating. Nelson is littered with half completed projects, while other centres are enjoying and using assets Nelson doesn’t have.

Even though the council’s debt has risen from $65 million in 2013 to $84 million it still remains well within the limits the council has set itself. This borrowing has funded projects in around the city, such as the upgrade of the stormwater, the additional pipeline from the Maitai Dam to the city centre and facilities at Saxton Field. Council remains well under the debt cap of 150% of net revenue at 76% ratable income.
This last financial year interest payments took just 4.6 per cent of revenues and 6.6 per cent of rates, versus limits of 15 per cent and 20 per cent.

Late last year the Council’s credit rating was raised to AA+, equal to or better than all of our banks, thus saving ratepayers thousands of dollars with the city receiving far more competitive interest rates

This council is a prudent financial manager, consistent with all statutory objectives. It is meeting best practice standards in relation to it’s liability and investment policies and takes a disciplined approach to managing risks.


Need for Comprehensive Housing Strategy for Nelson

22 August 2016

Housing affordability, poor housing stock and lack of housing choice means that many Nelson people are living in unsuitable or unacceptable conditions.

Affordable quality housing is a first step in reducing poverty, especially among our more vulnerable populations, including older citizens on low and fixed incomes, Maori and Pasifika families, new immigrants and people with disabilities and illnesses.

Affordable housing for young families is an important step towards a middle-income lifestyle with improved health and wellness and allows children to more fully benefit from education.

We need to address the high cost facing both people who rent and prospective homeowners so people can find somewhere to live in Nelson that is affordable that they can call home.

Affordable housing has many different meanings and interpretations. It must reflect local community needs, ranging from accessible social housing, rented accommodation, low and middle income owner-occupied homes. Think of the issue as one of housing affordability, rather than just affordable housing

Ensuring that people can live in safe, warm, dry, affordable housing is the basis of an more inclusive, healthier and, ultimately, a more diverse and economically stronger Nelson community.

People are able to live in warm, dry, energy and water efficient homes in safe and sustainable neighbourhoods and cost of heating is reasonable and sustainable.

Older people and those with particular needs are able to live healthily and safely, and as independently as possible, in housing which best suits their needs.

Fostering healthy, vibrant and diverse communities with residential developments that offer housing choices suited to a wide range of people.

"We can’t do it alone so we need to build partnerships that draw on the strengths of local communities, community groups and non-government organisations, developers, business, central and local government. We can consider roles and responsibilities as part of those partnerships" Brian says.

The Nelson City Council does not have strategy or a long-term plan for housing in the city. "That’s why I’m calling for the development of a comprehensive housing strategy for the city and the people who live here" said Brian


Brian McGurk Seeks Re-election to Council

20 May 2016

Brian McGurk confirms he is seeking re-election to the Nelson City Council.

"It has been a both privilege and pleasure to serve in my first term as a city councillor. I am looking forward to seeking continued support from the Nelson community" said Brian

Brian’s broad priorities remain the protecting and enhancing our natural environment and our urban environment, living in an inclusive caring community and smart planning so that Nelson is the best place to live, work and play, now and for future generations.

“I am particularly proud to have advocated and championed for both Nelson Nature and Project Maitai/Mahitahi. The community and the Council can be proud of what has been achieved to date but we still have a long way to go”.

“I will also continue to advocate for thoughtful planning and sustainable development so Nelson is the best place to live, work and play; now and for future generations” said Brian.

The City Council has embarked on the most comprehensive review of their district plan and regional council responsibilities through the Nelson Plan process and Brian says he wants to be part of bringing it to fruition


Go On! Make a Submission to the Draft Annual Plan

2 April 2016

The consultation period for the Nelson City Council draft Annual Plan is now open. http://nelson.govt.nz/council/plans-strategies-policies/annual-plans/annual-plan-2016-17/.  Submissions will be accepted up until 5 pm on Friday 11 April.

Many of us will have a view about an issue. It is your chance to say something and get on the record. You get to say I told you so. There are plenty of other good reasons for making a submission. Here’s just a few.

Someone has to read it

By putting in a submission, someone has to read it and do something. Creating a Facebook page, sending a letter to the editor, complaining to work colleagues, bitching to all and sundry are all very fine, but really no one has to do anything.

An officer reads and comments on every submission received. The councillors also have to read the submissions and have to consider each one. If you also choose to speak to your submission, then the councillors have to listen. This year the Council will be making appointments as soon as the submissions come in so submitters will have plenty of notice of their speaking slot.

It organises your thinking

Generalisations and sweeping statements aren’t that helpful. If you make a submission you will have to organise your thinking and develop clear reasons why you think there needs to a change. The best submissions also propose a solution.  If you are going us what’s wrong also tell us how to fix it.  And, it is also important to hear that you support a particular proposal, and why.

Change does happen

Making a submission is to actually effect change. It might be difficult to see how just one submission could make a difference. But a well considered, well written one might just start something.  And if dozens or even hundreds of others make similar comments then that is a real force for change.

So Council keeps consulting

Probably most importantly it is to make sure Council keeps consulting and keeps listening. If nobody bothers to make a submission, then that is an excuse for Council to just stop consulting and we will much the poorer.

So go on, make a submission.