Waipā’s chief executive has taken the unprecedented step of briefing council candidates about the region’s finances saying the district is facing a “perfect storm.”
Garry Dyet has opened the books to show council hopefuls and sitting members they will not be able to make good on election promises which involve significant spending.
Some candidates, seeking favour in Cambridge, are calling for the acceleration of a third bridge over the Waikato River and a new town library.
Meanwhile on the western side of the district plans for Te Ara Wai Museum and the Pirongia-Ngāroto-Te Awamutu cycling connections are among projects which could be pushed back.
“Identifying cost savings and sensible risk management processes will be a priority,” said Dyet, who then looked at how much capital the council could realistically spend in a prudent manner.
Newly elected members will have little time to celebrate their success at the polling booth with inflation soaring above 7.3 per cent for the first time in more than 30 years and well above the 2.4 to 3.2 per cent factored into the council’s Long Term Plan last year.
In a briefing to staff he said “hang onto your seats folks, we’re in for some fun and games over the next few months.”
In their first weeks in office, councillors must decide which projects and services needed to be cut, he told The News.
“If we reduce operating costs, what level of services will we have to do away with?”
All assumptions factored in last year would have to be retested. Things like growth, the cost of money, inflation and the impact of government reforms would be reviewed, he said.
Cost pressures are everywhere – from supply chain delays for materials, price increases across the board, the cost of staff both new and existing, soaring land prices and the cost of money.
Plus, just around the corner is the revaluation of all Waipā properties.
Urban property values have risen higher in percentage terms than rural properties which could see the rates take redistributed with more burden falling on townies.
“The Reserve Bank is trying to get inflation under control and so they’re looking to put some brakes on the money supply,” said Dyet.
Waipā’s debt levels are half what they were expected to be which means when council does go to lenders to fund its capital programmes – most caused by developer and market demand – the cash will cost more than forecast.
Growth is running ahead of forecast and with that comes extra costs, he said.
“The cost of land has skyrocketed beyond everyone’s expectations pushing many of our growth-related projects ahead of the budget.
“This is a risky environment for people who are trying to win contracts from us, and so tender prices are generally higher than we budgeted to cover these risks.
“The New Zealand employment market is very hot and so contractors, and us, are struggling to find people to do all of the jobs we need them to do.”
Dyet said the new council would go through a “tricky process” to produce a budget acceptable to residents and ratepayers.
“Staff will work has hard as we can to identify what an acceptable rates’ increase will be.”