New council’s $8.5m headache

Waipā District Council has negligence claims totalling $8.5 million contained in an Annual Report newly elected councillors will have to approve in their first weeks in office.

The court proceedings against the council are revealed in the unaudited Annual Report tabled at last week’s Audit and Risk committee meeting in Cambridge.

Garry Dyet

The report also showed chief executive Garry Dyet’s salary went up $32,293 to $329,627. He also received Kiwi Saver contributions and a vehicle for a total package of $359,210.

The largest of the negligence claims at $5 million is by Erinic Investments Ltd – a Cambridge company owned by Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan.

Erinic initiated proceedings two years ago in the High Court against the council and four other defendants alleging the council was negligent in issuing building consents, inspecting the building work and issuing Code Compliance Certificates for a commercial building the company owns in Te Awamutu.

The second claim involves a ratepayer in Kihikihi which dates to 2001 when the council completed stormwater system work in the town.

The action before the High Court in Hamilton says council has been negligent, breached its statutory duty and created a nuisance in relation to a private drain on the plaintiffs’ property in Kihikihi. They are seeking more than $2.5 million in damages, interest and costs.

The most recent claim of $1 million lodged in the High Court earlier this year alleges council was negligent in undertaking inspections and issuing a code compliance certificate in respect of a dwelling in Ngāhinapōuri.

The audit of Waipā’s Annual Report would normally have started last month but the Office of the Auditor General has extended it out due to resourcing difficulties.

A financial overview was missing from the document tabled at the committee meeting, but a more detailed look shows council’s revenue for the financial year ended June 30 was $132.5 million, including $68.75 million in rates.

Council achieved an operating surplus of $29.4m year against a budget of $39.8m, mostly due to timing of contributions from developers, while borrowings at year-end of $149.5 million were $93.4 million lower than budget, again due to timing issues.

Dyet’s salary package is $359,210 – up $22,103 on the previous year – and just over 34 per cent of Waipā’s 339 employees get less than $60,000 a year.

Jim Mylchreest

Liz Stolwyk

Mayor Jim Mylchreest received $135,500, up from $132,149 while deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk got $43,985, $650 more than the previous year.

The highest paid councillors were Andrew Brown, Marcus Gower, Susan O’Regan and Grahame Webber, who all chaired committees and received $40,601. All other councillors received $33,834 except Elwyn Andree-Wiltens who resigned in April after a series of articles by The News about her conflict of interest in a Maungatautari quarry. She got $27,658.

Seventy four staff received more than $100,000 a year – up from 55 the previous year – while two are in the $220,000-$339,999 remuneration band.

Council’s total wage bill was $26.3 million, up from $24.2 million the previous year. The council had 279 full timers and 37 full time equivalents – a total of 339 employees – employed on June 30.

Just over 57 per cent – 194 staff – received less than $80,000 a year – with 116 of them earning less than $60,000.

A total of $55,000 in severance payments – likely due to council’s Covid mandates’ edict – were made to employees, compared to none the previous year.

Council’s total assets at year’s end were $2.053 billion – mostly in property, plant and equipment – up from $1.968 billion the previous year.

The council budgeted to get $160.6 million from asset sales to fund its Long Term Plan projects but only banked $83.87 million with an $850,000 acquisition – probably the old Bunnings building in Te Awamutu – for part of the shortfall.

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