Four! Council back on budget tee

Resetting the budget became harder than expected for Waipā council this week with informed sources telling The News elected councillors are applying pressure on staff to scrap “nice to haves”.

A public workshop on the Long Term Plan financial overview was cancelled for the second time yesterday although a public excluded workshop on major projects went ahead later in the day.

And the 90 minutes allocated for that secret meeting, held after The News went to press, was expected to test which of the four projects could be deferred to keep rates manageable.

Even before the government signalled it would cancel the Three Waters legislation and hand control of water assets back to councils, Waipā had budget issues. The asset sales which were expected to fund big projects have not happened with the amount and regularity expected.

Now with those water costs back in the Long Term Plan, discretionary spending is in the spotlight.

Likely victims are the upgrade of the 19m high Cambridge Water Tower – councillors are expected to vote for the Category Two heritage building to be demolished for about $700,000 rather than spend the $6 million fixing it up.

The tower circa 1910s with a group of people standing on the balcony near the top. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library.

And a new $28 million Cambridge Library/Community Hub is another that might have to wait.

That leaves the $6.3 million for the Cambridge Town Hall and $33 million for Te Ara Wai – both reliant on external funding as well – still in the mix.

The Town Hall and Carnegie Library at Cambridge, pictured around 1910. Photo: Price Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.08

Of the two, the museum has attracted the most attention, with good reason. Costs have gone from the $7.2 million mooted in the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan to $33 million.

The News has been told Te Awamutu Museum’s collection of artefacts and archives of national importance along with the opportunity to tell the New Zealand Land Wars’ Waipā stories, need public visibility.

A source said the Waikato Regional Museum in Hamilton, one of the largest regional museums in New Zealand, has the space to accommodate some of those taonga in its 2550m2.

While there are no current plans to do that, Museum and Arts director Liz Cotton said she worked closely with other museum colleagues to share ideas and opportunities.

Uenuku, a Tainui taonga recovered from Ngā Roto in 1906 and jewel in Te Awamutu’s crown as one New Zealand’s oldest Māori carvings, is in storage and costing the council money in security. It  would attract a lot of interest if on display in Hamilton with other artefacts.

  • The future of community boards was another public excluded workshop item at yesterday’s meeting. The News sought further information on this item presented by consultant Steven Finlay.

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