Council cuts proposed irrigation loan

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A proposed loan by the Waitaki District Council to the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) has been cut from $22 million to $17m and will be considered at the council’s meeting on Wednesday.

In July, NOIC asked council for a roll over of the existing loan of $12.7m to June 30, 2022, as well as an additional loan of $9.3m making a total of $22m. The initial loan repayment date was January 2016.

On August 6, council agreed in principle to the request and said it would make a final decision after a period of negotiation with the company and public consultation.

Yesterday, former Waitaki councillor Helen Stead questioned the extent of public consultation that had been done, and applied for information under the Official Information Act into council’s dealing with NOIC regarding the loan.

“There needs to be public consultation before there is any extension,” she said.

“I’m surprised and disappointed they (NOIC) have come back wanting to roll over the loan, to extend it for a longer time and request further ratepayers’ funds when there are other environmental fiscal issues that are a concern to the district.”

Included in the information Mrs Stead is seeking is the status of the loan, evidence of financial transactions/details and evidence of the monitoring and accountability process protecting ratepayer funds.

Mrs Stead said she had consistently asked for such information during her time as a councillor from 2004 to 2013, but without success.

The council would have four weeks to reply and if nothing was received by then, it would go to the Ombudsman, she said.

The staff report for Wednesday’s meeting said council would have to consider what action to take if the offer to NOIC was not taken up or accepted.

“The most potential reasons for this are that the subscriptions do not reach a level that existing shareholders would accept due to the increased risk they would have to accept or that NOIC can make more favourable funding arrangements,” the report stated.

“If the funding is not required it is appropriate for council to indicate that it wishes the arrangement to end on the current maturity date in January 2016 and that all outstanding amounts are to be paid in full on this date.”

By CHRIS TOBIN