North Otago Irrigation Company’s proposed loan of $17m from the Waitaki District Council will benefit ordinary Waitaki ratepayers, mayor Gary Kircher believes.
Mr Kircher said the loan which will be discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting, would benefit all ratepayers by boosting the economy, slowing rates increases and providing more employment opportunities in the region.
On August 6, the council agreed, in principle, to a NOIC request to roll over the existing loan of $12.7m to June 30, 2022, as well as an additional loan of $9.3m for a total of $22m. However, this has since been cut to $17m which is the recommendation that council will consider on Wednesday.
Mr Kircher said the reduction was made because council did not want to end up in a situation where they were lending out money they did not have.
“We don’t want to have a situation where we’re lending out money and having to borrow money at a higher rate.
“It’s about making sure we’ve got the money…giving ourselves a leeway.”
The mayor’s report in the council agenda to Wednesday’s meeting states a study undertaken by council on six rural properties showed the capital value of farms had increased threefold since the beginning of the scheme, meaning some farming properties’ rates increased by 196 per cent.
Meanwhile, a “good quality” Oamaru residence’s capital value had increased by 12 per cent over the same period with a 26 per cent rise in rates.
“The proposed Stage Two expansion of the NOIC irrigation scheme will bring ongoing sustainable growth to our district if it goes ahead,” Mr Kircher said.
Since the NOIC scheme started in 2006, he said it had slowed the increase of rates for the average person, because the farms that were benefiting from the scheme were paying a bigger share of the rates.
Mr Kircher said he welcomes the recent debate as “it’s good for the community to have the discussion” but he feels not everyone has the right facts about the issue.
On Thursday, former councillor Helen Stead applied for information under the Official Information Act into the council’s dealing with NOIC regarding the loan.
The mayor said following this request, council responded to Mrs Stead with as much information as they could but they would not be able to get all the information to her before Wednesday.
The OIA request would not delay the process, he said.
“We want to be as upfront and as open about this as possible.”
By RUBY HARFIELD