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The big decisions looming for Ashburton

The big decisions looming for Ashburton

There are no plans for crystal ball gazing on Ashburton’s second bridge and whether the Balmoral Hall will be retained, but it's likely there's no $3.1m to spend on a swimming pool. The Ashburton District Council is using a three-day workshop to discuss feedback on the major topics in its long-term plan before making final decisions on Thursday.

The discussion covered four big topics on Monday:

Ashburton's second bridge

The fate of Ashburton’s second urban bridge won’t be known until the Government releases its National Land Transport Plan in September, so the big questions were: how will it be funded, and what will it cost the council?

The council is signalling its contribution for the estimated $130m project will stay at $7.5m.

Council chief executive Hamish Riach said there is a risk that possibly “won’t be enough in the eyes of the Government”.

Councillor Russell Ellis suggested upping the contribution to $10m “to show our intent” but Mayor Neil Brown said changing the amount would be “plucking at straws”.

Whatever the amount ends up being, funding it through rates may be unaffordable, Brown said.

Councillor Tony Todd wanted to “play hardball” with the $7.5m figure as Prime Minister Chris Luxon would have known that was the council’s contribution when National made the election promise to build the bridge in its first term.

Questions continued to be asked about the location by submitters.

The Chalmers Ave location has been set for a long time and “the only thing we have got left to do is sort out the funding”, Brown said.

Reviewing or changing the location would “set the project back numerous years”.

$3.1m pool options

Feedback was divided on where to spend $3.1m, and the council is leaning towards doing none of the four options for now.

There was a feeling that the $3.1m price tag for any pool options was too high and the community can’t afford it right now.

Councillor Rob Mackle said he supported the Tinwald Pool refurbishment and couldn’t believe councillors were “niggling over $3m for a pool in Tinwald” when they had no problems signing off the over $56m Te Whare Whakatere.

Mackle also suggested the $3.1m figure “was overinflated, purely I believe so it blows it out of the water and doesn’t look like a goer”.

This was a suggestion Riach quickly shut down.

“We have not produced a number to get a result,” Riach said.

Councillor Leen Braam wanted the Tinwald Pool to be repaired because it offered a different experience, citing that while there was no clear favourite, there was 60% support for an outdoor pool.

Stockwater exit

The council reached a consensus in support of exiting stockwater services.

There will likely be a debate on whether that be undertaken in three years and what the budget implications of managing the transition will be.

Ellis was one of those to support the exit, but held concerns for the small pockets of landowners “being left high and dry”.

He didn’t want to see the situation become untenable and force farmers to walk off the land.

Councillor Richard Wilson said that there were options with the existing private water providers to provide coverage for most of the district already.

A focus of the transition will be which waterways are retained by the council for their biodiversity value.

Balmoral Hall

Balmoral Hall is heading towards a reprieve, while the adjacent land would be retained for a potential car parking.

The preferred option had been to sell the two sites but the councillor was now leaning towards keeping the hall and land.

Submitters wanting to retain the hall suggested the $1.3m figure quoted for the refurbishment was too high.

The explanation was provided that repair works, principally the concrete tile roof replacement, would likely trigger building consent being required and a flow-on impact of the upgrades needing to reach relevant building standards.

Councillor Phill Hooper was hesitant to support the retention as 57% of submitters had supported selling the hall and land, while Todd couldn’t justify the $1.3m spent on the hall.

By Jonathan Leask