Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown needs evidence of any economic benefit to the district from Christchurch’s Te Kaha multi-use arena before asking his ratepayers to contribute.
New Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger said in his first week on the job that he will be asking other Canterbury councils to help pay for a new multi-use area in the city.
Brown said Mauger was welcome to come and ask the question.
He may not like the answer.
“We would need to see a good business case down here in Ashburton, and regionally, as to why we would contribute,” Brown said.
“I can’t see an economic benefit, but if the Mayor of Christ-church can demonstrate an economic benefit then perhaps we could contribute.”
Brown has reservations as to what benefit, if any, the Ashburton District will get out of Te Kaha, other than having more events to attend in the city.
“There will be Ashburton residents who will attend events at the arena and they will pay through the ticket costs.”
If the funding question is finally posed, Brown said any answer from the Ashburton and other councils would have to go out for public consultation in next year’s long-term plan process.
The idea of a regional contribution has been looming large for a while, and Brown is aware of how the community feel about it.
“We have our own projects to fund. We need to look after our infrastructure first.
“We have the must-haves – roads, the second bridge, library and civic centre, and those sorts of things before we start spending on the nice-to-haves.”
Mauger was a city councillor last term, and was one that had voted to push ahead with Te Kaha despite a $150m cost blowout.
Now in the mayoral chair, Mauger is looking to other councils to fill the $150m void in the total project cost of $683 million and due to a suggested regional benefit, the region should pay via an Environment Canterbury-administered levy.
An ECan levy for a regionally beneficial project could open Pandora’s box, as Brown said his council has its $113m second bridge project that has a funding gap that would fit the same criteria.
In that case, Brown said the regional funding could be reciprocal.
“Our second bridge is a resilience project that we know is regionally important to the South Island, which is why we are going to the Government for funding.”
- By Jonathan Leask