Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Palmerston North City Council's squandermania

Every day for the past few weeks, I have looked down from my office window at a scene of frenetic activity in The Square, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Diggers, rollers and trucks seem to be on the go all the time, as the roadway below is redesigned.

The overall aim of the exercise seems to be to slow the traffic down - to make driving through the city center such a tortuous experience that motorists will take alternative routes to wherever they are going.

That, in itself, is probably not a bad thing. The problem is that, for several years, the city council has spent enormous amounts of money on its "revamp" of The Square, and now finds itself $156 million in debt.

And now we, the ratepayers, who would have preferred our money to be spent with a little more restraint, are being told that we face "a tough choice" between either "a significant rates rise or a cut in services".

But don't rates already rise significantly every year? Hasn't the council noticed that they already outpace inflation? How long does it think it can ask people who are struggling on static wages to pay more and more for its grandiose projects?

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