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Port Sale A Dumb Decision
05 Oct 2018
Chris Leitch

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's preferred option of selling off nearly half the shares in the port is a dumb decision, the equivalent of the best restaurant in town selling off its kitchen so it can extend the dining room.

In an address to a meeting in Napier, party leader Chris Leitch said the loss of half its income from the port would make rates rises a certainty.

In a few years the Council will be facing the same issue again, leading to either a further sale of shares or sky high rates rises in the future.

Those advising the Council were acting in the best interests of potential purchasers of the shares not the Council nor Hawke's Bay ratepayers.

The Council should be joining with other councils to petition the government to make funds available through the country's central bank as recommended in a 2012 report from the International Monetary Fund.

Reserve Bank funding could be provided at a nominal interest charge, with repayments matched by the income an expanded port would provide.

The legislation is already in place in the Finance Act that allows the Minister of Finance to set up a funding arrangement from the bank.

The government has already signed off on interest free loans of $158 million for Tauranga, $339 million for Auckland, and $181 million for Hamilton, the money coming from taxes or borrowing.

If the money was sourced from the Reserve Bank the result would be a "fit for purpose" port that would assist with the expansion of economic activity in the region at no cost to ratepayers or taxpayers.

Ratepayers should demand a referendum, not rely on a "mock" consultation process where the council will ignore submissions in favour of advice from its overpaid consultants.

Councillors who vote in favour of such a dumb decision as selling off port shares should be put on notice that they will not retain their seats at next year's local body elections.

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