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Published: 2002-03-20 00:00:00

Claims today that Environment Waikato might bail out the financially troubled Waikato Stadium were seriously misleading, according to Regional Council Chairman Neil Clarke.

He said he was greatly concerned about today’s lead story in the Waikato Times, which said regional ratepayers would be surveyed before July to find out if they wanted the Council to financially rescue the stadium.

“That is not the case. It has given ratepayers an expectation that the Regional Council has had a major change in attitude, and is counterproductive to the focus of the various bodies in solving the problem.

“They could take the view that the Regional Council is coming in on a white charger to rescue the situation and they don’t have to worry about it any more. That is not the case.”

Mr Clarke said his Council would not be surveying ratepayers before July. The Government was reviewing the Local Government Act and was hoping to have completed the review and passed changes into law by July – but this would depend on the support it had from its coalition partners.
“At present the Regional Council is very restricted in how it may rate, unlike the territorial authorities. We do not have the ability to use a uniform rate across all ratepayers and are restricted to rating on capital value. That means the brunt of the rate would fall on commercial ratepayers and farmers who have the highest capital values.”

He said the Council’s $80 million investment fund was also off limits, as the Council was only able to use it for core business by law. It was using the revenue to offset the general rate, and had twice surveyed ratepayers who had confirmed this as the best use.

It was not true that Wellington and Auckland Regional Councils had made substantial grants towards their stadiums. Wellington was also not permitted to access its investment fund, and had raised a loan which was being paid off on a sliding basis by its ratepayers.

People also needed to realise that Councillors did not have the stadium issue on their current order papers, he said.