Nod for $28m stadium

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Multi-use . . . Artist's impression of the west view of the proposed stadium, which will be built on Coldstream Road, Rangiora.

By DAVID HILL

The Waimakariri district is set to get its multi-use sports stadium.

Councillors voted by nine to two to proceed with the $27.85million stadium in Coldstream Road, Rangiora, to be completed in September 2020.

Its backing at a council meeting on Tuesday came amid concerns expressed by some councillors over affordability and debtlevels.

The vote followed an amendment to delay the project by two years, which lost by six votes to five.

Councillors supporting the amendment argued that the council’s proposed debt levels would be the highest in its history.

They argued that proceeding with the project now could put the council’s AA credit rating at risk, while delaying it could put the council in a better financial position.

They cited other priorities and their possible impact on rates, which include water and sewerage, flooding remediation works, earthquake regeneration and future uncertainty around nitrate levels in drinking water. They also raised the risks of sea level rises and climate change.

Chief executive Jim Palmer said the council’s credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, completed in March, had remained at AA, but its recommendation was changed from “stable” to “negative outlook” due to the council’s ambitious proposed capital works programme of $141m over the next two years, including the stadium.

“It means that we have a one-in-three chance that they will look at a downgrade next time they do their assessment, but they also said that if we deliver on our plan as it’s laid out it will return to a ‘stable outlook’.”

Mr Palmer said a downgrade to AA- would mean interest rates on the council’s loans would likely increase by 0.05 to 0.1 percent and, over a $200m loan programme, would add a cost of about $10,000 to $20,000 a year.

“I don’t want that outcome to occur, but we think it’s quite manageable under our operating budget of $90m a year.”

Mayor David Ayers said the only other council with an AA rating was the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“We don’t have a financial problem. We have an AA credit rating, which is better than the banks and better than any other council in the South Island.”

He said there was “never a right time” to undertake major projects and the council needed to be “bold”.

“There are things that could happen in the future, but that’s happened every year in my life
and we deal with it when it happens and that’s why we set our debt levels with cushioning
so we have breathing room in case of a major event.”

Cr Dan Gordon said districts of a similar size to Waimakariri had already invested in “these
sorts of facilities”.

Cr Kirstyn Barnett said young people in the district had missed out a lot since the earthquakes and her biggest concern was the stadium would be “too small”.

Cr Sandra Stewart warned of a pending Environment Canterbury report of suspected future nitrate levels in Mandeville and Fernside drinking water, which could become a financial burden on
the council.

The council deliberated on the Long Term Plan this week and is due to sign it off by June
30.