Profit plan ‘not in the DNA’


Mike Montgomerie

A councillor has broken ranks over proposals to charge ratepayers a raft of new fees to raise money.

Mike Montgomerie was vocal in his opposition after workshop talks about cutting community grants, increasing fees and charges by 10 per cent, introducing a bed tax on Airbnb operators, levying cycleways and public toilets and finding alternative revenue schemes.

Councillors have even looked at a proposal to charge people to spend a penny.

The talks were revealed in a live-streamed committee meeting last week.

Montgomerie told colleagues the proposals were doomed to fail.

“I would be super unkeen for this council to get into business to generate revenue. Business is hard, capital intensive, highly risky, it’s not in the DNA of this place at all to turn a profit,” he said.

Andrew Brown

“This council is in the business of being a council and so any time you take away staff time and management head space to pursue any sort of alternative revenue scheme, be really careful what you’re wishing for.

“I want this to be a really efficient lean organisation that rates and provides services.”

The ideas are all part of balancing a challenging budget in the face of a cost of living crisis and rising interest rates to ensure.

Much of the work has been permeating behind closed doors.The council was not set up to generate profit, he said.

“As a ratepayer underwriting it, I would be really unhappy if I knew my rates were being used to fund capital ventures that are essentially competing with private business,” said Montogomerie.

Clare St Pierre

There needed to be a clear delineation …. “but if you are talking about going into business, an absolute hard no from me.”

It was “doomed to fail,” said Montgomerie who likened it to sausage sizzle fundraisers where people gave up their time at the expense of their businesses when they would have been better off just donating money.

Finance chair Andrew Brown agreed with Montgomerie, saying council-owned infrastructure companies around the country had gone broke at the expense of ratepayers.

“We’re a council and let’s be a council and be as efficient as we can.”

It was Cr Clare St Pierre who raised the alternative income stream suggestion at the start of the workshop, referring to comments she had made in the workshop hidden from public view the week before.

Roger Gordon

“At a previous workshop I raised that, and I thought that I got agreement that we would look at new revenue streams like a visitor levy for cycleways or public toilets or recreational, things that are used by visitors,” St Pierre said.

She also said she was nervous about reducing community grants distributed by community boards.

Cr Roger Gordon revealed he had raised, at the workshop, a suggestion that staff levels be reviewed.

He said the expectation of the community was that council will have reflected the downturn and have done some reassessment of staff levels and vacancies.

See: Decision stands.


About Author

Mary Anne Gill

Putāruru-born Mary Anne Gill is one of Waikato’s most experienced communications and public relations practitioners. She has won several national writing gongs including three times at the Qantas and twice at the Voyager media awards.