Shovel-ready funding process slammed after all 5 bids fail

Gary Kircher. 

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says he makes no apologies for his strong stance against the Government’s shovel-ready project funding process.

In his mayoral report presented at yesterday’s council meeting, Mr Kircher told councillors he had not received official notification from the Government, but it was understood all five of the Waitaki District Council’s applications had been unsuccessful.

In April, the council submitted five applications for funding, with a combined value of about $60million.

Projects included greater Oamaru water network upgrades, Oamaru Harbour improvements, a Waitaki rural water capacity upgrade, Kakanui Bridge renewal and investment in Oamaru Airport’s infrastructure.

Mr Kircher said he was frustrated by the Government’s poor communication with the council.

“This is a serious indictment on the Government, which told us to prepare and send in shovel-ready projects with just a week and a-half’s notice, so they could make fast decisions and get projects under way to boost the economy,” he said.

“If I come across grumpy about this, I make no apology.

“The Government and its officials owed us a duty of care to ensure that taxpayer money was shared across New Zealand.

“Not only does it look like we have missed out completely on the shovel-ready fund, those hurried applications have had to wait until it is politically expedient for them.”

Ahuriri ward councillor Ross McRobie said the Government’s lack of response was “absolutely disgusting”.

“Every piece of legislation you see the words ‘duty of care’, almost highlighted through almost all the Acts … and then we don’t get the same duty of care given back to us on these projects, and that’s appalling.”

Oamaru ward councillor Kelli Milmine applauded Mr Kircher for taking a stand and said she fully supported his view.

Mr Kircher said the Provincial Growth Fund [PGF] had been a “pork barrel fund” for political parties and the shovel-ready project was heading in the same direction.

“Our Waitaki community will be right alongside every other community in New Zealand paying off the stimulus funding for many years to come, so to get such an unequal share of that funding disadvantages Waitaki for years.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s office referred queries to Crown Infrastructure Partners, which did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.