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Mayor's column: Putting reality before popularity

The Central App

Mayor Tim Cadogan - Opinion

08 June 2024, 5:30 PM

Mayor's column: Putting reality before popularityCentral Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan. PHOTO: File

I’ve never liked being called a politician and I genuinely believe the role of mayor is not a political one, well not at least in places like ours where we are blessed that the big parties don’t get actively involved in local body elections. 


But, I also have to realise that what I think is irrelevant. Wikipedia defines a politician as “A person who has political power in the government of a state, a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected office in government” and the last part does define the role of a mayor.


 

Tidy definitions aside, I’ve tried not to act like a politician in my role, which is what probably got me in a spot of hot water with some folk this week.

 

Three submitters to our council Annual Plan submissions expressed their displeasure at my having suggested to an elderly person at a drop-in session that they could, as a last-gasp measure, use a reverse mortgage to pay their rates. 



I was accused by one of the speakers of being out of touch with reality. But, here is the reality of what I was faced with more than once during the drop-in sessions; an elderly person telling me that the proposed rates increases on top of all the other bills that have skyrocketed in recent times would mean they couldn’t afford food or heating. 


In that reality, I could have acted like a politician and given some platitudes or said I would see what could be done. That might have made the person feel better for a wee bit, and it would have kept me off the front page of the paper on Friday morning. 


But, I would have been misleading them, because other than kicking the cost of council services in Central Otago down the road a year or two, or on to a future generation, there is nothing I can do about the increase that is coming. 



But, as I say, I try not to act like a politician and didn’t mislead them but instead tried to find a practical solution. Certainly an unpalatable solution, but a solution nonetheless.

 

There is no easy way out for council from the perfect storm of cost increases and higher regulatory requirements that have put us and every other council in the country in the situation we are in, and misleading about that reality much and all as it would be the easy thing to do is not something I am willing to do. 


And, hiding from the reality we all face is not something councillors were willing to do on Wednesday when we continued on the path that will lead us to an average rates rise of over 18%. 


The only options that were open to us to make any significant change to that increase was to defer the pain on to tomorrow by running some of the operations of council next year through debt or not paying our way and letting future generations do that for us through cutting depreciation funding. 


It’s not going to be a popular thing for some people to hear but I am proud of my councillors that not one shirked from the reality of what we are all facing, not one put popularity before reality.

 

Despite what Wikipedia says; I don’t think we have a single politician around our council table, and I for one am very grateful for that.