Most councillors want extra funding

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THE idea Invercargill’s youth were ashamed to live in the city is of great concern to an Invercargill city councillor.

On Tuesday, at an Invercargill City Council (ICC) meeting to deliberate on whether ICC should invest further in the City Block project, Cr Nigel Skelt said it had the responsibility to change the sentiment.

The meeting was held after public consultation sought community input on whether ICC should invest an extra $16 million in the project, resulting in a total investment of $46 million or two other options.

ICC had already funded $25 million of the project $5 million contingency plan.

During the consultation period, 462 submissions were received. Sixty percent of them preferred ICC spend the $46 million.

Almost all councillors indicated they would vote in favour of the funding.

Cr Skelt’s comments followed a submission from the youth council supporting the investment, which conveyed young people’s embarrassment about the city.

“Each and every one of us has a responsibility to turn this around for our youth… they are our future.

“We have this opportunity in front of us.”

He gave a nod to the ILT Stadium Southland which had “blown” the budget from $21 million to $43 million with earthquake-strengthening work, but was now a “facility of which everyone is proud”.

“This [the City Block] is [the] next opportunity,” he said.

Cr Darren Ludlow said the model under which the council needed to invest more money, was not ideal but the extra investment had “strong support” from the community.

Cr Toni Biddle agreed.

Before the deliberation began, ICC heard from property manager Gaire Thompson in relation to his submission. His submission was not heard on the allocated hearing day due to a technological error.

He said as an Invercargill ratepayer he had “huge concerns”, including the funding gap and the feasibility to secure tenants, as he had been dealing with retail owners across the country and all of them were seeking a “financial handout”.

“I don’t want to see a disaster,” he said.

Nine councillors and Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said they would vote for the investment to go ahead. Crs Allan Arnold and Nobby Clark did not indicate how they would vote. Cr Peter Kett was absent from the meeting.

The decision was expected to be made at the next council meeting on June 29.

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