4 Jul 2011

Report identifies councils' money woes

9:38 pm on 4 July 2011

An independent report has found nearly one third of the country's local body councils have serious money trouble.

The report by independent finance and policy consultant Larry Mitchell says 21 of the country's 73 councils are financially unsustainable.

Larry Mitchell measured financial sustainability across 10 categories, including a council's surplus and deficit, as well as outside factors such as property values.

According to the report, Wanganui District Council's finances score the lowest marks, followed by Kawerau District and Palmerston North.

The President of Local Government New Zealand, Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, is casting doubt on the report.

He says while some councils face huge liabilities for infrastructure spending and leaky homes costs, he believes none are financially unsustainable.

Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell contests the findings, saying the district council has $50 million worth of infrastructure assets, $7 million in the bank and no debt.

Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor admits it has about $100 million in debt but is making a concerted effort to pay back the interest and principal.

The Whanganui District Council, which Mr Mitchell ranked last, says it is confident its financial direction is sound and this is backed by previous audits.