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Councillor raises under water power cable idea for Stewart Island

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Stewart Island councillor Bruce Ford.

John Hawkins/Stuff

Stewart Island councillor Bruce Ford.

Putting an underwater power cable to Stewart Island has been raised as a way to possibly save money as the Southland District Council grapples with rising service costs.

Council chief executive Steve Ruru tabled a report Stewart Island/Rakiura Service Sustainability Study at meeting on Thursday.

Service costs for the island are higher than on the mainland and it is likely financial pressure on the council because of this will increase, the report says.

Southland District Council chief executive Steve Ruru.

John Hawkins/Stuff

Southland District Council chief executive Steve Ruru.

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A “high level” estimate shows there is a net rates contribution of $570,000, or about 20 per cent of the cost of delivering services, by the wider District community, to the delivery of services on the Island, Ruru’s report says.

It can be expected that this district contribution will increase in the future.

Included in Ruru’s report was another report done by consulting firm Morrison Low, that says the island becoming self sustaining “is an aspiration, rather than a reality.”

That report says the cost to provide services on the Island “are in the region of $2.8 million.”

Morrison Low figures break down the per annum costs of services to the island: $1.26 million for electricity (SEISA), $315,000 for solid waste, $300,000 for wastewater, $278,000 for roads and footpaths and $222,000 for governance.

Requests for unbudgeted expenditure for urgent maintenance on some of council’s jetties on Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ulva Island, and a review of the Stewart Island Electrical Supply Authority (SIESA) service are a few of the challenges the council faces.

Councillors then started talking about what options could be done to either save costs or generate money on the island.

Councillor John Douglas said it was time to look at running an underwater power cable to the island, again

In 2012, Stewart Island/Rakiura Ward councillor Bruce Ford said a cable could cost $10 million, plus $300,000 annual maintenance and in 2015 a cable estimated at $36 million was deemed too expensive.

Mayor Gary Tong said “you wont hear any argument from me,” in response to Douglas’ cable comment.

But central government was focused on wind power, Tong said.

Ford said he had been unsuccessful “for years” in finding out how the Chatham Island managed its electricity.

The Morrison Low report suggests the council should consider a new levy amount based on predicted tourist growth and “predicted future funding commitments.”

Ford said the island had greatly benefited from tourism after councillor George Harpur questioned what contribution tourists made.

Ford was running a few minutes late for Thursday’s meeting, and mayor Gary Tong quipped Ford must have been clearing customs.

The council accepted Ruru’s report and will progress the proposed actions arising from the Stewart Island/Rakiura Service Sustainability Review report.

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