Reduce debt, increase growth, Brien says

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By Chris Tobin

Former Timaru councillor Anthony Brien is standing again in the local body elections later this year, citing reducing council debt, the need for economic growth and reviving a youth council among his main issues.

“Our population size and growth is not at a size conducive to the level of debt we have,” he said.

“We have slow single-digit growth and not enough to build a ratepayer base. Our population is very, very elderly with one in four over 65.”

A senior lecturer and researcher in business management at Lincoln University, Dr Brien (58) lives in Claremont and commutes to his job.

The only way forward economically for the district was to get outside and actively promote it to businesses to invest here, he said.

“Aoraki Development does some work helping businesses in the district. My view is that is a chamber of commerce job, not a ratepayer job.

“I fully support Aoraki Development going out of the district to attract business to the district.”

He said Oamaru had attracted a flying school to operate at its local airport which was something Timaru could easily have provided.

Also, with council debt levels running at $124million and expected to rise to $144million in 2028, he believed there was a need for economic belt-tightening.

“Where is the $500,000 for Alpine Energy Stadium coming from?”

The council is giving the South Canterbury Rugby Union a loan of $500,000 subject to confirmation the project will proceed.

“I don’t know the context of the loan but believe we’re not in a position to do that sort of thing. If the debt level was not so high I might have a different view.”

He also said the council should reconsider its proposal for a multi-million-dollar heritage precinct in Stafford St.

Dr Brien believed the way forward for the district was to “grow our way out of the challenges.”

He was elected to council in 2013, lost his Timaru ward seat in 2016, then polled third in a 2017 by-election.