The Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc (MRRA) is no more. At a special general meeting held on August 30, a vote was cast to disband the organisation which has overseen the interests of locals for over 50 years.
Despite an attempt to keep MRRA alive at the meeting by seven willing individuals, they were unable to gain the required nine to retain a committee, and were outnumbered by a majority including the retiring executive committee to close the association.
Former MRRA chair and member for five years, Martina Tschirky had just returned to the association and was one of the seven who was willing to continue.
“Basically the old committee wanted out and there just wasn’t enough new members to keep it going,” she says. “I rejoined because I thought there was going to be a new group, and just feel deep regret because I don’t think it will be resurrected… but on the other hand I’m aware the MRRA has been damaged by past events.” Local member and secretary for the Federation of Ratepayer Associations of New Zealand Inc, Alan Preston, who was also part of the seven, says he’s ‘quite shocked’ by what he perceives ‘as people’s reluctance to get involved with their community’.
“We had a discussion about what would need to be done to start a new association. We just needed two more people to keep the MRRA going… however there was not enough support from the community.” Ratepayers’ associations are an important part of local government Preston says, as they provide a legally protected entity through which communities can demand accountability from councils.
“They are essential for communities like ours which are increasingly subject to relentless pressures from developers and other opportunists, being facilitated by councils and their staff,” he says. “It is said that in politics communities get what they deserve, no matter whether they think they deserve better, democracy requires that we, the people, take an active part in deciding what we get. Through our non-participation, this is the outcome we have achieved today.”
Since 1968, Mangawhai residents have been represented by the MRRA who have worked on a long list of community issues, including the well-publicised council overspending on the Mangawhai wastewater scheme and ensuing legal battle over rates.
Like others in the committee who had given many years of their time, after nine years as MRRA member and secretary, Barbara Pengelly says she was ready to step down from the role and was hoping ‘new blood’ would be pick up the reins.
“It is unfortunate but we felt it was time to hand on to some younger more vigorous people,” she says. “It’s time for a new focus, as there has been a lot of attention on litigation in the past, and new blood will be able to focus more on key community and environmental issues.”
Despite the members votes cast heavily in favour of closing MRRA, a proviso was decided at the meeting which stipulates a new community group could continue the work as long as the name was changed.
“They could even borrow our constitution… so it’s still open and I really do hope some people do pick it up as there are plenty of issues in Mangawhai.”
Remaining funds from the current MRRA will also be gifted to Mangawhai St John with the stipulation the money is spent locally Pengelly says.
“Every community needs a watchdog… there is the council on one hand and a community group on the other, pointing out things, it’s the way democracy works, there is such a need for this… and at the moment there is a vacancy,” she says. “We do believe there is a job to be done here and we would love it if someone would do it… we wish them well.”
“Basically the old committee wanted out and there just wasn’t enough new members to keep it going.”