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Kaipara Commissioner - John Robertson - Your Questions Answered: We need to heal divisions

john robertson(copy)Mangawhai has certain magic about it.

I spent Saturday a week ago visiting. The market was a-buzz, Bennetts was enjoying good patronage, the information centre was directing first time visitors to area attractions, and people were seeking out property.

I attended the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society AGM. The critical role of this Society cannot be overestimated. The committee who govern and the volunteers who contribute to this organisation are true "guardians" of our harbour and its surrounds. While the volunteers contribute their time at no charge, property owners within the harbour restoration area contribute $82 per year towards this work, via a rate collected by Council and paid over to the Society.

Of course, as Mangawhai grows, so too must its public amenities. Mangawhai Park needs an overall agreed plan for development. Community dialogue is underway to produce such a plan. This park, sitting beside the golf club, has the potential to become part of a multipurpose precinct of significant recreational, educational and cultural attraction for Mangawhai.

Local government enables the development of public amenities. Communities develop best when their aspirations are captured by local government. As the Kaipara District Council returns to being a high performing unit of local government, its contribution to community development will increase.

Local government invests in public amenities. At times it will also play a facilitative role – to help communities determine the best use of a park, or to find a way forward through difficult issues.

Like any community where growth is occurring, Mangawhai is a place of many opinions. The history and controversy surrounding the wastewater scheme has hardened some opinions, and as one lady said to me during my visit, she felt distressed by the divisions in the community that had emerged from this. She did not know who to believe anymore.

Commissioners regret the divisions. We are doing what we can to heal them, by working closely with the community. Council needs to earn respect in the community, and as leaders of the Council, we take this responsibility extremely seriously.

We have tried in vain to work with the individuals who front the “don’t pay your rates” campaign, sadly to no avail. They demand things we cannot deliver. They expect the Government to pay Council’s debt. They think the banks will forgive the Council’s debt. Neither is realistic.
They are taking Council to court seeking the return of all rates paid in Kaipara since 2006. Obviously Council is defending this, on behalf of all ratepayers who value and use Council services, roads and other amenities as part of everyday life – from Mangawhai to Pouto.

President Clinton once said that, every peace has its enemies. I look forward to the day in Mangawhai when we prove him wrong, and a community divided over rates and a wastewater plant becomes one united over community aspirations.

Some corrections
In the last issue of the Mangawhai Focus, a letter from Mr Graham Mackenzie contained errors in terms of Council’s finances. I need to correct these errors.

He said Council debt owed to banks is $88 million. That is incorrect. Total Council debt owed to Banks is $80 million.

He said Council interest paid to banks in the 2012 year was $640,000. That is incorrect. Total interest paid to banks in 2012 was $3.8 million.
It is important that Council’s accounts are represented correctly to the public. There are other statements in Mr Mackenzie’s letter that are incorrect, which I will advise him of directly. If you seek clarification on the accounts of the Council, Commissioners are happy to assist.

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