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Commissioners meet public head-On

By Rob Pooley

The first of three public meetings scheduled by Kaipara’s commissioners opened to a full house of over 200 at the Mangawhai Golf Club last Monday.

The purpose of the meeting was to “share their findings, explain the actions taken so far and discuss the planned next steps” for getting the Kaipara back on track. Basically the summary of the first six months of their three year tenure was to spell out clear policies while remaining efficient, transparent and readily accessible to ratepayers.

Many saw the meeting as an opportunity to lambast with proceedings peppered with interjections. However, just as many rose against the interjectors being more interested to hear what the commissioners had to say.

Attendees were reminded that the inequities were not of the commissioners’ making and they are working through the current situation with the longer-term view of putting in place measures to get Kaipara back into a viable trading situation while also dealing with it’s outsized debt.

It was emphasised this was not going to happen immediately but the target is to have stability restored to allow for a democratic local body election in October 2015.

While there appears to be some evidence that local governance has been deteriorating to some extent for up to twenty years the commissioners’ guidelines are dealing with historical issues dating from 2006 to the present.

The cost of the Mangawhai wastewater system is the biggest bone of contention leading to huge rates increases, and this brought considerable vocal input from the floor including a call for a vote of no confidence in the commissioners which was quickly stifled. 

Commissioner Peter Winder explained that, although the initial process in setting the rates  was flawed, had the correct process been followed the result would have been the same given the situation that ruled at the time. This did not find favour with many who continued calls of illegalities, non-payments, and possible court action.

Validation of the rates will shortly be introduced before a Parliamentary Select Committee for ratification and shortly after the Long Term Plan will be released to the public, inviting amendments.

In  sorting out the fiscal mire, commissioners feel they are making good progress yet are also well aware of the need to regain public trust and confidence. This will not be an easy task.

The Maungaturoto meeting later that day ran in similar vein but to a much smaller gallery, however opinions were still raised that current measures being taken were too little, too late.

Around 40 ratepayers attended the final meeting of the three at Dargaville on Tuesday. Again a vocal faction were concerned about the legality and size of the debt being laid at the door of ratepayers. Alternatively some voiced dissatisfaction in accepting the situation and paying their rates while others reneged and questioned what was being done about the dissenters. However, the majority were prepared to listen to the commissioners’ report  and offered their support though they would like to see regular public meetings with perhaps more financial detail to keep residents and ratepayers more fully appraised of the Kaipara situation. 

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