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Board welcomes goal of more community engagement

July 11th, 2012
[by David Armstrong]

The request by Tasman District Council to work with the community board on a project to improve council's engagement with its communities was "welcomed with open arms" by community board members at its July meeting held yesterday.

The project proposal, reported on Sunday by Motueka Online, was presented to the board by TDC's communications advisor Chris Choat. It triggered a release of relief among some board members that this may lead to Motuekans having more say in some vital community projects in the pipeline.

This project was one of several important and interesting matters discussed at the meeting. The five attending (Cr Jack Inglis and Cliff Satherley were absent with apologies accepted) worked together collegially to thrash out issues and agree on outcomes, suggesting a more fruitful second half of the year for the team.

Chris Choat said that board members being a part of the council's engagement project would mean extra work for them as it will involve regular meetings and reporting. The plan is to complete the project by the end of the year, when "a set of policies, processes and expectations" for council to engage communities will be produced.

Chris told Motueka Online that although it is hard to nail down specifics of what this will mean, "it's more about developing a culture [of engagement] than just setting up processes". The community board would need to help formulate expectations on both sides, and to help manage the expectations of the community of what TDC can do.

Several board members told Chris of the problems they had been having with getting council staff to listen early enough to the wishes of the community, rather than making the major decisions and then consulting on detail. These included current issues with the aerodrome management and the library replacement.

David Ogilvie quoted problems with getting council to listen to any Motuekan input to the library project, including whether it should be a rebuild or extension, on the existing site or in Decks Reserve or other site, and whether $1.1 million budgeted will be anywhere near enough.

The board also expressed concern that other existing projects may proceed too far before the community engagement project is finalised.

Aerodrome management and governance: In the public forum the community board was urged to make a submission to the aerodrome management and development plans and to press council to allow people to speak to their submissions.

The board later agreed to formally ask council's chief executive to allow submitters to the plan to speak at a public hearing, agreeing that the current approach of council telling Motuekans what the plans will be and asking for submissions afterward was like "putting the cart before the horse".

Liquor control: Another policy up for community consultation is the Council's Bylaw Control of Liquor in Public Places. A draft proposal is to extend the liquor prohibition areas and to impose 24-hour prohibition.

Police need to be included in deliberations by the board, and the community consulted. Several board members were concerned that if this went too far the pleasure of families wanting a quiet drink at the beach or a park, or patrons at pavement tables outside cafes would be penalised.

High Street Power lines: Network Tasman has informed the community board that the undergrounding of power lines along the southern end of High Street from the roundabout is still being pursued and once some issues are sorted out with council the work should proceed within a year. Discretionary funds: Two grants of discretionary funds were approved at the meeting. The Motueka 50 Plus Walking Group, represented by Tony Pearson, now has over 200 members and often about 60 taking part in walks, which are often now split into two groups for a choice of walks. It needs a second Personal Locator Beacon for safety for both groups.

The group was praised by community board members as a well organised and efficiently run organisation and its work toward the health of our community warranted assistance, so $500 was granted to pay most of the beacon.

The Motueka and Districts Historical Association asked for $500 to help in the production of a booklet for locals and tourists to supplement the historic plaques to be installed in the Decks Reserve path, explaining the central historic events and facts of the town.

Eileen Stewart spoke about the voluntary work of the association over the past several years to prepare material for the plaques, and one member has written a book to expand on the information on the plaques and provide an overview for those wanting to delve deeper into our history.

The proposed book will include 132 text pages of A5 size and cost a total of around $2500 for 200 copies. Cr Eileen Wilkins commended the group on the huge amount of work they have done on this project over the past seven years, and the board approved a $500 grant toward the project costs.


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