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Community Board forum draws record crowd

April 8th, 2016
[by David Armstrong]

The presence of the Mayor and Council CEO brought a record crowd of 20 to the Motueka Community Board open forum held last night.

The lively and at times noisy meeting covered issues including recent flooding problems, future sea level rises, the deferral of a new Motueka library, and the general issue of Council rates and debt levels.

With no formal structure in place and the Mayor expecting to have one-on-one conversations with individuals, board chairman Paul Hawkes was able to guide the debates and minimise the amount of competing conversations.

First up were some questions about problems faced by many residents during the flood event two weeks ago. Questions had been asked about whether the flood control gates at Old Wharf Road had been operating correctly or at all, and whether Council engineering staff are doing an adequate job for Motueka.

Council CEO Lindsay McKenzie said that the correct floodgate procedures were followed. The floodgates can only be opened when the outside tidal water level is close to the inside flood water level, otherwise the mechanism will be damaged by a large rush of water as the gates are opened. Therefore the engineers had to wait until the right time before opening the gates.

This led to a lot of comment about the problems that Motueka has as one of a small number of New Zealand towns which are both flat and not far above sea level. Several challenged the Council about possible irresponsibility in allowing further subdivisions to be built on low land.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne pointed out that all new subdivisions now had to be built up to a safe level before building could be consented. He expressed confidence that Council modelling was giving good information, allowing a good level of confidence for many years into the future.

Trewavas Street resident Bob Cooke pointed out the recent problem of rubbish including timber and apples which had landed on the Trewavas Street foreshore following the flood of the Motueka and Riwaka rivers.

He asked council permission for the residents to gather them into piles and burn them. Mayor Kempthorne said it was okay to just go ahead and do it.

Bob, who is also one of the volunteers that maintain the saltwater baths, said that the gate used to fill and empty the pool would not be compliant under new Health and Safety legislation because it requires manual operation and is dangerous.

With the possibility of the baths having to be closed, he said he had designed a system involving an automatically operated hydraulic gate that would be compliant. Paul Hawkes suggested that the community board could help with the funding of this.

Much of the remaining conversation was about the concerns that Council is still not considering bringing forward the construction of a new library earlier than 2020.

The suggestion was repeated that a small part - $100,000 to $150,000 - of the unexpected $12 million reduction in debt level be used during the coming financial year to begin the process of the required community consultation, feasibility study and concept design of the library and community hub.

Some debate followed with some people asserting that a modern library is a necessary part of a modern town, while others including Cr Jack Inglis saying that libraries are no longer important because we can all use iPads to read.

Paul Hawkes indicated that the community board is doing further work to look at the suggestion about money for the feasibility study and consultation. He said that getting the early work under way soon will enable planning to start on community funding from other (non-Council) sources; otherwise the community is working in a vacuum.

The Council CEO urged those attending to support Council's policy to use every single dollar of unexpected surpluses to pay down debt, rather than going into any new community development projects, large or small.


Comment by Gail Jewell:
[Posted 9 April 2016]

Disappointing to hear Jack inglis stating that libraries are out of date because of iPads for reading. He needs to take a trip to Christchurch in particular the New Brighton or Sydenham libraries. They are a real community hub. It is not just about reading, take the trip Jack!!!

Comment by Ann Mac:
[Posted 9 April 2016]

If libraries and books are dying why then is our library overcrowded and sale of books holding their own . . . on this issue Jack, a disappointment.

Our library benefits the greater population and will expand and accommodate changing interests as communities change. There will never be a cheaper time than now to start the ball rolling, c'mon Tasman Council out lying areas need funding too.

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