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Motueka must wait for desired improvements

March 24th, 2017
[by David Armstrong]

A new library for Motueka is "absolutely needed", Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said, but only as it fits into Council's district-wide planning.

This was his way of saying that although TDC recognises that Motueka's current library is inadequate, work on fixing it can wait until its allotted time several years further down the track.

Work on a new library "must be part of treating the whole district fairly", he told those attending the open forum as part of the Motueka Community Board's March meeting on Tuesday.

A similar message was given by Council's Engineering Services manager Richard Kirby about the other major issue which is angering the Motueka community - fixing the stormwater system to prevent or reduce the amount of flooding in heavy rain events.

Richard Kirby said that Motueka needed a properly planned stormwater system, but before they start fixing bits of it they needed to do more investigation and modelling to create a plan which will work well in the long term, particularly around the Poole Street drainage area.

"It is a priority for us, and we are working on a full model and strategy" for that whole catchment, he said. It's no good fixing the problem at Poole Street while there is still a problem downstream.

The Mayor and about eight Council staff attended the Community Board meeting and took up part of the agenda to explain the 2017/18 Annual Plan, as well is the process for developing the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan, which will begin in coming months.

It was a lively meeting with strong criticisms of Council's activities in the Motueka area from a handful of residents out of the approximately 12 who attended.

The Mayor explained that there was no community consultation around the 2017/18 Annual Plan because Council had already decided to stick with the money-saving strategy and plan developed over two years ago.

Also, as there are two consultation processes to be undergone this year around the Waimea Dam, TDC did not want to get into any further time-consuming consultations.

He said the top priority for Council has been and will continue to be maintaining but not expanding current services, and keeping new capital work to the barest minimum, while using savings to reduce debt and keep rates rises low.

The Council's debt level has reduced by around $35 million over the past two years, and these surpluses are being used totally for further debt reduction, and not for any unscheduled capital works such as a Motueka library.

After strong questioning about whether some of these gains could be used to make earlier improvements such as the library, Council CEO Lindsay McKenzie conceded that with the likelihood that debt levels by the end of this financial year will be even further below forecast, and operating costs even better, the relatively new council members could rethink the debt and rates strategy when drafting the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

However, this will be a decision for elected councillors based on the feedback they get from the constituents.

Three residents in particular was critical of the services TDC has been providing for Motueka. Paul Mosley, who is Secretary of Keep Motueka Beautiful, said TDC staff had picked up on the focus on saving money but not on maintaining or improving service.

"Motueka issues are being put to one side so as to save money," he said, pointing out how much work is done on Council's behalf in Motueka by volunteers

He said that these days he rarely hears local people having anything positive to say about Council. Lindsay McKenzie strongly repudiated this, saying that their own survey showed Motueka people overwhelmingly find TDC's services very good.

The Mayor and senior staff urged Motueka people to provide their thoughts on what councillors should include in the upcoming Long Term Plan process, either verbally or using the feedback form on Council's website.

Submissions of ideas for the draft LTP should be made by April 18, when elected councillors and staff begin work on the draft.

It is by such a process that residents can let Council know how strongly they feel about having the library and community hub project advanced in time from its present schedule in the early 2020s, for example. Councillor Peter Canton urged those attending to put their concerns into submissions.

Comment by Malcolm Garrett:
[Posted 25 March 2017]

Just make sure that the new library etc is firmly placed in the forefront of planning needs for our town!

Comment by Eileen Prowse:
[Posted 25 March 2017]

Well I didn't even know who 2 of our councillors were until last Tuesday and I can understand their hands are tired to the previous councillors input. BUT for how long??? They were voted in on their promises, one draw card was the new library. When are they going to be able to start pushing this? I'm planning on lobbying all 3 of them on a regular basis for updates.

Comment by Vicki Karetai:
[Posted 25 March 2017]

But a million dollar upgrade of main street was definately neeeded in Richmond!!!!!!! Just saying....

Comment by Philip Grimmett:
[Posted 2 April 2017]

Sounds to me that TDC are reducing spending in Motueka, and debt levels, before the looming costs associated with Waimea Community Dam are foisted on the ratepayers. I hope to be proven wrong.

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