HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz
Correct te reo Maori pronunciation, road speeds, and a councillor’s resignation were among topics raised at a public meeting in Featherston on Tuesday.
It was the first of three meetings held by South Wairarapa District Council to discuss the Long Term Plan for 2018-2028.
Greytown’s meeting was Wednesday night, and Martinborough’s was Thursday night at 7pm at the council chambers.
Featherston residents used the meeting at Anzac Hall as an opportunity to be heard on a range of matters.
Two hours in, Mayor Viv Napier attempted to draw the meeting to a close, but was rebuked by former mayoral candidate Liz Mellish, who said it was council’s job to stay and answer all residents’ questions.
She said there needed to be a “culture change” within the council.
That included elected members putting more effort into pronouncing te reo Maori words correctly.
SWDC meetings were held during the day, which excluded the many commuters from attending, and a Maori ward for the district should be introduced.
She said SWDC weren’t pushing hard enough for improvements to the Featherston side of the Remutaka Hill road, the gateway to Wairarapa.
One man complained that rural ratepayers were getting less value for money than people living in the urban areas.
Another ratepayer said SWDC needed to improve its efficiency when issuing consents and licences.
Commercial property owner John Broeren said the council made it notoriously hard for new businesses setting up.
He also said information centres in the district should be strategically placed to catch tourists.
Dayle Harwood’s resignation from SWDC was brought up twice, first by Mrs Napier who paid him tribute, and second by an unhappy resident.
“One of our best councillors has resigned due to total frustration . . . he didn’t do it lightly.
“It’s not a good sign, and I think it’s a terrible reflection on council.”
But the actual subject matter of the public meeting was the LTP.
Some fun facts about the district were provided by SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp.
South Wairarapa has 137 bridges, 931 street lights, 49km of footpaths, 668km of roads, and 6606 rateable properties.
SWDC manages $400m worth of assets, and its population of 10,400 is expected to grow by 1000 over the next decade.
Featherston Ratepayers and Residents Association deputy chairwoman Sue Fox noted that Featherston’s population had grown significantly in the past year and she questioned the estimated figure.
Mr Crimp told residents that spatial planning, district-wide promotion, and support for youth had been identified as areas of focus for the LTP.
The region’s debt was expected to increase to $20.5m during the 10-year term, and reduce to $17.5m in year 10.
He said the New Zealand Transport Agency had indicated that electronic road speed signs would be installed on the highway entrances to all three towns.
Reducing the road speed from 70kmh to 50kmh at the Featherston entrances was potentially on the cards too.
Mr Crimp was “pretty confident” the gravel road from Ngawi to Cape Palliser Lighthouse would be sealed and fully funded by the government.
There was a chance that the council chambers would be moved to the Waihinga Centre when the project was completed.
Mrs Napier said an assessment of the Waihenga Bridge on SH53 had revealed it still had an expected lifespan of about 40 years.
Submissions to the LTP close on April 23 at 4pm.
Hearings will be held on May 14 and 15.
The council will adopt the LTP on June 27.