John Hayes speaking on day two of presentations to SWDC on its draft Annual Plan. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN
Tensions rose as former Wairarapa MP John Hayes took centre stage at South Wairarapa District Council’s annual plan submissions hearing on Thursday.
Hayes accused SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson [who he called ‘the town clerk’] of blindsiding councillors with the proposal to purchase land off the Greytown Trust Lands Trust to further the council’s sports hub proposal.
He also accused GTLT chairman Sid Kempton of acting illegally and said the trust had no right to sell the land at all.
Some applauded Hayes, but when he left immediately after speaking, a woman shouted at him that it was “outrageous” that he would just leave after accusing Kempton of illegalities and accusing Wilson of being secretive.
Hayes presented a petition signed by 330 people against the land purchase, but his main target was to convince councillors not to raise rates.
“Most councils are going for nil raises but not this council and this is undermining the government’s relief strategy,” Hayes said.
“The council needs to run a ruler over everything it considers critical because the recession is coming and rates increases are unaffordable.
“It is clear as hell that this house of cards is going to come down.”
The six board members of GTLT were present.
Kempton said if the council did buy the land, this decision would align with the Local Government Community Well-being Amendment Act 2019.
It allowed councils to become involved in management and maintenance of outdoor sports and recreation areas.
“We could develop this residentially-zoned land and create income and community dividends, but we don’t want to go there,” Kempton said.
“We have talked to real estate agents and had unsolicited calls and could get around $3 million for the land.
“But we are offering it to the council … [to give it] the ability to own all sports and recreation facilities in Greytown.”
Gary Hewson, of the Greytown Sports and Leisure Society, said that assisting with mental health and well-being was a role the council should be involved with.
“Post covid-19, what is needed when there are job losses and subsequent family stress is accessible sports and community well-being.
“The Greytown sports hub is not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ and will save lives and bring people together.
“When we look back on this spend now, as people do with the purchase of the Kuratawhiti St cricket grounds and soldier’s memorial, they will see it as money invested for the future and well spent.”
Other issues residents spoke to were the condition of rural roads and rates increases.
Dan Riddiford pointed out that he paid $47,000 in rates at Te Awaiti, “gets nothing for it”, yet his rates are set to go up.
He suggested the chief executive and staff take a pay cut and that no one at council should be paid more than $60,000 at a time of recession.
Over the two days of submission hearings, more than 50 people spoke and the public gallery grew to about the same.
There were heated moments and moments of relief.
Pressure is now on the council to navigate through the submissions and re-examine the draft annual plan.
Mayor Alex Beijen chaired the oral submissions.
The final Annual Plan 202/21 is due to be approved on June 30.