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Consultation on checklist

Clear consultation questions are a top priority for Masterton District Council when it comes to the future of the civic facility project.

At Wednesday’s full council meeting, elected members voted unanimously to consult with the community as part of the annual plan process to inform a revised scope for the project.

Further consultation will then be done as part of the Long-Term Plan [LTP] process.

Deputy Mayor Bex Johnson said she feels the council “lost its way” when it started calling the project concept a “civic facility” and asked that the phrase “town hall” be used in the consultation document for the sake of clarity.

“When we first started this process … people wanted a venue,” she said.

“Public consultation said ‘we want a place to hold stuff’, which to my mind is a town hall, whether it’s got theatre seats or flexi-floor spaces.

“It became bigger than Ben-Hur when we started calling it a ‘civic facility’ and the perception from the community is that it should be in Vegas, not Masterton.

“It’s ballooned out in cost and scope and I think, somewhere in the consultation, we need to talk about a town hall,” Johnson said.

“To my mind, we have the opportunity to rebuild the town hall, we’ve got the opportunity to renovate and extend the library – affordable options for our community – and our community will get the facilities and council-owned assets it deserves.”

Councillor Brent Goodwin agreed with Johnson and said the wording in the consultation questions needs to be clear.

“Looking at the last disastrous consultation – which was bloody appalling – I personally would like for us to get a chance to see this narrative before it goes out to the public.”

Council staff said elected members will need to approve the document before it goes out to the public.

Mayor Gary Caffell said he is pleased the council is making progress on the project.

“It has been disappointing to all of us who have been here for a while that this has lingered on.

“From comments I have had from the community, there’s a real feeling out there that they want to be consulted and they want very clear questions.”

The civic facility scope that was budgeted for in the 2021-31 LTP cannot be delivered for the budgeted amount.

Significant or material changes to the scope of the project, or to the budgeted amount, must be given effect through the 2024-34 LTP.

This will be consulted on in March/April 2024.

This year, the council will gauge community support and refine options to enable a final decision on the civic facility to be made as part of the 2024-34 LTP. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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