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Council spending splurge slammed

Greytown community leader Warren Woodgyer is slating spending decisions by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] that are worth millions of dollars.

Recently elected SWDC mayor Martin Connelly has largely agreed with Woodgyer, calling one decision “unwise”.

Noting that Woodgyer’s comments resonated with him, Connelly acknowledged that “some of the decisions previously made should have been given a lot more scrutiny than they were”.

SWDC last week voted to increase rates by 19.8 per cent, one of the largest in New Zealand this year. Rates in the district have gone up more than 50 per cent in the past three years.

Woodgyer – who is Greytown Community Board deputy chair – listed a raft of SWDC Greytown multi-million dollar “nice-to-have” projects at various stages of completion while noting that many roads and other essentials are neglected.

Projects include $1 million to help upgrade the gym at Kuranui College, $1 million for developing a wheels park for skateboarders, and a $1 million redevelopment of the Greytown cricket pavilion.

“I’m upset about the rates and how they keep going up every year,” Woodgyer said.

“We see nothing active happening in terms of the actual infrastructure in the town. It’s quite old.

“You drive out of the [new] subdivisions and you’re into potholes, and old pipes that are probably 90 years old.”

Woodgyer said new sewerage pipes in subdivisions are discharging into older, smaller pipes.

“The council are away doing all these ‘nice-to-have’ things. Annual plans seem to be out of date from the day they kick in.”

Infrastructure should take priority, Woodgyer said.

“You don’t see any road sealing. There’s potholes all over Greytown. There’s always water leaks.”.

Woodgyer had not seen cost estimates for the projects and questioned the planning – including why the cricket pavilion is even being upgraded.

“The wheels park is another example,” he said, adding that in spite of a site plan available at the local library, the site is empty.

“How can a contractor cost out a job without proper drawings?

“In my letter to the council, I was asking who’s in charge and who’s going to look after the million dollars.”

Woodgyer also questioned the million dollars given by SWDC to the Ministry of Education [MOE] to develop the gym at Kuranui College.

“Will it ever get done?” he asked.

“If it doesn’t get done, what happens to the ratepayers’ one million plus all the interest?”


Connelly is also critical of previous SWDC decisions about the gym.

“In the last term council gave one million dollars so the school could build a slightly larger gym than MOE would have allowed,” he said.

“What then happened is nothing happened. The MOE has just sat on it. We had borrowed it and were paying interest, and the MOE has been earning interest.

“That was unwise.”

Woodgyer asked how SWDC will get its money back if it doesn’t go ahead.

“When you look at what the MOE are paying the teachers, that’s probably more important, isn’t it?

“Is it going to be teachers or buildings?”

An SWDC spokesperson provided current financial information about the Greytown projects:

“The gym at Kuranui College in Greytown – $1m contribution, $1 million spent to date; the Greytown Wheels Park – $1m set aside, nil spent to date, the Tauherenikau cycle bridge – $1,358,557 [of central government funding spent to date]; the demolition and redevelopment of the Greytown Cricket Club – $1m set aside, $19,356 spent to date; the roading project outside Orchard retirement village – $296,000 spent to date,” the spokesperson said.

James O’Connor, SWDC acting group manager of partnerships and operations, gave an update on the projects.

“Funds to date [on the gym] have been spent on design, quantity surveying, and seismic investigations, which are well progressed. It is hoped construction work can begin in November,” he said.

Tendering for the wheels park has been completed and SWDC is negotiating a contract before moving to final design.

“Council has set aside $1m for the work, which will complete a standalone first stage of the park. It will be up to community fundraising to raise the remaining $2m. A wheels park committee led by park proponent Sid Kempton is being organised,” O’ Connor said.

He added the Tauherenikau suspension cycle bridge is complete, centrally funded, and owned by the Greytown Trails Trust. Further government funding is being sought.

O’Connor said the upgrade of the Greytown Cricket Club had been delayed due to covid, but initial work is now underway.

“$1m has been set aside for its upgrade,” he said.

The footpath and parking bay along Reading and Church St outside Greytown school is well underway, with work due to be finished by the end of July.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Mr Woodgyer should ask himself why he has left it till now to complain about the rates increases. He is a member of the Greytown Community Board and it was open to that Board to make a strong submission to the Council on the rates issue, in response to the Consultation Document, but it chose not to. The Council should be asking itself why it did not explicitly ask its community boards to canvas community views on key rating issues such as the magnitude of increases and the apportionment of rates increases between rural and urban ratepayers. The penny doesn’t seem to have dropped with either the Board or the Council……..community boards only exist for one reason, to provide input on Council decision making. And the mayor should be asking himself how come he is in the position of having Mr Woodgyer’s criticisms “resonate” with him. Did he try to convince his fellow councillors of the error of their ways (items of “unwise” expenditure) or vote against the size of the rates increase? I really do wonder he feels having stood for mayor on the platform of sorting out the rates mess, and now presiding over the largest rates increase of any council in New Zealand. The 19.8 % in total rates increase is scandalous under today’s circumstances, even more so given the proposal to impose a much greater burden (30% increase) on rural ratepayers…….all on top of the 19.8% rise only two years ago.

  2. I don’t know why we have elected councils they say one thing when being voted 🤔 but all council working projects have been organized by council employees and executives. We just vote in figure head’s for legal purposes only. If this is democracy it needs changing because rate payers are being fleeced.

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