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Annual Plan vote ends in a debacle

South Wairarapa District Council’s annual plan consultation was set to go live this morning, but residents will instead remain in the dark about potential rates rises and what the council plans for the coming year.

The problem? A majority of councillors only saw the draft consultation document for the first time yesterday and were expected to approve it at a 9am meeting.

Councillors had also received an email suggesting that if they did not sign it off yesterday, “we’re going to look bad”, one elected member revealed.

Councillor Pip Maynard said she was “absolutely flabbergasted” by the process.

“To be handed [the Annual Plan Consultation Document Draft] at the meeting and to be asked to make a decision on it without being able to actually take the time not just to read it but to actually absorb it, I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” she said.

“This is one of the most important documents that control what we do in council.

“The fact that we haven’t even had it for 24 hours to even look at it, even in a rough format …

“We’re governance, so we should be having the oversight, having the time to actually look at and digest this information that has been given to us,” Maynard said.

“I understand that three councillors have seen it, but the majority of us have not had the opportunity to see it in any way shape or form until it has been set down here [at the meeting].

“And being told that we have to rush it and get it put through … I’m sorry, but that is not how I roll, and every single person who voted for me knows that is not how I roll.”

A motion to adjourn the meeting for 20 minutes failed to win majority support. Instead, the meeting was adjourned until midday yesterday. When the meeting resumed, however, councillors voted to discuss the draft document in a public-excluded workshop and adjourn the public portion of the meeting until 2pm today.

At the morning meeting yesterday, councillor Rebecca Gray said the way the consultation document had been presented to councillors was “quite an ableist process”.

“If we had people around the table who had learning disorders, ADHD, dyslexia, this would not be an appropriate way for them to effectively read it and understand it.”

Councillor Martin Bosley said he was “stunned and slightly appalled at this process”.

“This is not what I thought was going to happen at all,” he said.

Councillor Aaron Woodcock said he would have preferred for the document to have been emailed to councillors the night prior, instead of presented in hard copy at the start of the meeting.

He noted councillors had received an email about “how we have to have this done, otherwise we’re going to look bad”.

Maynard noted that among emails councillors had received since Monday was a note that the council’s 2021-22 annual report – which was meant to come to the table yesterday – had been pushed back, and now it won’t come back to the council table until June 7.

This is largely due to a delay from Audit NZ, which has now given its “tick” of approval, according to Mayor Martin Connelly.

Maynard requested that a draft version of the annual report be published so that ratepayers would be informed of the council’s past performance when digesting the annual plan.

With the Annual Plan Consultation Document Draft still not publicly available, it is still not known what the district’s anticipated rates rise for this year will be or what exactly will be consulted on.

Neighbouring councils Masterton and Carterton have already begun their consultation/engagement processes, and ratepayers are aware of anticipated rates increases.

Local Democracy Reporting has asked the South Wairarapa District Council to comment on why the annual plan consultation document was only tabled yesterday and the reasons for its delay.

The council has also been invited to comment further on the process and timelines for consultation on the annual plan.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, councils’ annual plans focus on year-to-year budgets.

Councils prepare an annual plan in each of the two years between Long-Term Plan reviews and set out in them what the council plans to do in the next 12 months to move towards achieving its goals.

Annual plans are adopted before the start of the financial year in July, following a submission process. – 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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