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Unhappy returns fill submissions

The South Wairarapa community has expressed outrage and anger at the council’s decision to cut library hours in all three of the district’s towns.

More than 140 submissions were received about recently reduced hours for the Martinborough, Greytown, and Featherston libraries as the deadline for feedback passed on Sunday.

Of more than 85 submissions published on the council’s website, only one supported the decision to cut library hours. Many submitters said they were shocked and dismayed, with some referencing recent rates hikes. Words used by affected locals to describe the move included “disgusted”, “appalled’ and “depressing”.

Others mentioned Featherston’s status as New Zealand’s only Booktown, questioned closing libraries in commuter towns on Saturdays, and raised concerns for children and pensioners.

Featherston Library is now scheduled to close every Saturday, with Martinborough and Greytown closing on alternate Saturdays. Other changes mean all three libraries will be closed some weekdays as well.

The cuts to library services come as South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] raised its rates this year by 19.8 per cent, one of the highest in New Zealand.

A SWDC spokesperson confirmed 144 submissions had been received, but said the council was unable to comment at this stage, as they were analysing the feedback.

Feedback almost unanimously supported rolling back the proposed cuts and increasing hours.

“I would personally rather you culled jobs such as fulltime comms people or managed some of your ‘big budget’ decisions [like the school gym loan] to be able to accommodate town library services,” said one.

“I am absolutely appalled at your callous cuts to our libraries. Libraries are not just a place to get books. They’re a space for our community, a community that YOU are supposed to represent, to meet, to talk, to work, to stay warm, to have someone to talk to, to do their homework in a safe and quiet environment, to use the WIFI, to get help with technology, to print out a bus timetable … the list goes on. The space is used by the entire spectrum of our society, from babies right through to the elderly,” said another.

Featherston residents were well represented in submissions, as the only library of the three to lose all Saturday hours, with one referring to that library’s history.

“Featherston library was opened in 1896, debt free, on land given to the town by Mr Alfred Matthews and has been going strong since then. Yet here we are in 2023, restricting access to the public on two days a week,” they said.

“As a long-time Featherston resident and ratepayer, I am disgusted and appalled to learn of the reduction to our library hours. Losing Wednesday is bad enough, but Saturday as well!! That is so unfair. I work fulltime and don’t drive, and reading is my life! Featherston Library is my second home,” added another.

One submitter supported the cuts.

“I am a retired pensioner in Greytown, and I use the library. I support the library proposal, as I understand the alternative is more spending through higher rates. Please do not bow to media pressure, no one is put out by this, no one goes to the library four days a week! No one,” they said.

The Featherston librarian was praised by one submitter for her efforts.

“I would also like to add that Penny Griffin is a highly valued and much loved librarian, and my kids have grown up seeing her friendly smile and book recommendations every time they visit the library. If anything, she deserves a knighthood for all she does for the community. The idea that she and the other librarians in South Wairarapa are being sidelined/facing unemployment is extremely disappointing,” they said.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. “No one goes to the library four times a week.” Sorry, but my grandchildren, aged 10 and 13, do! They are both avid readers and visiting any library is their greatest pleasure. Reducing library hours, ESPECIALLY on Saturdays, is incomprehensible, retrograde, uncivilized, and shows that SWDC is completely out of touch with the unique book culture of the Wairarapa. Libraries today are an essential community hub, not a nice-to-have-if-we-can-afford-it luxury.

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