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Not all support the annual plan

Three elected members in Masterton have voted against adopting the council’s annual plan because it never went out for consultation.

Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa councils adopted annual plans and associated rates increases.

Carterton and South Wairarapa proceedings went ahead without incident, with rates increasing 5.75 per cent and 6.61 per cent,
respectively.

All councillors in attendance were in favour of the plan at both meetings.

But tensions were high at Masterton’s Waiata House council chambers on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite it being an “historic day” for the council, which struck a rates increase below the Consumer Price Index [CPI] increase [6.9 per cent] for the first time since at least 2001, councillors Bex Johnson, Gary Caffell, and Tim Nelson voted against adopting the plan, and associated rates increase.

Councillor Tina Nixon, who had requested rates and CPI information since 2001, presented the results and said it was a “phenomenal piece of work by this council” to have struck rates at 6.8 per cent.

Council costs are influenced by CPI as well as construction and roading costs.

But Nelson was quick to point out that the main reason the council could strike an increase below CPI was that it would be dipping into its reserves, which were built up over time by previous rates.

Masterton District Council finance manager David Paris said using the council’s reserves was “prudent” to minimise the impact of rates increases on the community.

“But it’s not something that can be done forever; it’s a one-off while we’re in a high inflationary environment.”

Councillors mused that next year’s increase would likely be “pretty ugly”.

Johnson said this year’s rates increase below CPI was “not a hallelujah moment”.

“There are things we could have still saved money on.”

She singled out increases in staff appointments in communications and the library as things she did not support and said any added staff should have a business case and should be in revenue-generating roles.

Mayor Lyn Patterson moved the recommendation to adopt the annual plan and associated rates increase, and it was supported 7-3.

Councillors Sandy Ryan, Graham McClymont, Chris Peterson, Tina Nixon, Frazer Mailman, David Holmes, and Mayor Lyn Patterson were in favour.

Against were councillors Bex Johnson, Gary Caffell, and Tim Nelson.

Councillor Brent Gare was absent.

Johnson, Caffell, and Nelson said the annual plan should have been formally consulted on, and because it wasn’t, they could not support the plan and the associated rates increase.

The council had previously voted to “engage” on the plan in February instead of formal consultation, and Johnson, Caffell, and Nelson opposed this.

Patterson said it was “disappointing” that some councillors did not support the plan.

“That is democracy. The majority voted for [engagement], we clearly knew the impacts of that, and like most councils, we were not going out for consultation on Year 2 of the Long Term-Plan.”– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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