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Featherston man kicked out of SWDC meeting

A man was evicted from a South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] meeting yesterday and threatened with police by Mayor Martin Connelly.

Featherston resident and South Wairarapa ratepayer Garry Dittmer was asked to leave the meeting by Connelly after he spoke for more than the time allocated for individual public participation, criticised SWDC finances, and compared the proceedings to those of a dictatorship.

Connelly said Dittmer was asked to leave because he had been disrespectful and had not followed the instructions of the chair.

Dittmer had asked a number of questions about SWDC’s finances and the upcoming rate rises – particularly a proposed 29 per cent hike for rural ratepayers – before being evicted.

“Are you all aware there’s a lot of people out there that can’t afford it, and it’s going to make them suffer?” he asked.

Dittmer said he thinks there are shortcomings in the SWDC annual plan and its related documents, including financial calculations.

“This is where the SWDC has failed the people,” he said, referring to SWDC income figures.

“You would have to be embarrassed to walk down the streets.”

Dittmer also asked why urban water costs had been dropped, and a number of other questions. At this point, Connelly interjected.

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Garry, Garry, if you say one more word, I will evict you from the room. You’ve had your five minutes,” Connelly said.

“I’ve got one more thing to say,” Dittmer said.

“No, you haven’t. You’ve had five minutes,” Connelly replied.

After a further exchange with Dittmer, Connelly asked him to leave.

“If you do not leave right now, I shall adjourn the meeting, and I will ask the CEO to call the police,” Connelly said.

Dittmer then left the meeting.

After the meeting, Connelly said Dittmer would be welcome back to SWDC meetings, as long as he followed procedure.

“We welcome Garry to come and speak to us as he has in the past, but he will not be welcome again unless he agrees to follow the directions of the chair. Today we had a heavy agenda. I terminated his address because he was not being particularly respectful, and wasn’t obeying instructions of the chair,” Connelly said.

“Public participation is an opportunity to address the council, not to ask questions. There are processes to get information from the council, and the public forum is not one of them. It was clear to me he had no intention to stick to the time limits and had no intention to listen to the chair.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. farmers have been using far more utilities for decades than townies, about time they paid for it

  2. Well done Garry, SWDC shut you down because they dont want everyone made aware of what they are doing, other avenues to ask questions via submissions have time delays that SWDC say to do and often not public until too late.

  3. Sounds like the old, I don’t like the truth you are speaking so will shut you down.
    Good on you Gary use your voice!

  4. No one condones disrespectful behaviour but Mr Dittmer’s frustration is understandable. At least he had a go at participating in the process……..most people are either too ‘tired’, too scared to put their heads above the parapets, or too intimidated by the process.
    Yes, councils have the legal authority to set and gather rates but if this is not done responsibly it undermines the credibility of the council. I think the SWDC, if it proceeds with its current proposals for rates increases (29.8 % for rural ratepayers), will have violated what in my view should be the first principle of rates setting, viz that the rates set for a given year should be reasonable and reflect the prevailing circumstances.The community is facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis. A humane council would recognise this and would put in place a rates freeze or at least restrict any increases to below the level of inflation. Why shouldn’t local government ‘tighten its belt’ like everyone else? Its overiding purpose under the Act is to promote, not erode, the wellbeing of its community.
    Talking of reasonableness, one further point – is it reasonable to expect elderly residents in Greytown, having spent the best part of the day trying to understand and respond to the Council’s Discussion Document, to travel to and from Martinborough (round trip of 40 mins) and be told they have 5 minutes to talk to their submission ? So someone who has made a real effort and written a lengthy, and hopefully helpful, submission is afforded the same speaking time as someone making a very brief submission. And why wouldn’t the Hearings Committee hear submissions from Greytown residents in Greytown (convenience and carbon footprint)?

    Bill Armstrong

    • Absolutely true but councils do not answer to ratepayers or any higher authority. Their highest priority is to enlarge their offices, their numbers and their salaries.

  5. Yes a dictatorship councils love there rules when it suits them. Old saying what goes round comes around. Rate payers need to seek legal advice when councils start to become dictatorships. Another Old saying don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

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