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Mayor pledges to regain trust

After two months on the job as mayor of South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC], Martin Connelly is focused on rebuilding trust between the community and the council.

“At the end of the last council, there had been a sort of breakdown in the regard that each had for the other,” Connelly said.

“I think the community thought the council wasn’t listening to them, and the councillors believed that the community thought they were sort of vaguely incompetent.

“I don’t think it ended in a happy way. So what we are trying to do is to reassure the community that we are actively working in their long-term best interest.

Whatever has to happen for people to believe that, we are prepared to do it,” he said.

While he acknowledged the newly elected council faces challenges, he said a more diverse group of councillors also presents opportunities.

“The ingredients are there for a very productive three years.

“The district has been in transition for some time and, finally, that has caught up with members of the council.”

The new council shares a vision for its future direction and the combined will to implement necessary changes, Connelly said.

“We know where we want to go broadly, and now the challenge for the first three or four months of this year is making sure we are getting everything in place that gets that longer-term vision starting to tick over.”

Connelly said staff at SWDC have already noticed differences in approach.

The current council members expect to make themselves more accessible to the community across the district, including coastal areas, via approaches including site visits and evening meetings.

“We are prepared to try a variety of ways to make sure people get the opportunity to see us, meet us, email us, or phone us.”

Connelly himself expects to be available both at his Martinborough office and at ‘travelling’ offices in Featherston and Greytown several times a month.

He acknowledged the council’s financial management has been an issue in the past and said the council needs to manage ratepayer contributions responsibly.

“We need to be able to demonstrate when we spend money on people’s behalf that it is good value, careful, thought out and not excessive. On the other hand, we can’t pretend we don’t need money. There are things we do have to spend money on.”

The SWDC mayor was unable to comment on whether rates would rise again this year.

“I haven’t had advice on that yet. But certainly, there will be very strong resistance, from most of the councillors I’ve spoken to, to anything that seems even remotely unnecessary.”

Connelly encouraged residents with concerns not to hesitate to get in touch with their local councillor or community board.

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