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Clients rally for service

The meeting to consider the liquidation of the Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service. PHOTO/ELI HILL

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Emotions were running high at an unruly meeting on Wednesday to decide the fate of Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service.

Around 80 people attended the Wairarapa Sports House meeting where it was unanimously decided that the service should continue.

The lines between meeting protocol and the will of the people blurred throughout with voting on the decision, which was originally to be carried out by only members, coming down to a show of hands by the crowd.

Clients spoke of the financial difficulties they faced, the burden of debt, and how manager Grant Howard and his team had transformed and, in some cases, saved lives.

Discussion, which at times veered off course, covered everything from Ministry of Social Development funding to whether the committee were functioning properly.

Ultimately, it was decided the service would continue, a decision that received a fair amount of applause from those gathered.

Howard said he appreciated the support which had achieved a “great outcome”.

“It shows what we actually do, and the local community – it’s important to a lot of people as you can see from the turnout – and that’s only half our customers.

“I think they all had the same voice to say we are important, and we are an essential need and we should be looked after a bit better from the government.”

Melanie Leggott has used the service for around seven years and said the meeting had come down to “the will of people”.

“To me it’s about the people and I mean Grant and them have done such an amazing job.

“Because of this service my kids and I are sitting comfortably – as much as you can on a benefit – and when they said they were going to close them down I was just worried.”

The society still faces challenges to its existence.

The committee will meet the Ministry of Social Development on April 10 to discuss the funding challenges it faces.

Committee chairwoman Susan Brader said the meeting had been “profitable”.

With the secretary having resigned since the decision to consider liquidation became public, and committee member Joseph Moloughney handing in his resignation during the meeting, the committee will also need to restock.

However, Brader said they’d wait until after the meeting with MSD before appointing new members so the committee would be able to create a plan.

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