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Councillor resigns from civic facility committee

Masterton councillor Bex Johnson has resigned from the Civic Facility Project Committee. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

A vocal opponent to Masterton District Council’s $31 million civic facility plans has resigned from the project’s committee.

From the beginning, councillor Bex Johnson was uncomfortable with her appointment to the civic facility project committee and had requested multiple times not to be appointed to it.

These requests were denied.

“I then sought advice from Local Government New Zealand in June regarding this,” Johnson said.

“They told me I have the right to decline and remove myself.”

Johnson was one of five councillors to vote against progressing the civic facility project in June and was the only committee member in the opposition camp.

She also had a conflict of interest as a trustee of Masterton Trust Lands Trust, which owns the land earmarked for the civic facility site.

Her concerns with the project were based on affordability and the community’s wish to re-use the existing site of the town hall and municipal buildings.

“I was also critical of the public consultation process,” Johnson said.

“I believe the right questions weren’t asked and that all the necessary information wasn’t provided to the public to give informed feedback.”

Johnson said the committee had met twice, and her “concerns have not diminished”.

“I am the only person present who questions and opposes the project.

“I am also excluded from some of the discussion due to my conflict of interest [being a trustee of the Masterton Trust Lands Trust], which means I am not privy to important information that should be discussed and debated by all.”

She said her appointment to the civic facility project committee had led to members of the public asking if she had “changed sides” or “flip-flopped” on her decision.

“This is not the case. I oppose this project and will continue to do so.”

As part of the terms of reference, the committee’s decisions must come back to the full council.

“I believe I can make more of a difference at this time, with strong support from others around the table.”

Johnson penned her resignation from the committee at the end of November.

This left the remaining membership of chairwoman Tina Nixon, councillors Brent Gare and Frazer Mailman, Mayor Lyn Patterson, iwi representatives Ra Smith and Tiraumaera Te Tau, and an external consultant.

A replacement would be sought to fill Johnson’s vacancy on the committee.

Patterson said the decision to appoint Johnson to the committee was due to her being chairwoman of the infrastructure and services committee.

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