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Emotions spill over

Plunket general manager finance technology and commercial Matthew Perry addresses an unhappy audience. PHOTOS/GEORGE SHIERS

Residents vent frustration at Plunket meeting

Emotions were high at a public consultation over the proposed sale of the Featherston Plunket building.

About 40 members of the community attended the meeting on Wednesday evening, most appearing angry or upset. Many raised concerns that the building had been fundraised for by the community, and that its sale would make childcare inaccessible for families in the town.

Plunket general manager finance technology and commercial Matthew Kenny said the main reason for the proposed sale of the building was its underuse.

“I’ve been with Plunket a couple of years and we’ve been in deficit for a long time – the organisation is not fully funded by the Government.

“There’s only so long we can continue to pay for the services that we don’t have the money for, so as an organisation we have to make some really hard decisions.

“We’re always looking at what we’re doing with our properties. About a year ago we identified about 50 properties nationally that either weren’t used or had very low utilisation. Featherston was one of them.”

Kenny said the sale of the building was not final and Plunket was seeking feedback from the community to look at how to proceed.

Featherston’s Plunket building could soon be up for sale.

Options included Plunket retaining the building, Plunket gifting or selling the building back to the community, or Plunket selling the building to another buyer.

“Regardless of what we do with the property, we do want to keep the services here for you.”

One parent said the sale would undermine the town’s predictions of growth.

“If you were to poll the community right now you would see a huge increase in young families that have moved here for a whole variety of reasons.

“Very significant growth is predicted and excuse my maths but I think it’s in the vicinity of 70 per cent in the next 20 years – which is not insignificant in and of itself. It’s safe to say it will be a huge loss for this community and I really implore you to reconsider.”

Others asked for Plunket to return the building to the community that paid for it.

“Surely your first option is to give it back to the community,” one person said.

“What about the building that we paid for?” said another.

“We’re talking about that building, not you moving your services somewhere else.”

In a letter addressed to Plunket, Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said several constituents had contacted him with concerns about the proposed sale.

“The strong tenor of the submissions I have seen from residents is that they are concerned that the sale of the premises will impact negatively on service provision, particularly if people are not going to be able to access services if located elsewhere.

“I welcome your decision to hold a public meeting and your desire to genuinely listen to the community before any decisions are made. I am hopeful that the community’s concerns are a key factor in your decision-making and that an alternative solution is able to be found.”

The meeting concluded with an agreement that representatives from the community would hold a workshop with Plunket to determine the best next steps.

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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