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Innovating, or just infuriating?

PHOTO/FILE

The dissatisfaction of many Martinborough residents was palpable as more than 50 attended a meeting on Thursday night to vent their frustrations.

In a litany of complaints about public spending on roading, resident after resident at the Martinborough Community Board meeting raised questions about public cash being spent on artwork around the square in the middle of town while rural roads were failing.

Many contrasted the project with the difficulties of the farming community in the Hinakura valley, caused by the ongoing closure of their main access road to heavy vehicles.

In an unexpected twist, the community board passed a vote of no-confidence in the consultation process run by South Wairarapa District Council for the ‘Innovating Streets’ programme.

Committee chair Mel Maynard described the lack of consultation as a “misstep”.

The public agenda for the meeting was set early when Alex Wall put his hand up for one of the last remaining participation spots.

The crowd at the Martinborough Community Board meeting on Thursday. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

So many had lined up to speak, the timeslot for the public was extended from 30 minutes to an hour.

Maynard asked Wall what he wanted to speak about.

“Where do you want me to start,” he said.

“A 14.2 per cent rates increase and the alternatives to that. The removal of parking around the square from the innovating streets [programme] that has been known to fail in other towns.”

It was a familiar theme as many complained about the lack of consultation on the project.

Painting colourful designs on the road in front of Martinborough Square as part of the programme was due to begin imminently. The designs were chosen after the community was asked to vote on one of three, inspired by schoolchildren. Residents complained they had not been consulted, other infrastructure projects were more pressing, and the vote was predetermined.

The vote had no option to not have the road painted.

After the meeting, the board’s vice-chairman Aidan Ellims said he had asked for the motion of no confidence, passed with two abstentions.

The motion referred only to the consultation SWDC had undertaken with the board regarding Innovating Streets.

“I think council needs to up their game with consulting with the community board and the community on projects such as this,” he said.

“People would like to see a halt on this project, but I think it’s gone too far to happen this time.”

The board had not formally heard about the project until April, when work was already underway.

“If the community board had been consulted, we would have suggested the cash be spent on other road safety initiatives across town,” Ellims said.

A SWDC spokesperson said the meeting had been useful as the public had voiced their opinions, acknowledging the project had caused some friction.

“This is despite numerous communications from the council, consultation sessions and workshops as well as community engagement sessions in the square and at the Waihinga Centre since February 2021.

“A number of [people] left after they had spoken, which is regrettable,” they said.

“If they had stayed, they would have had the opportunity to hear SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson fully explain the process and intent behind this initiative.”

The project was aimed at improving safety and traffic flow around the square.

“There are potential safety risks in the layout of the square the council is keen to understand. Although there have not been serious accidents, we often hear of near-misses,” they said.

“Of the 158 survey responses in March, the majority were in favour of changes that would enhance the experience of pedestrians.

“This trial is one of a number of options for considering how we improve safety around the square.”

They said residents would be able to vote on whether to keep the installation at the end of the trial, which was temporary.

SWDC confirmed it had spent $17,106 on the initiative, with the balance funded by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

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