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No formal consultation on MDC’s annual plan

PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Masterton residents and ratepayers will not be consulted on this year’s Annual Plan which brings with it a 6.9 per cent rates rise.

Instead, the council will do a mixture of broad and targeted engagement with a view to receive feedback on service levels to inform the next Long-Term Plan.

Councillors Bex Johnson, Gary Caffell, and Tim Nelson voted in favour of a formal consultation.

All other councillors voted not to consult but to have thorough engagement.

This was because the levels of service in the Annual Plan were the same as those consulted on in last year’s Long-Term Plan [LTP].

There were also no significant deviations from Year 2 of the LTP, council staff said.

A key driver for the rates increase was inflation and associated challenges with supply and demand on the council’s operational budget.

In an explanation on why a formal consultation was not recommended, the council agenda stated there was “limited ability to influence the drivers of the rates increase” and that “no viable options to the proposed programme have been identified”.

“Consulting the community regarding a proposed rates increase without offering any viable alternatives for the community to consider would be meaningless consultation and may result in reduced trust in the council, legal, and reputational risk,” the agenda item said.

Caffell said the council’s recommendation not to formally consult was “a joke”.

“What we are saying is we have made the decisions and these are the reasons why, and no matter what you think, we’re doing this anyway.”

He said residents and ratepayers should be consulted on ideas for cost-savings. He also believed a formal consultation could allow the council to ask residents their thoughts on the civic facility site and if they supported the lengthening of the runway at Hood Aerodrome.

Johnson said there was room to investigate internal drivers of costs, such as staffing levels.

Nelson wanted to give the community an opportunity for formal feedback on cost-saving measures and noted that savings of $350,000 would equate to a one per cent reduction in rates.

Other councillors supported thorough engagement instead of a formal consultation as it would be cheaper and there was no legal requirement for formal consultation because the Annual Plan was the same as what had been consulted on last year.

Councillor Brent Gare said he was “all for consultation”, but objected to paying upwards of $30,000 “to consult on a document where nothing has changed”.

Councillor Frazer Mailman suggested the council engage with key groups in the community to receive feedback. — NZLDR

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