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Rebel faction in bid for time

Masterton district councillors Chris Peterson, left, Bex Johnson, Gary Caffell, and David Holmes [absent- Tim Nelson] are trying to defer the decision on the civic centre. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

GRACE PRIOR
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Five Masterton councillors have banded together in a bid to extend public consultation for the proposed $30 million civic facility.

But their efforts have been rejected by Mayor Lyn Patterson on the grounds of a Standing Orders breach.

She said she was working with them to find a way forward.

The group, comprised of Gary Caffell, Bex Johnson, Chris Peterson, Tim Nelson, and David Holmes, presented a notice of motion for Wednesday’s meeting to Patterson as chair of the council.

The five are the same councillors who voted against building the civic facility with external funding on June 2, after long-term plan deliberations.

The notice of motion, which each of the five councillors signed, intended to change to outcome of the civic facility decision in the upcoming long-term plan, which is proposing that council spend almost $31 million on a new civic facility north of Masterton.

If approved in the long-term plan, it is hoped the project would be finished by 2025.

The motion hoped to have funding allocation for the civic facility remain in the long-term plan, but that any decisions regarding location, design, and future funding be deferred for an extra 12 months to allow further public consultation.

The notice of motion, provided to the Times-Age, stated that “consideration of what should happen to the current library, archives, town hall, and municipal buildings should be part of that process”.

Caffell said the group of councillors who had put the motion forward believed the consultation process had been flawed.

The group said it had been hard for the public to submit on the proposed civic facility through the council’s long-term plan submission process, with online forms giving different options to those in writing or in person.

“We believe that all councillors have to take responsibility for that, and we have to come up with a solution to make it clearer and better for the public, that’s what this notice of motion is about,” Caffell said.

He said elected members should recognise the public discontent at the civic centre process and remove any final decisions from the long-term plan.

He said the notice of motion, would have allowed other members of council to change their minds on their vote for the civic facility – while still allowing funding for the project to be included in the long-term plan.

Six councillors voted in favour of progressing the facility in early June: Patterson, Brent Gare, Frazer Mailman, Graham McClymont, Sandy Ryan, and Tina Nixon.

Peterson said the group had been reluctant to take the notice of motion through to council, but said the vote next week on the long-term plan was one of the most important decisions council would make.

On Masterton District Council’s website, it said it would not defer the build of the civic facility because: “The council committed to building the civic centre in May 2020. The longer we defer this project, the greater the likelihood of the cost escalating.”

Caffell said despite the outcome, the group was not concerned.

Johnson said they still had the opportunity on Wednesday to add an amendment to the civic facility section of the long-term plan, which she hoped would say something very similar to the notice of motion.

She said if the information on the project had been there from the start, council could have brought the community along with them.

The council is set to ratify its long-term plan at a meeting at 3pm on Wednesday.

There will also be a “hands around the hall” protest against the proposed new civic centre at noon on Wednesday.

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