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Time to be prudent, submitter tells councillors

Liz Mellish with a stern warning about spending and rate rises. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

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Water management, rates increases, and the Greytown Sports and Recreation Hub were the big issues South Wairarapa residents spoke to at the council’s annual plan submission hearing on Wednesday.

Featherston resident Liz Mellish, who brought her many years of asset management experience in Maori Trusts to the table, said it was not a good time to spend on anything other than the ‘must haves’ such as water management.

She reminded councillors of their “duty” when looking down the barrel of a post-covid recession and subsequent job losses, “not to put rates up”.

She also addressed the proposed South Wairarapa District Council purchase of Greytown Trust Lands Trust land where the rugby club and bowling club run, and the associated full-size gymnasium at Kuranui College.

The sports hub proposal was set out a year ago by the Greytown Sport and Recreational Advisory Group.

Mellish, who was once a Kuranui College student, pointed out that Carterton families had children there too and it was a school for the “whole of the south”.

Again, she said it was not the time for the council to spend, rather, it was time to be prudent.

“I picked up stones off that college paddock to get the playing fields in shape, I get it but I do think it is pompous for people to be talking about world class facilities in a relatively small area where the rates would climb up,” Mellish said.

“This big spend happened with the Waihinga Centre, but now is not the time and that divided towns.

“It is for central government, the school, and the whole community to work out but not for ratepayers at this point.”

Residents in favour of the land purchase and sports hub proposal said Greytown needed a local hub and that the cricket and soccer grounds at Kuratawhiti St were not an option for rugby.

Greytown Rugby Football Club president Jenna Telford said, “we need to keep a Greytown rugby club facility”.

“There are struggling families here and playing sports is a great way for families to come together.”

The facility’s rent is about to go up to market value, which is out of the club’s reach at this point, and the purchase option had come at the worst time possible for the club.

Speakers Campbell Moon and Jeremy Thompson questioned the legality of GTLT selling the land at all.

Both said that the Card Reserve grounds and South Wairarapa Recreation Centre was enough land for the whole community and a good enough facility for Greytown residents to also make use of.

Trust chairman Sid Kempton [who did not speak on Wednesday but came to listen] said it runs commercial properties in many places and had subsidised rents during covid-19.

He said it could not keep subsidising rents because it was no longer viable in the long run.

“The rents have had to go up and the land is offered for sale to the council in the first instance so that we don’t go into the red across the entire property portfolio.

“Last year the trust gave out $254,000. We lost $62,000 in commercial rental during covid-19 as we gave relief. But like others we must be sensible about assets and rental return.

The argument for SWDC to invest in this land and support Kuranui College to develop a full-size gymnasium was presented by a delegation of Kuranui College students, the school principal Simon Fuller and school board chairwoman Belinda Cordwell.

The students generally spoke about how much they enjoyed sports but head girl Amelia O’Connell said for the school to have a full size gymnasium would be an asset for not just the college but the “the whole South Wairarapa community”.

Oral submissions continued at the Martinborough Town Hall yesterday.

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