Panama Village in Masterton, New Zealand on Tuesday, 4 August 2020. Photo/Dave Lintott
Masterton District Council has unanimously supported selling 4.2 hectares of land to be developed for public housing.
The decision would require High Court approval because the Panama Village land had a caveat that prevented its sale or lease and stipulated it must be used to provide houses or villas for the elderly.
Arthur Whatman originally gifted the land in 1938 to the Wairarapa Hospital Board.
Although there was consensus on the council decision yesterday, the meeting was not without interesting moments.
At one point, the words, “Oh, f***’s sakes”, were uttered by Deputy Mayor Graham McClymont, who thought he was on mute over Zoom.
It is understood McClymont was on a building site at the time, and the comment was not related to council proceedings.
At the building site, he had been “unexpectedly interrupted at a point where he thought a vote was imminent”, a council spokesperson said.
“It is a reminder of the need to be aware when Zooming that a microphone can, and should, be switched on and off as required,” the spokesperson said.
McClymont’s remark sounded during a presentation by fellow councillor Gary Caffell.
Caffell said he supported the council’s recommendation to sell vacant land at Panama Village to make it available for public housing.
He then congratulated staff on their consultation on the matter.
This was when McClymont’s remark sounded, to which Mayor Lyn Patterson quickly intervened.
“Councillor, is that you, Graham? We can hear you,” she said.
“Oh, I’m muttering, am I?” McClymont said.
“Yes, you are; you might want to be on mute,” Patterson replied.
Caffell then continued his presentation, saying although he had “made a point” about consultation in the past, “in this particular instance, we’ve done really well”.
He was, however, disappointed there were “only 61 submissions on a very important subject”.
The consultation was required to amend the council’s Long-Term Plan decision on public housing at Panama Village.
Two options were consulted on recently: to authorise the council to sell the vacant land at Panama Village on the condition it is used for public housing, or to authorise the council to lease the vacant land at Panama Village on the condition it is used for public housing.
The council’s preferred option was the first, which received 34 per cent support.
The second option received 28 per cent support, and other submitters indicated support for an option that wasn’t being considered or provided no clear indication of their preference.
Caffell expressed concerns about public housing and senior housing being adjacent, which was reflected in community submissions.
“For people who are elderly, maybe in their 80s, the prospect of mixing with 45 year-olds and different lifestyles could be quite intimidating.
“I think we’re going to have to look very closely at how that works.”
Councillor Tina Nixon said she was “disturbed” by Caffell’s comments.
“Mixed living is a good opportunity to learn more tolerance and benefit from being part of a community that is very diverse,” she said.
Patterson said Caffell was simply stating concerns reflected in the submissions, much of which were fears of “the unknown”.
Councillor Sandy Ryan, who moved the recommendation to support a land sale for public housing, said the council could put terms and conditions on its future use, protecting neighbours’ house values and social wellbeing.
“We could add green space to the outside boundaries, which could be a buffer for some people who are concerned about mixed housing at their boundary fence.
“Mixed ages and mixed families make up mixed incomes and life experience, which reflects other neighbourhoods in Masterton, and I think it’s really important we continue to do that.”
The council would formally adopt a Long-Term Plan amendment on June 8 and then progress a High Court application to sell the land.
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air