A motion to delay Masterton’s civic facility project by six months was rejected by the mayor on Wednesday.
The motion, put forward by councillor Gary Caffell was supported by four fellow councillors – Bex Johnson, Tim Nelson, David Holmes, and Chris Peterson.
It asked that the council replace a recommendation regarding the Masterton Action Group’s civic facility petition with the wording: “all negotiations involving the new civic centre be paused for six months, and a working group involving council and members of the wider community and chaired by an independent voice be established”.
That working group would seek detailed information on all options put forward for the facility and would then recommend whether a referendum be held.
But because it would have changed the direction currently set out in the council’s Long-Term Plan [LTP], the motion was rejected by Mayor Lyn Patterson.
The rules of local government meetings give three methods for amending or revoking council resolutions: staff initiate with a council agenda report based on new information; the chair can write a report; or a councillor can raise a notice of motion [NOM].
A Masterton District Council spokesperson said NOMs must be received by the chief executive five clear working days before a council meeting.
But councillors only had the meeting papers for yesterday’s meeting for two clear working days.
“While the two-day distribution of meeting papers to councillors would not allow enough time for a NOM to be lodged at [yesterday’s] meeting, it does not preclude any councillor raising a NOM to be heard at future council meetings,” the spokesperson said.
Discussions were heated around the council table, with petition sympathisers saying they were disappointed with the council’s response to the document, which was signed by more than 1800 people.
The petition requested the council initiate a “referendum of the whole community so that the Masterton community you say you represent, can provide you with a mandate to proceed, or otherwise”.
The council’s response to the petition was detailed in an agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting.
It said the petition had “no status in legislation or council’s Standing Orders”, and so it could not require the council to take any particular course of action.
Caffell said he was “pretty disappointed” in the council’s response.
“I think we need to appreciate that the people who have signed this petition are not renegades sprawling for a fight.
“They are good men and women in our district who are in favour of a new civic centre being built but want assurance they are getting the best bang for their buck.
“They’re asking us to take a pause … and provide answers to the many unanswered questions about this project.
“If we accept the recommendations before us today, I think we are saying to all those who have signed the petition: ‘suck it up’.”
Johnson said the council’s commentary regarding the petition was disrespectful and supported Caffell’s motion.
“Actioning this part of the petition may result in revoking a previous council decision,” Johnson said.
“Is that a bad thing? It’s not a weakness to change a decision and if new information comes to light, and if the playing field changes, we have a responsibility as civic leaders to review new information and revisit decisions.”
Councillor Frazer Mailman said the council should not be “flip-flopping” on the decision.
He noted that nine councillors had initially voted to shift the civic facility “north to a preferred site”.
“People I have spoken to say, ‘well done, you’ve made a decision, now get on with it’.”
Councillors Sandy Ryan, Tina Nixon, Brent Gare, and Deputy Mayor Graham McClymont endorsed Mailman’s sentiments, as did Patterson.
Nixon said she was “flummoxed” that Masterton councillors were “continuing to go backwards, rather than forwards”.
“I’m in dismay at what I see as a group of people emulating dodos because they keep going around in circles and we all know where that goes.”
Iwi representative Tiraumaera Te Tau said Masterton ratepayers needed a “council that can be brave” and that forging ahead with the civic facility plans was the right thing to do.