Anger may sink Kaipara hopes

By Annette Lambly

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Mistrust and anger could hamper the Kaipara district from moving forward, more than the debt burden and financial constraints it is facing.

Yesterday, around 250 people - 220 at Mangawhai and 30 at Maungaturoto - turned out to hear the Kaipara District Council's government-appointed commissioners share their findings, explain the actions taken so far, and discuss future steps towards the district returning to an elected council in 2015.

Commissioners told those gathered at Maungaturoto that already-introduced improved governance and financial management gave them confidence they could stabilise the council's financial state by the minister's imposed 2015 deadline, but public confidence was vital for the district to move forward.

Achieving strong community support was proving a big challenge, because there were still many who believed their grievances had not been addressed, chair of commissioners John Robertson said.

Mr Robertson urged the community to work with the council to get the district "humming again".

"The hardest thing is the people factor, [there is] so much anger and grievance.

"Until you have this satisfied, you really can't move forward," he said.

"The longer it takes to turn the council's financial situation around, the more costly it is."

A number of Kaipara residents, particularly from Mangawhai, are refusing to pay their rates as council debt soars above $80 million.

Many of the questions from the floor yesterday centred around whether a new council would operate in a transparent and trustworthy manner, and whether due to widespread lack of public confidence an amalgamation with part of, or all of, Northland would be a wiser move.

Rating affordability was another hot topic, with fears expressed that residents would simply not be able to pay.

Commissioner Richard Booth said the commissioners had to work on the basis that debt had to be met by the ratepayers and, while another increase was in the pipeline for this year, rates would stabilise for the next 10 years.

They believed that even with recent increases, Kaipara rates were not above average for other areas.

The commissioners will hold another public meeting at Dargaville's council chambers today at 4pm.

- Northern Advocate

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