Bid to form ratepayer group for Far North

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WATCHDOG ROLE: Jane Johnston wants to set up a new Kerikeri ratepayer group. PHOTO/SANDY MYHRE
WATCHDOG ROLE: Jane Johnston wants to set up a new Kerikeri ratepayer group. PHOTO/SANDY MYHRE

A group of Kerikeri residents wants to form a new residents and ratepayers organisation before candidates are named for the upcoming local body elections.

Spokeswoman Jane Johnston said a growing number of people are expressing concern about how the Far North District Council operates and its accountability, and she wants the new association to be able to "interrogate" those standing for council and community boards.

"Currently there is no ratepayer association providing a watchdog and advocacy role in relation to significant infrastructure projects being planned for Kerikeri and surrounds that will have to be financed by ratepayers," she said.

"For example there is a new sewerage treatment plant in the capital works budget. Consider what happened at Mangawhai, where the cost blew out from the expected $10 million sewerage scheme to a $57 million cost having to be paid by ratepayers connected to that scheme."

She also cited transportation issues, flood risk mitigation work and water supply as issues that need examining in the district.

"Council hasn't yet told us how it will address the worsening local transportation network, or about the long-term security of our water supply and we don't know what is being planned by the Northland Regional Council to mitigate the flood rises. There has to be some accountability," she said.

The fledgling association is hoping to conduct an inaugural meeting in the town before the end of the month and Ms Johnston said there were already around 45 names on file of those interested in joining the cause.

The last residents and ratepayers association wound down in Kerikeri in 2004 because it couldn't form the requisite quorum. Residual funds were given to Vision Kerikeri which was formed in 2005, originally to lobby the council.

"We discovered that an eight-storey apartment building was to be built, by a non-notified consent, just behind the present Butler Centre," said chairman Rod Brown.

"Further investigation revealed Kerikeri no longer had a building height limit which had somehow been removed from the district plan."

He said Vision Kerikeri was not a ratepayers association but concentrates on district planning and environmental issues. "But with the new district plan in the early stages right now we may have to look more seriously at what council is doing."

- Northern Advocate

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