Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Cost cuts threaten two libraries

Pressure goes on after mayor's directive for all areas of city council to trim budgets by 3 per cent in election year.

Laurie Webb (right) and other Snells Beach residents are worried.  Photo / Natalie Slade
Laurie Webb (right) and other Snells Beach residents are worried. Photo / Natalie Slade

Libraries in Snells Beach and Grey Lynn have been marked for closure as the result of a directive from Mayor Len Brown to reduce costs in what will be election year.

Snells Beach residents, many of whom are retirees, are bewildered and angry at murmurings the refurbished Mahurangi East Library in the community centre is closing.

More than 300 locals have signed a petition deploring the proposal and there is fighting talk by local politicians of chaining themselves to the building.

"We love our bright, welcoming, well-used library, the heart and soul of this mixed and growing community," said local Sandra Garman.

The other locality in the cost-cutting sights of council library manager Allison Dobbie is the Grey Lynn library, housed in its original 1924 building on Great North Rd.

Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers said closing Grey Lynn library would be unwarranted, completely wrong and would cause pointless grief.

Mr Brown, through chief executive Doug McKay, has directed all council departments, local boards and council-owned bodies to cut their operating budgets by 3 per cent next year.

This is so Mr Brown can reduce the projected rates increase for his election-year budget to "well below 4 per cent".

Mr Brown and Mr McKay have boasted about making $1.7 billion in savings and efficiencies over 10 years.

And for the first time they are calling for cuts to service levels. This has led Ms Dobbie to look at closing two of the council's 55 libraries.

She did not return calls to comment about the pressure she was under to reduce library services.

In a written statement, Mr Brown said he doubted any libraries would be closed to reduce next year's rates.

But he would not give a firm guarantee to Snells Beach and Grey Lynn library users.

Snells Beach resident Laurie Webb said there was no public transport to enable the mostly elderly retirees and young families who used the local library for residents to travel to the Warkworth library.

"This library, with its dedicated staff, services a large area, including Snells Beach, Algies and Martins Bays, Sandspit and the rest of the Mahurangi east peninsula," he said.

Rodney Local Board member and Snells Beach resident June Turner said the proposed closure was causing great angst in the community and stressing library staff, who operated a brilliant facility that was upgraded three years ago.

Rodney councillor Penny Webster - who as finance committee chairman has the job of steering Mr Brown's budget through council - said the suggestion by staff to close the library was dead.

"If the idea takes any more legs, the local board and myself will chain ourselves to the door," said Mrs Webster, who lives at Snells Beach.

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- NZ Herald

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