Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

No public consultation on annual plan

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PHOTO/FILE
PHOTO/FILE

Renewed calls for public consultation on this year's Rotorua Lakes Council annual plan were in the end pointless after a group of councillors were out-voted by their colleagues.

The calls were made by three councillors who said no consultation would be unfair on ratepayers and was too big a change compared with previous years.

But they were out-voted 6-4 at a meeting of the council today.

On March 17, the council voted not to consult on its annual plan for the coming year after announcing an overall rates increase across the district of 1.9 per cent.

Under new rules set out by the Government, councils are not required to consult the public on their annual plans, unless significant changes were being made to long-term plans. The council's 2015-2025 Long-Term Plan was adopted last year, following public consultation.

Traditionally, the council produced a draft annual plan and undertook a formal submission and hearings process before its official adoption.

At the March 17 meeting councillors agreed with a report presented by the council's governance and partnerships manager Oonagh Hopkins that no "material or significant changes" to the long-term plan had been made so public consultation was not required.

But, councillor Mike McVicker led the charge against the previous decision saying the public should be consulted, specifically about the $3.4 million increase on the shared library and children's health hub project.

"I'm convinced we are not doing the right thing by our ratepayers and the classification of the library health hub not being a significant issue.

"I don't really welcome the way the goalposts have been changed in this instance.

"I think this is somewhat a Clayton's consultation ... instead we are going to have staff to come up with a report on the various items.

"We will not have the opportunity to sit round the table, as we have done in the past, and listen to people have their say and make their claims, and we in turn ask our questions.

"It's wrong ... I don't really accept this process at all. It will perpetuate the thinking that is already out there that council staff run this council, not us councillors."

He was supported by councillors Glenys Searancke and Rob Kent.

"Many councils are still going through the process of accepting submissions and holding hearings. It's too much change too quickly," Mrs Searancke said.

But mayor Steve Chadwick said the decision to go ahead with the library health hub had already been made and could not be re-debated.

"It's within the funding envelope and is not an exception ... it is within the long-term plan parameters so we do not have to consult.

"We will continue to engage with the community," she said.

Councillor Karen Hunt said the change was driven by communities around the country and it was a good process.

"Anything that comes completely out of left-field we would add that in a consultation document. We don't have anything coming out of left-field and we know where we are heading."

Voting against the new process were Mr McVicker, Mr Kent, Mark Gould and Mrs Searancke.

Voting for the new process were councillors Dave Donaldson, Mrs Hunt, Trevor Maxwell, Tania Tapsell, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and Mrs Chadwick.

Charles Sturt, Peter Bentley and Janet Wepa were not at the meeting.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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