Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Plan approved - but councillors not happy

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Rotorua Lakes Council has provisionally approved its annual plan for the coming financial year, but some councillors are still not happy.  Photo/File
Rotorua Lakes Council has provisionally approved its annual plan for the coming financial year, but some councillors are still not happy. Photo/File

Rotorua Lakes Council has provisionally approved its annual plan for the coming financial year, but some councillors are still not happy public consultation and hearings were not held.

Councillors voted 8-5 during yesterday's meeting of the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee to take the plan to the next council meeting, on June 23, for formal approval.

The plan will come into effect on July 1 and will see an average 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 annual plans, unless significant changes were being made to long-term plans.

Traditionally, the council has produced a draft annual plan and undertaken a formal submission and hearings process before adopting its annual plans.

According to an agenda report, the rates increase was lower than the 2.5 per cent approved in the council's long-term plan agreed to last year and the proposed average 1.9 per cent increase was in line with Business and Economic Research Limited's Consumer Price Index forecast.

Previously, the council's governance and partnerships manager Oonagh Hopkins said consultation on an annual plan was no longer a Special Consultative Procedure and can be conducted by methods chosen by individual councils.

"If material or significant changes are identified a consultation document and supporting documents must be used to communicate changes to the community."

Voting against approving the annual plan were councillors Mark Gould, Mike McVicker, Glenys Searancke, Rob Kent and Peter Bentley. Councillors Trevor Maxwell and Janet Wepa were absent.

Even though councillor Charles Sturt voted for the plan he said he would still prefer the traditional submissions and hearings process.

"I think there is still a preference from the community to sit in front of council. The average ratepayer wants to hold their councillors accountable on a face to face basis."

Mr Sturt said the public needed to know that this would only take place every three years as part of the long-term plan process.

Mr McVicker had previously called the process "Clayton's consultation" and said the new children's health hub and shared library project should have been consulted on during annual plan deliberations.

At yesterday's meeting Mrs Hopkins told councillors 36 members of the public had taken part in an annual plan feedback process this year, through direct contact, emails, letters and social media.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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