Tūrangi locals are calling for change, saying their end of the lake is missing out. Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender editor Laurilee McMichael says the town needs to work with the council for real change.
"They're just not listening to us."
Here's a question for you: who said that? Tūrangi Action Group of Taupō District Council? Check. Taupō District Council of Tūrangi Action Group? Check again. That's right. Both sides say the others won't listen.
Tūrangi Action Group says the council won't address their concerns. Taupō District Council says it has done, or is doing, everything asked of it, bar one project. Good news, you might think. Unless, apparently, you're a member of the Tūrangi Action Group.
The past six months, ever since the Tūrangi Action Group went public with its concerns about lack of council interest and investment in Tūrangi has been very troubling.
I have a long association with Tūrangi. I care deeply about the area. Following the first meeting, I went to Tūrangi, talked to locals and took a look at the areas they were upset about. I agree the group has valid concerns, that they were right to draw them to public attention, and that they should hold the Taupō District Council to account.
But reading the discussions on Facebook, I worry that good people are in some cases being whipped into a state of outrage with a selection of coy hints that there's some sort of conspiracy afoot as well as blanket statements which are accepted without question.
For instance, former councillor Zane Cozens posted on Facebook that "a councillor" had told him the council administration building cost would be $50 to $60 million (not the $37.5m the council is projecting).
To a group of people already annoyed that the council was pushing ahead with its building project, this was like a red rag to a bull.
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No one asked: which councillor said it? Where's the evidence for that figure? Why does it differ from the council figure? Can you show it to us?
Following the February 14 public meeting, the council was given three months to deliver on some actions to the Tūrangi community.
It appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers to do the accounts audit at a cost of $16,700 to ratepayers, and hardly before the review had even begun the Tūrangi Action Group announced that it would not accept the review's findings since it had not been allowed to set the terms of reference.
For the record, the council, which after all was paying for the report, had asked PriceWaterhouseCoopers to also include an analysis of the council's projected spend in Tūrangi over the next three to five years.
What really riled Tūrangi locals, with some justification, was when the council decided to go ahead with a new civic administration building in Tuwharetoa St, Taupō, setting aside $37.5m in its long-term plan. To people in Tūrangi, who don't even have safe netball courts to play on, that felt like a massive slap in the face.
A large amount of the frustration in Tūrangi stems from the fact that people feel Taupō gets a better deal and that they lack the power to effect change.
But if Tūrangi Action Group is to use the people power it has harnessed to truly benefit Tūrangi — and I have no doubt that it can — the group, council and community board need to commit to developing a workable relationship in good faith and find a way forward.
To have a voice at council, Tūrangi Action Group must put forward a candidate who can be a voice for Tūrangi and has the capability to build relationships to get the best outcomes for the area.
Because if there's one thing everybody agrees: Tūrangi is a wonderful place. It has good people, a fantastic natural environment, deep cultural significance and an amazing location. It is only right people want the best for their town. Let's support each other to do it.