I was reminded of an old John Wayne movie as I moved into the Mercury Bay Bowling Club last Wednesday, the hall was packed with towns folk, a humming undertone of conversation. Much like a Court House I thought. We were all there for one thing, to hear the Mayor tell us how he was going to right the roading wrongs of Whitianga. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were going to have a lynching that night.
Mayor Len didn’t keep the crowd waiting as he took to the rostrum. The crowd quietened down and he began, firstly by quantifying the pain. Up to 10,000 visitors a day to the region were not in the Coromandel this year. This was a big loss of income to the businesses in the region. The Mercury Bay Business Association members and citizens gathered, understood the problem; but were maybe surprised by the figure.
Having confirmed what all knew, the Mayor announced he would now talk about roading. An expectant hush fell over the crowd and everybody leaned forward in their chairs. Mayor Len announced that the TCDC Roading Rehabilitation Budget ran out in November, about halfway through the fiscal year. But not to worry, he told us he wrote to the Government on 12 January asking for assistance. He paused at this stage but there was no applause and a neighbour with three pot holes in front of her drive began to weep softly. Continuing he told us there was no money for maintenance and we needed National Government support.
The Mayor pointed out that our major roads were reliant on National Roading support but what was different now was the attitude the Government was displaying. Ministers were ringing Mayor Len daily to check on how things were going and they were very positive about helping the Coromandel. This positivity was reflected in a $100,000 contribution to the Mayoral Relief Fund plus $30,000 from Trust Waikato, a sum that is slightly over 1% of the amount this Government wanted to spend on a cycleway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Nobody in the audience looked very impressed.
The completion of the section on roading was the Mayor suggesting that the Government was of the mood that we needed long term fixes to roading issues, not short term patch ups, and the Coromandel was in a good position to benefit from this mood change. We hope he is correct but note that this is the same Government that cancelled the last 10 Roads of Significance program. At this stage, Minister, Kieran McAnulty, has reported the release of $1.7 million by central government. $500,000 is destined for each of the three councils, Matamata- Piako, Hauraki District Council and Thames Coromandel District (TCDC). Mayor Len added that of the three councils, TCDC had the most hammering in the storms.
Mayor Len was in full flight as he informed us of other things. The Tapu Coroglen road as an alternative route was discussed with the TCDC having prepared a kerb and seal proposal for central Government to pay for. This is much needed so efforts to date were appreciated. The Major carried on to claim the TCDC had requested a delay in the Three Waters plan although we presume this was an effort to move away from his self-proclaimed support for this.
Towards the end of the meeting attention moved to the saving of our beach from erosion. Mayor Len frowned when questioned about this and announced that the Council had reviewed the entire Coromandel coastline looking at what was involved in curbing coastal erosion. He stated this exercise stopped when the sum got to $1.8 billion. Perhaps a problem with the ribbon in the adding machine I thought but no; Mayor Len stated the reason was that the TCDC had no tools to help curb coastal erosion.
When questioned later about this statement and specifically why the TCDC couldn’t hire a couple of dump trucks and buy some rocks; the Mayor announced that “If Whitianga wanted a rock wall along Buffalo Beach, they could have it, subject to budget”. So there is a challenge Whitianga, and a positive outcome from this meeting. On this note the crowd drifted out into the evening and I couldn’t help but wonder; who did shoot Liberty Valence?
Note: if readers do want to watch a truly classic movie, it is called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, starring John Wayne and James Stewart.
Please see page five for a progress report by Mayor Len Salt from Central Government.