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Through the Portal

Our voice – How do we have one?

The TCDC Long Term Plan has been made available for review by ratepayers and the ability to make a submission was provided. I had a go at this, as did many others, and found the process rather cumbersome and limiting.

It was cumbersome in that the website was difficult to navigate and it was limiting in that all you could comment on was decisions already made, we could not be part of the decision.

An example of this was the new Council administrative building where we could decide on spending between $8 million and $27 million depending on options. What was not presented for our consideration was some missing options such as:

1. Sell the current Council premises and have Council lease office space elsewhere.

2. Sell the current Council premises and have a new Council building built on land owned by the Council in Whitianga. After all a third of the Coromandel population resides in Mercury Bay and it would be a far nicer place to live for Council staff.

Both of these options would free up some millions for things such as foot paths at Wharekaho, and a myriad of other things, but these options were not put on the table by Council.

The Council had facilitated a community-based fact finding process some months ago which I supposed was where we were meant to recommend such items as the two options mentioned.

The problem with this process was that the Council would not tell us what they were planning, so unless you happened to know the building was up for renovation or replacement, you would not think to comment on it. I attended one of these meetings and felt it was just an exercise focussed on enabling Council to tick off the box labelled “Consulted with Community”.

If the community consultation could be considered a sham how do we get our voice heard? The answer has to be via the local Community Board, or so I thought. I decided to get an idea of how this worked by tracing the Community Board’s concern for Wharekaho. This area is in effect a suburb of Whitianga and you would think it should have water, sewerage and footpaths as does the rest of the town, including the new development in Wharekaho at the town end.

The starting point I eventually found was the Mercury Bay Community Plan 2020 to 2030. Reading through this I was able to ascertain that Wharekaho was not forgotten. In particular under the section headed “Projects the Communities Would Like to See Happen” were the following:

1. Wastewater and water supply service investigations

2. Completion of path from 1095 SH25 (Campground) to Harbour Lights Terrace

This looked promising for Wharekaho, although it did not look fully committed.

A commitment to investigate something over a ten-year period sounds like a Labour Government process, reports for filing and no action. Surely we could do more than that I thought, and set about trying to see what the next step was.

The next step is for our Community Board to get some of our needs included in the Annual Plan, as this is what initiates work.

Upon perusal I found that last year footpath construction in Mercury Bay totalled $83,000 whereas the plan called for $166,000.

Maybe the underspend was at Wharekaho? The citizens of Simpsons Beach were possibly thought about, then ignored, but that was as good as it got last year.

Let us not be negative though, let’s look at the coming year. The Long Term Plan had $169,440 for footpath construction but in the annual plan this has been revised to zero. Not good news for Wharekaho but they shouldn’t feel picked on, the entire Mercury Bay LTP budget for the coming year of $3.3 million has been slashed by 90% although I must point out that we have a few additional items in another section, items such as waste water, storm water improvements and Brophys Beach coastal protection.

The coming years show more potential with budgets appearing in the three prime areas of interest for Wharekaho. But we have seen how easy it is for the magicians at Council to make a budget disappear so we mustn’t get too excited.

We conclude it is not looking promising for Wharekaho’s footpath and in particular the results we are getting makes us question the Community Board in terms of effectiveness. Their prime purpose appears to be as our voice