The Western Front
First, the bad news. You have been done.
Forget about the council boast of a ‘real rate rise’ of only 1%. The Long Term Plan, just released, has set the average rate rise at 9.5%. With the fiddle factor used to calculate the general rate from the CVs increasing by 45%, properties over the average value are hit even harder. When a councillor spent on hour on the phone checking my figures he had to admit my figures were correct and could only complain that what I had written put council in a bad light. With a CPI of 0.9% and a growth factor of about the same that leaves at least a 7% rip off compounding every year. What can we do about it?
The good news: the council, their structure, processes and representation procedures could soon be under scrutiny from Local Government but for this to happen there has to be submissions from distraught citizens before they will intervene. This scrutiny is not over the council debt, which is about fourth worst per capita in New Zealand, or the rates that are getting out of hand. Council problems come from its failing to communicate meaningfully with the public and they have turned consultation into a game of hide and seek. All you need to do to change this is to fill out the Initial Representation Proposal submission form available from the library and tell council that their representation proposal is a total mystery to you. Explain that you have never had an opportunity to have the Representation Review explained and you want the council to start the process again correctly, to provide you with understandable information and allow you to take part in a proper consultation process.
To be fair, the current councillors are themselves victims of past excesses but their final version of the Long Term Plan is only promising more of the same with ever-increasing debt and burgeoning rates. You won’t get any direction from a councillor. They are not allowed to have an opinion publicly because then they would not be allowed to vote on the issue. Waihi Beach Community Board will be available on Monday night to help people with their submissions. Katikati Community Board has not shown any initiative in this area, despite requests. They will be discussing it at their meeting for the first time on the day applications close. Some local residents could be calling a meeting to help with submission early next week. I have been told that Te Puke has been a little slow to get started but we hope that the word is getting through. This is our only chance in six years to actually be able to change our council and its direction.
Remember, you are not expected to design a new system or give council any advice. Very few of us understand all of the implications of the three ward plan suggested. All you need to record is that you don’t understand what they are talking about, how their new system might work and that you haven’t been consulted. If you have any ideas, of course, add them as well. Some reports in the paper describe these changes as a government trying to take central control. The opposite is true. We are being given a chance to have a say on how council is run but we still have to take that chance. Submissions close 25 July.