Royal protest considered by upset residents

Seddon residents feel neglected by the Marlborough District Council, and were so angry about it that they considered protesting during the royal visit, a community advocate says.

Awatere Community Information Centre volunteer Marie Flowerday said the district had suffered in a large earthquake last year yet it wasn't even mentioned in the council's draft annual plan.

"We're just forgotten . . . There is no help coming from the Marlborough District Council. I've got some very angry people here who are talking about doing a protest."

Flowerday said the Awatere Memorial Hall had been declared an earthquake risk. There had been plans drawn up three years ago to replace it, but nothing had been decided on yet.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman conceded on Friday that the council had been slow to communicate with the community about what it had been doing.

Work was being handled by different parts of the council, but the big picture had not been communicated to people in Seddon, he said.

"We recognise we need to communicate better . . . We are listening."

The work on the memorial hall was key, and the council's assets and services committee was expected to consider options for it at its next meeting, Sowman said.

That work would be accelerated, but an important part of that was for the Seddon community to confirm how it wanted to use the building. Did they want the hall repaired as it was, or should the council start again with a new building, he asked.

Initially, it was thought the churches which had their buildings damaged in the earthquake might use the new building, but Sowman said he understood that situation may have changed.

The Awatere Community Information Centre trust was staffed by volunteers, and Sowman said the pressure was hard on them, particularly on Flowerday and Lil Broadhurst who had done a huge amount of work after the earthquake.

"They have carried the bulk of the work out there."

Different council staff were working hard on different work in Seddon, Sowman said, but that may have not been seen by Seddon residents. Rather than piecemeal measures, he said the council would put together a document showing all the work it was doing so Seddon residents could see the big picture.

"There are a lot of things going on in Seddon . . . Staff are working away quietly and perhaps we haven't told them [residents] exactly what we're doing."

The council would put a regular information article in the Awatere and Flaxbourne News, the trust's publication.

Sowman said he and the elected councillors understood the situation Seddon residents were in.

"It [a major disaster event] does affect people and we need to understand that. We do understand what the issues are out there and are addressing them."

The Marlborough Express