OPINION: Headlines were generated by some submitters to the Taranaki Regional Council this week and they are almost certain to be replicated when the New Plymouth District Council goes through the same process at the end of the month.
Consultation is a key part of any democracy these days and that's why the council should be delighted with the record number of submissions this year. No fewer than 1829 were received and it's worth noting that in many submissions more than one person signs them - especially in the case of Len Houwers' petition. So it's safe to say that more than 2000 people were actually moved to put pen to paper to have their voices heard.
Those numbers dwarf the previous record of 1037 in 2006 and reflect the degree of concern that exists in the community over the ever-increasing rates burden many in the community are struggling with.
Needs versus wants has become a frequent topic in New Plymouth and there is no doubt those words will be repeated more than once during the submissions.
Mayor Harry Duynhoven and his 14 councillors now have the arduous task of going through the volumes of submissions and the council officers' responses to each one.
It is one of those unseen tasks that councillors undertake every three years and it will be interesting to gauge their responses during the hearings.
Three days have been set aside - May 29, 30 and 31 - to hear those who want to appear before the council to add weight to their submissions. Some will be less than flattering of the councillors they are addressing, which is understandable. Hopefully though, most will stick to the issue and make their point in an impersonal manner.
Just as importantly, councillors are obliged by law to read every submission before the hearings start, and despite Councillor John McLeod's acidic observation that some of his colleagues turn up to meetings with their agendas still unread in their rubber bands, ratepayers have every right to expect their elected representatives to earn their pay.
Topping the list of controversial items will almost certainly be the $28 million TSB stadium development proposal. This one project will define how Mayor Harry's council of 2010-13 will be remembered. If the stadium goes ahead, there will be some who will see the councillors as visionaries who had the guts to turn a blind eye to the naysayers and give the district a much-needed facility. Conversely, others, who will certainly be more voluble in their views, will condemn them as profligate big-spenders who ignored the wishes of a hurting community and built a monument to themselves on the flimsiest of support.
Such is the lot of councillors everywhere these days, but at least they will know the people have spoken by the end of the consultation process.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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