Editorial: Someone has to make the tough calls

Last updated 08:01 20/06/2012

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OPINION: While New Plymouth District councillors have been under enormous pressure to keep any rates rise to a minimum in recent months, two stories in this paper on Monday gave an insight into the problems they face.

Everyone wants low rates but don't want council services to suffer.

In one story, Urenui residents are concerned that the council's refusal to finish off the wall, at a cost of $120,000, will end up costing ratepayers far more in the future.

In the second story, councillors voted to build a public toilet at the Waitara Cemetery some time in the next three years, but that decision would have to survive a service review by council a few months later. Already some councillors are saying the maintenance costs, estimated at $22,000 a year, could force a rethink.

The only certainty is that, no matter what councillors decide, they will no doubt be upsetting some of their ratepayers. However, that is ultimately what councillors are elected to do, to weigh up requests from the community and decide which ones deserve to be prioritised. It is a thankless task, but it is worth remembering the list of candidates in any local body election generally far exceeds the number of available seats.

That said, it is worth recognising the merits of both projects.

The Urenui seawall has been an expensive problem for the council for more than a decade. Parts of the domain and the golf course were falling into the sea at an alarming rate and council moved to stem the problem. A 299m wall was erected at significant cost, but that still left 330m exposed.

The problem was that any wall of 300m long needed ministerial permission and that was considered unlikely, or could have taken years. In 2008 another 100m was added but that left 230m of unprotected shoreline for the sea to wreak more damage.

Having already invested a seven-figure sum in the wall, surely the council would be well advised to finish the job, or be prepared to watch even more land from the domain and the golf course fall into the sea and be lost forever.

In Waitara, mourners have long learned to do their best and ignore the elements at the cemetery, with no public toilet anywhere near.

Now councillors have voted to include a public toilet at the graveyard in the long-term plan. North ward councillor Sherril George has been on the council for 11 years and has been asking for such a facility for 11 years. Many would think it is reasonable to expect the council to provide a toilet at such a venue.

Both projects are worthwhile and there is a real cost to the community, in social and physical terms, if nothing is done to alleviate two very different, but nevertheless pressing, problems. But is the community prepared to pay for them?

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Councillors make those tough calls on our behalf and we wish them well.

- Taranaki Daily News

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