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Residents urged to speak out on wards

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 13/09/2012

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Geraldine residents fighting to retain a ward-based district council must make submissions if they want their views considered.

Timaru councillor Damon Odey said it was important residents did not become complacent on the issue.

"You need to put a submission in favour of what you wish. Don't take it as a given."

Cr Odey was one of at least seven people who spoke at a public meeting arranged by the Geraldine Community Board in Geraldine on Tuesday night.

The meeting follows the council meeting last week in which the early vote to reverse the ward system was itself reversed.

Sixty people attended this week's public meeting.

Cr Odey said if residents failed to make submissions to keep the ward-based representation system, there was a risk it could go in favour of the 10 at large option.

"If you do that you open up the risk now of the people that support 10 at large (putting in more submissions), and they will, the emails are out there now."

He told residents it was not time to give up their fight.

Cr Steve Earnshaw, who supports the 10 at large option, also encouraged residents to make their submissions.

"It is vitally important everyone in this room and everyone they know makes a submission to the council."

Community board member Kerry Stevens has researched the possibility of Geraldine following suit with Whanganui, which has replaced its ward-based system with an at-large option.

Although that concept might be working for the people of Whanganui, it was not suited to Geraldine, he said.

Mr Stevens said Whanganui's small settlement areas were about the same size as Orari, which meant residents in those parts had to travel to the city for doctors, pharmacists, schools, supermarkets and banks.

"Pretty much, all the things you would want to access on a daily basis was in the Whanganui city.

"City people use (the city) as much as urban people do.

"Under that scenario that's why at large was the best option."

However, he said Geraldine was a self-sufficient town and residents did not need to rely on Timaru's services.

Margaret Chapman, who also spoke at the meeting, said it was imperative the community had a voice.

"We can't afford to lose our rural voice - rural is already getting marginalised. We have a local community of interest here in Geraldine, we have to make sure we retain that. It's one of the most important things we have."

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- The Timaru Herald

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