A former Matamata-Piako district councillor has slammed the local body as "turning mean" in its support of local organisations and initiatives.
Long-time resident Maurice Hight, who also served previously on the Morrinsville Community Board, said there was a community perception that the council's "can-do attitude" was all but extinct. "That it is cold, uncaring and unapproachable".
Chairman of Keep Morrinsville Beautiful, Mr Hight said the council was telling the group's volunteers - about a dozen people mostly aged in their 70s - to take over complete responsibility for the council-designed, commissioned and owned streetscape hanging baskets.
At a recent corporate and operations committee meeting, members resolved to grant $3000 annually to Keep Morrinsville Beautiful for the baskets.
Mayor Hugh Vercoe said the decision was made after a review of the staff time involved in the project. "Parks and reserves was way over budget". Keep Morrinsville Beautiful could apply for further funding through the annual process.
Mr Hight said Keep Morrinsville Beautiful was happy to undertake planting, but did not want to be responsible for operating the associated watering system in Thames St.
Eight taps are required to be turned on and off each day when the baskets are up, generally from November to March.
He said the watering system, previously operated by council staff, was unreliable and labour-intensive.
The annual grant, used to buy plants, liners and potting mix, would not be enough to also cover watering.
In his submission to a council hearing on representation last Wednesday, in which Mr Hight opposed the disestablishment of community boards, he said it was "despicable" that a local authority should even think that it could justify unloading valid, long-accepted council expenses onto an ageing group of community volunteers.
Keep Morrinsville Beautiful hosted a zone meeting last week at which the Morrinsville group's work drew high praise from the national body.
Keep New Zealand Beautiful chair Iris Donoghue said Morrinsville, with its Keep Morrinsville Beautiful street planters and hanging baskets, was "absolutely beautiful". She said the group's work showed a "real sense of community", which was often lacking in larger centres.
Also in his submission, Mr Hight highlighted other issues involving the council, including booking Domain House in Te Aroha, the requirement for a resource consent to remove a tree at Morrinsville Croquet Club and a building permit for a marquee at a children's camp.
Mr Vercoe said the croquet club tree was on the council's register of protected trees and the council "must comply with its own rules" and apply for a resource consent if it was to be removed. He said the council would pay for the consent process, which could be heard by an independent commissioner.
A building consent was required for a marquee at the day camp through changes in the Building Act, Mr Vercoe said. The council would discount the fee ($344) by $100.
Mr Hight said the council had "an endemic culture of corporate arrogance" and hoped the consultation process relating to the representation review provided the Matamata-Piako District Council a "massive wake-up call".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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