Candidates discuss main mishandled issues

The Streets Alive project is the one of the issues incumbent councillors think could have been handled better.

In the question and answer time at the Rotary Club of Gore’s meet›the›candidates evening last week, councillors Richard McPhail, Bret Highsted, Bronwyn Reid, Glenys Dickson and Nick Grant were asked to identify two areas where they thought the council had missed the mark in its present term.

Mr McPhail said councillors did not anticipate the backlash the Streets Alive project would cause.

“Assessing it now in the light of reflection, it caused more angst than it should have in regard to what the project was about.”

It might have been better to have fewer components of the project installed, he said.

Mr Highsted said he was one who initially approved of Streets Alive.

“What we didn’t do well enough was respond to your requests quick enough.”

The project had Waka Kotahi as a funding partner which had complicated the situation, he said.

“We had to see it through and we do apologise.”

Cr Reid said the council did communicate with the community about Streets Alive, but some of the workshops were not well attended.

Some of the items had worked well.

“Some of our streets have been made safer.”

Cr Dickson said in her opinion, Streets Alive was a “disaster”.

“We did take far too long to remove some of that infrastructure.”

Cr Grant said he could remember driving around the streets at 5am and trying to avoid the Streets Alive installations which had been vandalised.

That was a “fiasco”, he said.

The plan to build a cable stay footbridge was another item some councillors identified as an issue that was not handled well.

“We could have consulted better about the bridge,’’ Cr Dickson said.

“I think an early consultation with Hokonui Runanga and the public, we may have got a better outcome.”

Cr Grant said the bridge was another project he would have reversed his decision on.

Gore mayor Tracy Hicks also commented on the council’s present term.

“We’ve got to take a lot of learnings from what we did wrong and what we can do better,” Mr Hicks said.

Streets Alive was not a complete failure, he said.

“There was actually some good stuff to come out of that and stuff we’ll be able to build on, and I’m thinking particularly the roundabouts.”

The bridge was another example where the council had to do better, he said.

“We have to do better because we’ve got to get water across that river somehow or other.”

The other candidates were then asked what decisions of the present council they would change.

Liz Adams-Gray said the council should not have been part of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Steve Dixon said the council spent too much on the council administration building makeover.

Stephen McStay said a cheaper alternative should have been found for the cable stay footbridge over the Mataura River.

Janeen Reti said removing the recycling option for residents.

Paul McPhail, Robert McKenzie and Joe Stringer said the council did not consult well on the cable stay bridge.

Keith Hovell said he was not so much concerned about the mistakes this council had made but how the council could improve its performance in the next term.

Reuben Turipa said the Closing the Gaps programme was the issue he would pick, but he did not want to elaborate.

Mayoral candidate Ben Bell said the conversion of the James Cumming Wing into a library and “the upset’’ it had caused there.