Gore’s mayor-elect is disappointed the public were given no say on how $2.28 million of Government funding for the district will be spent.
At an extraordinary meeting held two days before the local election, the previous council voted behind closed doors to apply for the first tranche of funding from the Government’s Three Waters Reform Better Off Support Package.
It is asking for $1.2 million for the Maruawai Centre, $200,000 to enhance cycling and pedestrian safety at Hamilton Park, $50,000 for cultural artworks for council facilities, $150,000 to upgrade the Waikaka Valley windmill, $500,000 for the Tulloch Park recreation hub and $180,000 for the proposed Mataura medical hub.
Councils were first notified of the funding in April and had until the end of September to apply.
Mayor-elect Ben Bell, who campaigned against wasteful council spending, had not yet reviewed the minutes of the meeting and would not comment on whether he agreed with the chosen projects, but did support the decision to apply for the funding.
‘‘It’s money the Government is handing out regardless of your position on Three Waters,’’ he said.
‘‘I think it would be stupid to turn down money for projects in our district with no conditions on the support of Three Waters or not.’’
However, it was the timing of the meeting and the lack of public consultation which bothered him, he said.
‘‘It was inappropriate to have a meeting of that magnitude and allocate that funding so close to an election. It should have been discussed well before then.
‘‘That deadline was not all-of-a-sudden, it was not new and it was not surprising.
‘‘Other councils had plenty of time to consult with the community about how they were going to spend that.
‘‘I’m disappointed that the old council did not consult with the public. It puts me in a bit of a sticky position now that money has been requested and because that deadline has passed, we also don’t want to miss out on the funding.’’
Chief executive Stephen Parry said the short timeframe the council had to apply for funding meant community engagement was not possible.
Each project was subject to individual scoring within a template provided by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
‘‘The entire process, from when we first received notification of the funding to receiving the scoring template and liaising with the DIA, was quite compressed,’’ Mr Parry said.
Despite this, other councils around the country such as Waikato District Council and Masterton District Council did manage to consult with the public during those five months.
Gore’s projects were instead decided by a working party involving the Hokonui Runanga, council staff and elected members.
Mr Parry said the party met three times and discussed, at length, projects that could fall into the first or second tranches of funding.
The Maruawai Centre stood out above other projects, with its high degree of iwi engagement and community consultation, he said.
‘‘This has been reflected in the amount of funding allocated to this particular project.’’
All up, the Gore district had been allocated $9.15 million as part of the Government’s Three Waters support package.
The remaining $6.87 million would be available in 2024.
‘‘We will have more time to consider projects for phase two and will definitely be seeking community input,’’ Mr Parry said.
Applying for the funding did not mean the council supported the Government’s Three Waters reform model and it would continue to lobby for a national referendum.