Public hearings on New Plymouth District Council’s 10-year plan got under way on Tuesday.
Over four days, councillors are hearing from residents on how they should spend their $3 billion budget over the next decade, which could involve a 12 per cent rates rise next year, and an average of 6.1 per cent every year for the following nine years.
Early afternoon session
After an extended lunch due to a couple of submitters being MIA, it was the turn of renowned council critic Tom Waite at 1pm.
He presented figures that he said showed the north Taranaki water shortage was “a myth” and water storage was the issue.
“Water meters are a con job,” he said.
Lyn Heaton wanted the New Plymouth Raceway land to be used inclusively, available to all.
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“The proposed multisport hub would be exclusive, as is horse racing.”
Businessman John Matthews bemoaned the “awful” state of Airport Dr as an entrance to the city.
“It’s barren in places.”
He also spoke of not waiting around for Waka Kotahi (NZTA) and suggested a proposed bypass for State Highway 45 in Omata so the main road did not pass through the village.
“I appeal to you to be visionaries,” he told councillors.
Jake Rapira said he had been in favour of a multisport hub since taking a team to a sports hub on the Gold Coast in 2017.
“It was amazing.
“There was always something on.”
He had travelled to similar hubs in Invercargill and Porirua as well.
And in the wake of covid, different codes had lost premises, he said.
“We’re Olympic boxing so kick boxing is a no. But we’ve taken them in because it needs a home.”
Rawina Wood spoke of trauma in the wake of covid and said it was “borderline cruel” to make people think about a Long-Term plan, calling for a pause, and said council should not be aligning with Agenda 21.
Mayor Neil Holdom stepped into what was brewing into a shouting match between Wood and councillor Anneka Carlson, explaining Agenda 21 from Wikipedia, which also annoyed Wood who said it was “more fake news”.
A business group continues to hammer away at getting an hour’s free parking to support central New Plymouth businesses.
Michelle Brennan, from the Business and Retail Association (BARA), said if New Plymouth’s central business district (CBD) continues to lose shoppers, then businesses will close, and there will be less revenue received over the whole week from parking meters.
She compared New Plymouth’s parking rate of $2 an hour from 9am-5pm in the CBD with similar cities.
Whangerei is also $2 from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and to 2pm on Saturday, but most other similar-sized centres had cheaper parking.
Rotorua is $1 an hour in the core CBD from 9-5 during the week and 9-12 on Saturdays, with free hourly parking on most adjoining streets.
Whanganui is $1 per half hour to a maximum of 90 minutes on central Victoria Ave and $1 an hour on all other streets.
The New Plymouth CBD retail is already under pressure from online shopping, big box shopping developments and suburban shopping centres that have no parking charges, Brennan wrote.
“We need to be mindful of the issues businesses are facing following Covid-19 and the impacts of job losses and business closures.”
New Plymouth has had several free hours’ parking trials in the past few years, including a three-month stint to support businesses after the Covid-19 lockdown expected to cost $410,000 in lost revenue, but it never extended beyond a trial.
“We have been submitting on this parking to annual plans and LTPs since 2012,” Brennan told councillors.
Councillor Marie Pearce argued that the current system – currently $2 an hour in most spots – was designed to create turnover rather than workers parking there all day.
“It’s only one hour,” Brennan replied.
The retail association’s submission was also supported by the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce.
“We should just give this hour free car parking a go,” chamber chairman and hotel owner Daniel Fleming said.
“Nothing to lose; everything to gain.”
Other subjects discussed during the morning session included:
The council is considering spending $18m to put a water meter into every home as part of plans to spend $248 million to fix drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, with another $20 million to improve Waitara’s stormwater system.
Submitter Mervyn Smith used to be a farmer in Kaponga, and although he said he told the hearing he cannot see the point of them, he thought meters would help people who use too much water.
“I just think the money spent on water meters could be spent on sewerage.”
Tracks and trails
The plan includes extending the Coastal Walkway to Waitara and the Taranaki Traverse, a walking and cycling trail from the Coastal Walkway, up the Waiwhakaiho River to North Egmont and down to Ōākura via Pukeiti, and eventually back to the city. Together, the plans would cost $36m.
Philip Armstrong of Fitzroy, a self-described ‘mamil’ (middle-age man in lycra) and member of the mountain bike club, said he disagreed with the Coastal Walkway extension to Waitara.
“I think people are too busy to commute that far.
“I don’t think the council should spend $25 million so Phil Armstrong can ride his bike out.”
The long-term plan would set aside $10m for projects in Inglewood.
Chester Young, co-owner of Little Liberty Creamery, said being able to get across town safely, on foot or by bike, was not too much to ask and called for a safe road crossing.
The fact that an underpass was in the works for Oakura showed that what they had been told wasn’t possible was, in fact, doable, he said.
He said “the very basic act” of getting across the village by foot or by bike, with his children in tow, was just about impossible and often dangerous.
- The hearings on NPDC’s 2021-31 Long-Term Plan are set to continue until Friday.