Annual-plan meetings fail to attract public interest

Poor attendances at public meetings this year have prompted the Waitaki District Council to reconsider how it publicises its annual plan in the future.

At most meetings, councillors and staff outnumbered the public. The biggest meeting was expected to be on April 15 at Five Forks, because farmers face rates rises of up to 50%, but only 15 turned up.

At the Oamaru meeting on April 12, there were 12 members of the public and 14 staff and councillors.

The council had four roadshows to answer questions and get feedback on its 2010-11 draft annual plan, which proposes an average 1.8% rise in its overall rates take.

Strategy group manager Richard Mabon said yesterday the roadshows at Five Forks, Oamaru, Otematata and Palmerston were poorly attended.

"Staff are giving some thought to the effectiveness of the current public consultation," he told the council's strategy committee meeting. While the council tried to stimulate public attendance, "by and large the usual group of stalwarts attended".

"Perhaps the low rates increase of 1.8% means there is no need for the public to show up," Mr Mabon said.

From the meetings, the proposed closure of four public toilets in Oamaru appeared to be the main issue.

Submissions on the draft annual plan closed on April 23. The council received 145, with about 100 on the public toilets issue. Those wanting to appear before the council will be heard on Wednesday and Thursday.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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