No trouble, just questions for councillors

Clutha district councillor Kevin Barron answers a question at a ratepayers’ meeting called by...
Clutha district councillor Kevin Barron answers a question at a ratepayers’ meeting called by Clutha Concerned Citizens in Balclutha last night, flanked by (from left) Crs Simon McAtamney, Dane Catherwood, Brent Mackie and Dean McCrostie. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
A ratepayers’ meeting in Balclutha last night passed without incident, despite the district mayor expressing earlier concerns about the safety of those attending.

On Monday, Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he did not plan to attend the meeting at the town’s South Otago Town & Country Club, as he could not guarantee the wellbeing of staff, councillors or the public.

About 170 people attended the meeting, including visitors from Auckland, Invercargill and Te Anau, and five Clutha district councillors.

In his introduction, meeting convener Phil Barrett, of Clutha Concerned Citizens, said the meeting was not for "getting up" on the councillors.

"These councillors have shown a lot of courage to be here while under fire from Mayor Cadogan," he said, to a round of applause.

"This is a meeting to hopefully get some answers about what’s going on regarding the 25% rates increase, or cap, that will be a huge burden on ratepayers.

"This is the start of a voice to move forward together."

Crs Kevin Barron, Simon McAtamney, Dane Catherwood, Brent Mackie and Dean McCrostie attended.

The councillors had the chance to respond to questions collated by the group, and put to them in advance.

During what was generally an amicable session, which included occasional laughter from the audience, the councillors responded.

Cr McAtamney began by emphasising Mr Cadogan had not dictated whether councillors could or could not attend the meeting.

"We debated it at our last meeting, but we were free to attend as we chose," he said.

Questions on council expenditure focused on what some deemed "unnecessary" projects, and other financial matters.

Cr Catherwood elicited groans from the audience while answering a question about the district’s two recent "destination" toilets, in Balclutha and Milton.

Tallying up figures sourced from the council, collectively, the toilets appeared to have cost about $2.2 million so far, which included design, land, demolition and construction expenses, he said.

Other speakers at the meeting called for all councils to refocus on "core business".

A petition calling for Clutha to focus on drainage, drinking water, sewerage and roading was distributed for those attending to sign.