Opinion: Library closures, that rings a bell

Opinion: I read former mayor Garry Moore's opinion piece in the city's daily newspaper this week with interest.

Moore is a very astute individual, known for his social conscience, as a former accountant he is canny with the numbers, and of course he still is a big interest in local body politics.

Moore's article was aimed at those mayoral candidiates trying to woo voters with promises of zero rates increases. Moore, a Lianne Daziel supporter, and while she is a hot favourite to be returned for a third term, her closest rivals Darryll Park and John Minto, have been getting some traction.

Park has been beating the drum about zero rates increases if he is elected and pruning the city concil's budget by $100 million - which includes cutting ratepayer funded neighboiurhood barbecues. That part of the equation was simply dumb.

Moore's article was a direct swipe at Park in what has been increasing testy exchanges between those who support Dalziel, and Park.

Moore says if there is zero rates increases it would severely reduce maintenance on roads, footpaths, gutters, water systems, river banks, council facilities, dredging of rivers, berms, waterfronts, swimming pools, some small libraries would all have to close.

It is a direct warning to voters that if they give a tick for Park the above will happen.

But hold the phone for a second.....Close small libraries?

Ten years or so ago a Moore-led council decided they would close suburban libraries, two from memory.

There was a major backlash from the two communities which would be affected, which led to petitions and pleas to not go ahead with the plan.

The council refused to yield.. Those libraries would close seemed to be the blinkered mantra.

So The Star and its community newspapers - Save Our Libraries.

We editorialised, we published letters from the many who were upset about the idea, we put councillors in the areas and Moore on spot. Why were they doing this? It was simply a dumb idea.

Libraries are core faccilites in any community. They are places where people go to read, learn, catch up for a chat with others, and have a coffee. They are places where the elderly, and not so elderly, struggling with winter power bills can go to and keep warm - something we pointed out but was still lost on the the city's elcted officials.

So we upped the ante.

We ran photos of all the city councillors and Moore on the front page with their (council) cellphone numbers. We urged our readers to call them and make a verbal submission to keep the libraries open.

It worked.

Councillors mailboxes were swamped with callers. One councillor rang me slightly distressed. He also had a business. Clients and prospective clients were unable to leave a message.

Within days, I received a call form the mayor's office. Did I have a reporter and photographer available?

Why, I asked.

"The mayor is going to a make statement about the libraries," came the reply.

Victory, I thought.

A couple of hours later The Star was outside a suburban library. Moore with one of the petition organisers was there. He announced the council had now decided against closing the suburban libraries.

Power of the people.








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