Using Katikati’s new library as an example, Western Bay of Plenty District Council mayor-elect Garry Webber says the council is going to change how it does things.
“I don’t think there’s much wrong with what Western Bay has been doing, it’s more the how rather than the what,” says Garry, speaking to SunLive after local body election results were released in the weekend.
“How we do things, and that’s really going to a community based starting point for a lot of our planning, rather than council comes up with ideas and goes out to the community.”
The Katikati library is a classic example.
“I think the community requires or wanted a library, it’s how we went about it. If we had started with the community engagement a little sooner. You know you learn from these things going forward and I think that’s one of the lessons we have to learn that we have got to engage with the community earlier in the process, rather than later in the process.”
Costs for the library increased by $1 million from $3.5 to $4.5 million. An explanation by council staff that building costs increased by 15 per cent over 18 months.
This was challenged by the community and some council candidates, who compared the Katikati library project with the Te Awamutu library project saying Katikati’s library is now 19 per cent more expensive per m2 than the Te Awamutu 1400m2 library currently under construction.
The original cost for Katikati was $3.5m for a 1200m2 building. In September that increased to $4.025m for 1200m2.
Garry says over the last three years, former mayor Ross Paterson has done a pretty good job getting the council from where it was in the early 2000s prior to the global financial crisis.
“We have had to manage our way through that, and I think he did a pretty good job. We still have got some way to go to make sure that our rates were delivering value for money and I think we are pretty close to where we should be going forward.’
Ongoing growth in housing in the district shows people want to come and live in the western bay communities, says Garry.
“They want to come here because of what those communities provide and we need to make sure we don’t get carried away providing stuff that is gold plated, but stuff that’s fit for purpose and meets the needs of the current community and provides ongoing reasons for people who want to come and live in the district.
“As I said in a lot of my campaigning, the Port of Tauranga is basically the reason a lot of people come and want to live here but you have to step back, as I said with the big ship that came in last week.
Ninety eight per cent of the Aotea Maersk’s cargo is processed or produced outside of Tauranga City, says Garry.
“So the economic drivers are where we are. And Tauranga is the large service town. Now we have got the TEL and hopefully in three or four years the northern arterial sorted out, people want to live in small communities with a relatively quick commute to wherever the work is.
“If you go down as far as Paengaroa, that’s half an hour into Tauranga city now. Which compared to Auckland, Waikato and a number of other places I have lived in New Zealand – that’s a pretty quick commute.”
He’s not going to vary a lot from what he has done over the last six years, says Garry.
“Just make sure we manage it a little more fiscally than we have done in the past and make sure that what we do for the future creates communities that we are really proud of and continues to be an attractant for those that want to come and live in our district.”
There is no date set yet for the swearing in of the new council.