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Letters – Secretive decisions

August 24, 2021 August 2021, Regular Features No Comments

2019 election Mayor Beijen stated: “I am standing for South Wairarapa Mayor to bring back common sense and transparency.” Voters were attracted to his statements: “Transparency and openness are essential for this Council. Gone are the days when the public are ok with decisions made behind closed doors. Except in cases of private financial matters or staff reviews, all decisions made by Council should be done openly, with clear explanations as to why and how the decisions were made, and made accessible on the Council website.” 

Less than two years on, is this happening for rate payers? Judging by discontent in Martinborough, Featherston and Greytown, it would seem not.  Living in Greytown I can only draw on our current challenge, but it certainly fits the secretive way the council has worked in Martinborough where a decision to change the road around Martinborough Square was made without adequate consultation. Or in Featherston where there is ongoing unhappiness over the less than transparent decision making over the Underhill Road quarry.

Sept ‘20 the SWDC was presented with a visionary proposal known as Pahikara, This offered development of council land at Greytown’s 85-87 West Street, in the heart of our CBD: a heritage park, amenities to link with the growing cycle industry, a boutique cinema. An estimated 50 jobs. At the time Mayor Beijen was hugely enthusiastic. “It’s fantastic that someone is forward-thinking on what resources may be needed to enable that tourism to occur.” (Stuff Nov ’20)

Between Sept ‘20 and the April ’21 council vote, Beijen’s enthusiasm disappeared. April ’21 the SWDC didn’t discuss Pahikara, They shelved the subject until next LTP. An exciting proposal shelved for three years!  We don’t know why, as all the decision making was shrouded in secrecy with public excluded discussion for 3 meetings. We don’t have explanation for the committee’s conclusion that “the economic benefit and income potential (of the sale or lease of 85-87 West Street) for the district was minimal.” 

Thinking ratepayers in Greytown are unhappy that council rejected an opportunity to generate good commercial income and jobs from land in the heart of the CBD especially at a time when we all face likely $30 million 3 waters renewal deficit and with some experiencing 20% rates rises. 

We share, with Martinborough and Featherston, disappointment that our mayor is not following through on his election promise of transparent decision making. 

Lizzie Catherall

The Mayor replies:

The decision of Council on the sale of the last piece of commercial land owned by the public in Greytown has been transparent and clear.

This is a significant matter, and requires all residents opinion before making a non-transparent decision on selling council assets (certainly better than previous public land sales by Council, I would have thought).

The reasons for this decision have been transparently discussed by Council, and transparently published. A timeframe for this consultation has been transparently set.

I fully support this developer’s proposal for a commercial investment, but do not feel it is appropriate for Councillors to be held to ransom by certain vocal Greytown residents to forgo transparent decision making.

It is doubly odd that many of the people now wanting Council to sell is assets without public consultation were the same people complaining when the previous council sold land to developers in South Greytown in 2018.

The writers comments are thus illogical.

  Alex Beijen, Mayor of South Wairarapa

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