Lively meeting tackles council

Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest fielding questions from the floor.

Water charges, questions around growth and the topic of a third bridge were among issues raised at an unusually packed Cambridge Grey Power meeting held earlier this month.

Cambridge Grey Power president Val Massey invited members of the Waipa District Council to the meeting to enable the more than 80 attendees to ask questions around projects included in the Council’s 10-Year-Plan. Guests included Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest, Deputy Mayor Grahame Webber, councillors and senior WDC staffers.

The final date for public submissions on the plan is April 20.

The most pressing issue related to concerns around billing charges for water.

Faced with a barrage of questions on the issue, Mr Mylchreest said around 1000 properties in Waipa had a complex water supply arrangement, where several households share a single water supply point with their neighbours.  He said he understood the frustration of those who feared the split billing could see charges rise and urged affected individuals to contact the council.

“We are aware that there some anomalies around water charges for these properties and are working hard with those people on a case-by-case basis to find an equitable solution as soon as we can.  In such cases where you might have one person in one unit, and five in another, it is obviously not fair to simply split the bill. We want to deal with those issues as quickly as possible.”

He said much of the problem was historical, and it would take time to tackle the engineering and accessibility issues linked to correcting it.

Several audience members said they had contacted the council but had received no response. Mr Mylchreest said all incoming notifications to council were monitored, and in cases where people had received no response, they should go back to council – in person, if necessary.

“This has been a major job for us. Overall, the result will be a more equitable situation for the vast majority of people. Yes, there are a number of cases where it is not equitable – and we are working hard to sort those out. I would urge people to be persistent in contacting the council with those issues.”

Cambridge Grey Power vice-president/treasurer Michael Cole queried the decision not to include a third bridge in the Council’s 10-Year-Plan. He described the need for a third bridge as critical, “particularly when one considers the population growth in Cambridge”.

Mr Mylchreest said the challenge was that before the community could afford to build a third bridge, it would have to meet the government’s standard for subsidy, or costs would “be through the roof”.

“You almost have to get to a point of congestion before you get to the point of a subsidy,” he said, saying the community could not fund the bridge without it.  “Meanwhile, there is some work being done on preparations for a third bridge – where it would go and so on – but nothing is likely to happen within the next 10-year period.”

Another audience member asked if it was time to put a limit on population growth in Cambridge, claiming that unchecked growth risked negatively affecting the town’s beauty.

Mr Mylchreest said the challenge was to get growth that complemented the existing township and said a great deal of time was spent on ensuring that whatever development was done retained the town’s character.

“There are towns in New Zealand that are static – which have no growth at all. Many of them have difficulty funding their infrastructure. They’re going backwards. There are real problems attached to limiting growth.”

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