Rates increases hot topic at election meeting

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By CRIS JOHNSTON AND PAM JONES

Rates increases and environmental issues are presenting as hot topics for ratepayers at election meetings throughout the district.

About 200 people attended an election meeting in Cromwell on Monday to hear from candidates standing for the Central Otago mayoralty, Cromwell Community Board and the Dunstan constituency of the Otago Regional Council.

No election is required for the Central Otago District Council’s (CODC) Cromwell ward, as the number of nominations equalled the number of vacancies.

Most questions from the floor focused on district issues rather than regional council issues and the Cromwell ward’s 20% rates rise was a hot topic.

Bruce McMillan, of Bannockburn, said the increase was a huge amount for retired people.

“This is a major increase,” he said. “I can’t understand how you can keep putting rates up. Ratepayers will revolt. Rates need to be kept level.”

Incumbent mayor Tony Lepper said the rates rise was required to help fund the $12million upgrade of Cromwell’s sewerage scheme. He had previously said at an Omakau meeting that the decision to even out rates in the district was fairer for all ratepayers and approved unanimously by all CODC councillors.

At the Cromwell meeting he said: “We can’t keep tipping sewage into that river,” referring to the present discharge into the Kawarau River.

Cromwell Community Board candidate Werner Murray said the practice was a third world standard.

Freedom camping, wilding pines, air pollution from farm burn-offs and development of the Big Fruit were other issues raised at the meeting.

Resident Grant Davis said the council should install portable toilets at Bendigo, a freedom camping hot spot during the summer season.

“The horticulture industry needs the workers,” he said.

However, regional council candidate Michael Laws said freedom campers were a “curse” and likened them to the aquatic pest plant lagarosiphon, “except on wheels”.

Environmental issues were also at the fore of much of the discussion at an Omakau election meeting held last week.

Candidates for the mayoralty, Vincent Community Board Earnscleugh-Manuherikia ward and Otago Regional Council Dunstan constituency were at the meeting, as well as the two candidates already voted on to the CODC for the Earnscleugh-Manuherikia ward, as the number of candidates for the seats equalled the number of vacancies.