Residents of a Bay of Plenty town have spoken out about roaming dogs, children on motorbikes, the state of the roads, and pending rates rises during a community meeting.
Whakatane District Council Te Urewera general ward councillor Andrew Iles called the meeting for Tāneatua at the local fire station on Monday.
Iles said 20 people gathered, with Mayor Victor Luca, Toi Ki Uta Māori ward councillor Ngapera Rangiaho and a community police constable also attending.
Rates and affordability was very much to the forefront of the discussion.
“There’s a long-term plan coming up for consultation next month. A 27.8% rate rise has already been highlighted.
“It was pointed out that not only are we a community with high deprivation but we are also a community with a lot of elderly – pensioners living on a limited income who somehow have to fund rates rises out of their fixed budgets.”
Iles said residents also raised the issues of roaming dogs, the poor condition of the state highway and council roading network, traffic speed and safety of children crossing State Highway 2 to the playground.
“Dirt bikes were a concern, as I guess they are in Waimana, Whakatāne and most other towns,” he said.
“You’ve got these people who’ve taken to the streets on their dirt bikes without helmets. So many times they’re under-age or have more than one person on the bike, so there is some real safety concerns there.”
Tāneatua resident Antoinette Spencer, who attended the meeting, agreed that people riding motorbikes dangerously was a big concern for many locals.
“We have kids roaring up and down the street with four or five on a four-wheeler, and possibly the eldest could be 10 and none of them wearing helmets.”
Iles said there had been a suggestion that an under-utilised reserve in Tāneatua could be a possible off-road dirt bike site.
“But when I approached the council about that yesterday, they came back to the health and safety factor.
“There’s also housing either side of most of those reserves so you’re not going to get much buy-in from people who don’t want to hear that continual roar of bikes day-in and day-out. It’s not an easy problem to solve.”
Spencer said the meeting was very informative and there was “lots of positivity”.
“There was really no negativity. There were questions asked and resolved. They were very helpful.
“One thing that was very interesting was about entering a submission [through the council’s formal consultation]. If you have a lot of signatures [on a written submission] it is still only counted as one submission.
“That was really interesting, because a lot of us thought our votes were counted if we all signed.”
Spencer said another issue that attendees were united on was the condition of the 100-year-old, single-lane Pekatahi Bridge, a former railway bridge, which is part of State Highway 2 to the East Coast and Gisborne.
“Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) close it for a day and do little repairs, like fixing pot holes, well it needs a little bit more than than that. Instead of putting a plaster on it, they need to fix it properly.”
Another Tāneatua resident Jill Lee also commented on how helpful the meeting was.
“It was excellent and very positive,” she said.
Lee said her main issue was around roaming dogs in the town.
“My cat was recently attacked by one of these dogs on her own property.”
The cat, Olly, is now home, but still has a long recovery ahead of him from the attack on January 29, after spending six days at the veterinary clinic. He is just one of many pets attacked by roaming dogs in the Whakatāne district over summer.
“I think we need to be looking at this problem seriously and providing animal control with as much help as we can. I know they’re busy and they need help.”
Iles said he hoped to hold similar meetings in the future.
By Local Democracy Reporter Diane McCarthy
Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air