Buller gets ‘creative’ over public feedback on annual plan

6:38 pm on 21 April 2020

Buller District Council is taking its annual plan to the people this winter to ensure Covid-19 restrictions do not defeat democracy.

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Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The plan sets out short and long-term spending proposals and determines the level of rates the council will need to strike to make its budget work.

Buller District Council communications manager Lisa Gregory said that by law the council must seek public feedback but the usual face-to-face public meetings would be out of the question this year, whatever the Covid-19 alert level.

"Given the current restrictions, we are going to have to get more creative this year in making sure people know what's in the plan and that their views are heard."

The council was hoping to have the draft annual plan available as a printed copy, and online by 1 May, Gregory said.

Submissions would close on 29 May, giving people four weeks to respond.

"We'll be able to give the community more information next week on how we will handle the public process this time and how they can respond," Gregory said.

In Reefton, the council's i-SITE manager Rachel Fifield has been using her time in lockdown to compile a database of community contacts and organisations for the council to contact about the plan.

Fifield, who is also a member of the Inangahua Community Board, said when the plan came out, the council would be in touch with those contacts.

"We will need to make extra efforts this year to make sure the community is involved and included.

"We will be proactively seeking feedback on the plan, and asking those groups if [they want to submit] and communities if they want to submit."

A number of people had already mentioned concerns about potential rate rises to her, Fifield said.

"This is informal but I think a lot of people are wondering why there should be any rate rise at all, when we are entering a recession."

Buller mayor Jamie Cleine has said the council is looking at a rate rise of about 2 to 2.5 percent.

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