THE prospect of a second bridge was the hot topic at a meet the candidates event held on Thursday.
Grey Power and Eastern Bay Villages held a meeting yesterday at the Knox Church on Domain Road to allow the public to hear from candidates running for election as councillor for the Whakatane-Ohope ward.
Of the eighteen candidates running, nine attended and spoke at the meeting.
Victor Luca, Pouroto Ngaropo and Lesley Immink are all running for mayor as well as the ward and were in attendance but didn’t speak.
Those who did, Steve Sopora, Scott Jarrett, Doug McLean, Jennifer Manning, Wayne Marriott, Adyn Ogle, Nandor Tanczos, Toni Boynton and Neil Larking, were each given five minutes to speak before the crowd could put questions to them.
The crowd was especially interested in hearing the candidates’ opinions on the possibility of a second bridge.
Those asking said only having one bridge in and out of town posed a safety risk in the event of a natural disaster and that Whakatane was becoming too large to be serviced by the one bridge.
Current councillor Scott Jarrett said the council had agreed to match Piripai developers’ $500,000 to put towards the construction of a foot bridge from Coastlands to the CBD.
“That hasn’t started yet, but I believe that’s still on the table,” said Mr Jarrett.
Mr Sopora said a second bridge was vital to service the region’s primary industries, while
Ms Boynton said she would support a second bridge as it would be needed in a natural disaster.
Mr Ogle is a volunteer fire fighter for the Whakatane brigade and said in the past the brigade had found it difficult to cross the Landing Road bridge due to the amount of traffic.
One man questioned why a second bridge wasn’t included in the long-term plan and current councillor Mr Tanczos said that was because currently a second bridge “wasn’t feasible”.
“Everyone here understands the argument for a second bridge and agrees that one is needed, but it is not feasible at the moment,” said Mr Tanczos.
“We have made submissions on this strongly, consistently and repeatedly. But in NZTA’s eyes, when they look at the traffic problems in Auckland and Tauranga, our issues aren’t even in the picture. It is impossible to put it in the plan if we have no way to do it.”
Candidates were also asked where they stood on the issue of selling water to overseas companies.
Mr Sopora said companies should pay royalties for taking water and be required to use recycled bottles.
Mr Tanczos said he agreed with this and that the allocation of water was “dysfunctional”.
The crowd was also curious to know how much debt the council was currently in.
Mr Jarrett said it was currently sitting “around $50 million”.
“Recently council removed the cap on debt, which I don’t agree with,” said Mr Jarrett.
“I prefer a fixed cap as we are forced to work within its confines as opposed to the new floating model.”
Mr Tanczos said Whakatane District Council’s debt was “conservative” when compared to other similar sized councils.
There were also suggestions from the crowd that the council should allow each household in the district to drop off one trailer-load of rubbish every year for free at the refuse and transfer station. One woman said this would reduce the amount of fly-tipping in the district.
Mr Tanczos said this would be difficult to implement as many people lived too far away to realistically drop off a trailer-load. He also said he would like to see rubbish stopped at the source and have companies be more mindful about the waste they create through packaging and other means.
Mr Sopora said the community also needed to be more mindful about the waste they created and should cut-back when they could.
Meet the candidates
IN his five-minute address, Mr Ogle spoke of his family values, that he had been brought up in Whakatane and was now raising his own family in Whakatane too.
Mr Ogle said he would like to strengthen the relationships between different sectors and that, if everyone came together, they could all contribute to and enrich Whakatane to build a better town.
“Most of all I would like to see people vote, even if it isn’t for me,” said Mr Ogle.
MR Jarrett played to the older demographic of the meeting attendees and promised to focus on widening footpaths and improving accessibility for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
“I bring continuity, history and experience to the role,” said Mr Jarrett.
“I have demonstrated my ability to work well with new people.”
Mr Jarrett also spoke of several prominent projects he had been involved with while in council and said issues around three waters would provide the “biggest hurdle” and “dominate the priority list” for council moving forward.
THERE was a ripple of laughter when Mr McLean told the crowd the Bay of Plenty Regional Council had lots of money and he would have it pay for a second bridge into Whakatane.
“They have so much money, they could pay for it and not even notice,” said Mr McLean.
As well as promising the crowd he would have a second bridge built, Mr McLean also said he would concentrate on a new retirement village to meet Whakatane’s aging population, climate change, economic development, youth and infrastructure.
Mr McLean’s comments about the bridge were brought up during question time but by then he had left.
He said he had a knee operation earlier in the week and was on painkillers.
TRUE to his brand, Mr Tanczos’ address focused primarily on environment issues facing the district.
“We need to change to be more sustainable, resilient and regenerative,” said Mr Tanczos.
He would like to see solar panels on all council buildings, would like the council to move to an electric vehicle fleet and get the district out of their cars and into more active modes of transport.
In his speech, Mr Tanczos said climate change would only increase pressure on the council in terms of infrastructure and the three waters. He said council staff needed to be backed by councillors to think innovatively and strategically.
“Vote for someone who sees the big picture,” he said.
MS Boynton literally brought a big picture with her to the meeting.
She unfurled a large poster of her grandfather helping to build the Whakatane War Memorial Hall in the 1970s.
“I have the big picture,” said Ms Boynton. “My family have been here for generations.”
Ms Boynton said she was a good candidate for council as she “walks in both worlds” and could build strong relationships while connecting communities.
THERE were calls from some in the crowd to “bang the gavel” as Mrs Manning went over her five-minute allocated time, but the timekeeper allowed her to continue.
Mrs Manning spoke of her difficult childhood in Canada which included being homeless on the streets of Toronto before outlining her work experience.
She said she saw expiring resource consents, rising rates, climate change and community wellbeing as the biggest challenges facing the district.
“I promise to be accountable to ratepayers and to be transparent,” said Mrs Manning.
IN Mr Marriott’s view, methamphetamine, the cost of living, poverty, climate change and three waters infrastructure are the biggest issues facing the district.
Mr Marriott said he would maximise the benefit and returns of ratepayers’ dollars.
He also said he would like to create a $100,000 fund to pay people who deliver dead vermin.
“I LOVE Whakatane, it’s not too big, it’s not too small, it’s just right and let’s keep it that way,” said Mr Larking.
Mr Larking told the crowd that he had common sense, the time and energy to devote to council and was a keen outdoorsman.
He said he didn’t understand how projects like the second bridge and a marina hadn’t gone ahead yet.
“If I were in, there would be no more boat ramp fees,” said Mr Larking.
“I’m also not happy about fly-tipping and how our accessways to the water have been fenced off. I would open them up again.”
MR Sopora said as he had retired in his early 50s, he had the time and the energy to devote to council work.
“I want Whakatane to be a great place to live and work in, to do that we need thriving people, thriving communities and thriving businesses,” said Mr Sopora.
Mr Sopora said he would like to see council minimise debt, provide fair and equal services across the district and be more sustainable.
He also said council needed to ensure tourists stay longer in the district and spend more money while here.