ONE of the great parts of my job, opening (and of course first use) of the new public barbecues in front of the Surf Club at Waiotahe Beach. The barbecues were donated by the Eastern Bay Energy Trust and the council provided the surrounds and installation and does ongoing cleaning and maintenance. Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club agreed to site it outside their clubrooms, so a team effort all round for the whole community. Here I am with Eastern Bay Energy Trust trustee Kevin Hennessy, left, and Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club president Hamish McKenzie at a barbecue held for representatives from emergency services and first responders. Photo supplied

A word from Mayor Riesterer

THIS is the first of what I hope will be a regular way to keep the Opotiki community up to date with some of the things I have been up to and my thoughts and feelings on various topics.

It is also a chance to give some (hopefully) clear and factual explanations of things happening at the council.

The new year has kicked off in earnest and my diary is already busy with a wide variety of events and meetings. I have made sure there is still time to watch and enjoy the huge crowds at Opotiki’s summer events run by the council’s i-SITE.

The community has supported these family events wholeheartedly and don’t they have a great vibe? I look forward to seeing them grow each year with locals and visitors alike.

Apparently, the vehicle counts between Whakatane and Opotiki were huge during these special days. Congrats to our team down at the i-SITE.

I also know that a few people have started receiving calls from the company that is doing the council’s Satisfaction Survey.

If you get one of these calls, please know that your honest feedback is anonymous and really appreciated – it helps the council know what we are doing well and where we could do better. And because of the larger numbers, we can look at the averages and know that something is an issue for many people rather than just a noisy one or two.

If you haven’t been rung but have some feedback for the council, you can always speak to one of your councillors (all our details are on the council website) or you can send in feedback on the council website. Using the Antenno app is another great way to be in touch with all things ODC.

I have had a number of people talking to me about the recent revised valuations and the letters people received at the end of 2019 and their concerns around what that will mean to their rates.

I realise that there are a few misunderstandings out there about rating valuations so I will try and clear those up.

The council must value all properties in the district every three years. It is a legal requirement. And this has been done just recently. Many people (myself included) saw a rise in their valuations.

If your property value has gone up by, for example 20 percent that doesn’t mean that your rates will go up by 20 percent.

Revaluation doesn’t change the total amount of rates that the council collects, but it helps the council work out everyone’s share of rates.

If you imagine the total amount that the council requires to run the district as a large round pie, the size of that pie is (more or less) the same each year. The rating valuation helps the council know how to cut up that pie as equitably as possible. Capital value is just one of a number of factors the council uses to allocate rates. You can read more about these revaluations and how to find your own on the council website.

Last week the council gathered for the first time this year. We looked at what we have done and what we have coming up and it is clear we have some very busy weeks ahead as we get up to speed.

There are several training workshops for us and briefings around the different projects the council is working on at the moment. We are in year two (moving into year three) of our long-term plan (which is a 10-year plan) and we also need to prepare our annual plan which runs July through to the end of June next year. Lots of hard thinking ahead for all of us but I think we’ve got a really good team of councillors to achieve the best outcomes for our district.

And there’s a big thank you from me to everyone who voted in October. I am very proud to show off to other mayors about how engaged our community was in that process and the big increase in our voter turnout. 2020 is going to be a great year and I’m sure that will lead to an even better decade for all of us in Opotiki.

I feel there is a more positive sense of community in our district and I will continue to say that it is really important for your elected councillors to know what you think and feel about the direction we are moving in our community. We will be spending a lot of time listening and it’s an on-going process.

Things to look out for coming up in the next month: Council’s pop-up shop on Thursday and Friday, January 30 and 31 – these annual community days are great and any questions you have for the council, you can just pop in and ask while they are set up right in the middle of town.

There may even be a visit from Have a Plan Stan, the Civil Defence dog.

Don’t forget the Mataatua Kapa Haka competition on February 6 and 7. There will be thousands attending this and I am thrilled to see it in Opotiki.