A paper presented to the Ōpōtiki District Council on 5 September 2019, provided Councillors with a summary of the public feedback on the funding options, financial effects and possible next steps. After significant discussion, Council voted to continue with full redevelopment of the library site and build Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi.
Council collected feedback on the Library Redevelopment Project - Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi Technology and Research Centre during July and August this year. Ōpōtiki Mayor, John Forbes said that it was an excellent public response with more feedback received than any consultation in recent years.
"I certainly saw plenty of healthy debate on social media and there was a lot of conversation happening on other, non-Council Facebook pages. Comment on the Council Facebook page was included as feedback. So between paper forms, people using the online submission process and Facebook comments on the Council page, we received more than 260 submissions which shows how keen people were to have their say on this," Mr Forbes said.
The Mayor also recognised that the project has been in front of the community many times since at least 2008 and options have been included in each long term and annual plan cycle. He said that support for Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi was clear throughout that period and the community worked hard on fundraising and grant funding.
However, with changes in the cost over the years and an inability to access sufficient grant funding, Council resolved to bring the matter back to the community and check they were comfortable to continue with the full-scale Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi facility.
The consultation offered three options - status quo, small scale redevelopment or full scale redevelopment. Council's preferred option (full scale redevelopment) provides for a greatly improved facility with expanded space for better and new services, lounge, study and meeting rooms, research and technology areas, as well as significantly enhanced digital connectivity.
Of the 261 submissions received, 241 noted a preferred option and 20 selected no option or other. Of those who noted a preference, 41 were in favour of Option 1, 55 were in favour of Option 2 and 145 were in favour of Option 3.
In discussion of the library options, Councillors covered a range of issues and concerns from their communities. Debt and servicing debt was a significant part of the discussion.
"I think most people understand that debt is a tool – it is neither good nor bad. For a Council we need to have that tool in our toolbox so that we can share the cost of long-lived, big-ticket items over a longer time period. That is fairer between different generations of ratepayers.
"In terms of servicing that debt, it was important to also work through the costs and implications for ratepayers. This is a significant public asset and because the cost is offset through grants, other income and no longer having to pay rent on the ANZ building, the cost to ratepayers is going to be less than $10 each year.
"I appreciate that this isn't a small sum for many in our community, but it is an investment with a fifty year horizon, a piece of kit I see our children and grandchildren using and benefiting from for many many years to come.
"It was also great to see the support of the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board and Ōpōtiki College laid out in front of us – both agencies can see the huge benefits such a facility would have for their communities.
"This is a great step forward for our community and I look forward to watching this future take shape," Mr Forbes said.