Some tough decisions right from the start
The honeymoon is well and truly over for Mike Tana and his new council. The first meeting of any real substance since Tana swept up the mayoral chains last October took place last week.
More than $500,000 was greenlighted for an upgraded peace memorial on Te Rauparaha Park - coming from alreadyapproved funding towards city centre revitalisation - and councillors were briefed on phase two of the CBD upgrade.
The questions were measured and insightful from elected members - new and experienced.
However, the backdown on funding towards Aotea College’s performing arts centre will leave some Porirua residents upset.
Two years ago, the council agreed to put $1 million towards the college’s proposed $3.5m performing arts facility, promoting it as a win-win for the college and the community.
Instead of trooping north to Southwards, or into Wellington, dance schools and many other arts and community groups could hold performances in Porirua.
However, the new council, with firm direction from council officers, has backtracked and not just a little, but all the way.
The recommendation last Thursday was for a lesser amount of $200,000 to help Aotea reach their goal of a 500-seat centre, not an ’’enhanced school auditorium’’, as principal Kate Gainsford was at pains to point out.
That recommendation was defeated 7-4, with all the new councillors, Anita Baker and Mike Tana against it.
They were apologetic but clear - ‘‘Sorry, this has to be done.’’
It brought a shuddering halt to many months of planning between the council and Aotea College. Gainsford, in the public gallery, was visibly disappointed.
Because councillors also turned down spending $100,000 on a feasibility study to look into a centre in the CBD, it means no major venue for Porirua is likely for many years.
What occurred in the council chamber is a classic example of new councillors coming in on platforms of belt-tightening, and baring their teeth.
However, the November earthquakes and flood, revaluations of properties, a major issue around depreciation and the desire to upgrade the city’s poor infrastructure means tough decisions sometimes need to be made.
Gainsford is hopeful a 500-seat centre will still happen and that the community will have input into and use of it. However, without ratepayers’ money , the college will hold all the cards when it comes to public use.