Rings fans pee free – mayor
Hobbiton hordes will not have to spend a penny to use public toilets in Matamata.
Mayor Hugh Vercoe used his casting vote to break the deadlock and retain the status quo – no charge for all users of the Hetana St toilets – at last Wednesday’s Matamata-Piako District Council meeting.
The council has been looking at the issue, particularly with an influx of visitors to the Hobbiton film set on the outskirts of Matamata.
Last May and June a counter machine showed about 9600 people a week used the toilets, peaking at 1600 a day on Fridays and Saturdays.
A poll of businesses showed an even split in opinion for and against charging.
The last council survey of users was in 2006, but a council staff report said current data needed to be sought if a detailed investigation is to be completed. This would cost about $10,000. Along with continuing to not charge toilet users, the council looked at options including voluntary donations and user pays.
The staff report said at present the toilet block costs $115,000 a year to operate.
‘‘Visitors contribute nothing to the town,’’ said Councillor Bob McGrail, who led the user-pays charge.
Cr Maurice Steffert said such a charge would not drive tourists away.
On the other side of the debate, Cr Peter Jager said visitors use district roads and rubbish bins but are not charged by the council.
‘‘We are trying to encourage people into our town,’’ said deputy mayor Jan Barnes.
Cr Garry Stanley said a charge would ‘‘ unfairly target’’ Matamata toilets in relation to those in Morrinsville and Te Aroha.