Rings fans pee free – mayor

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By STEVE ED­WARDS

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.

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