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Division and derision around Ashburton's big decisions

Division and derision around Ashburton's big decisions
Mount Somers District Citizens Association's Robert Schikker and Sarah Stanaway presenting their submission to the Ashburton District Council. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Community opinion has been divided across a range of hot topics at Ashburton’s long-term plan hearings.

Submitters have been split over the Ashburton District Council’s proposals for exiting stockwater, selling the Balmoral Hall, and where to spend $3.1m on a swimming pool.

Stockwater has been the most contentious issue, with some backing the exit in three years, others opposing it, and a number offering alternative options. Protecting biodiversity in what remains of the 120-year-old network has been a common thread.

Ashburton council is proposing to end providing stockwater services by mid-2027.

Federated Farmers suggested three years was too soon, supported by other farmers who depend on stockwater and want the service retained, while others want to stop paying for a service they no longer require.

Meanwhile, there has been some support for the extension of EA Networks Stadium, with calls from sporting bodies to do it sooner.

However, others are not sold on the proposed $21m extension.

Julie Luxon, who submitted in support of the Balmoral Hall, said it was contradictory to propose a costly extension to a building that loses money while giving that same reason for selling the Balmoral Hall.

Balmoral Hall has an estimated $1.3 million repair cost to bring it up to standard. The council’s preferred option is to sell the building while creating an alternative studio space at the EA Networks Centre.

The fate of the hall and adjacent land is splitting opinion.

The Ashburton Citizens Association (ACA) stated the “committee members were divided on this issue, which may well reflect the wider the community” and didn’t offer a preferred option.

It’s also a mixed bag when it comes to the $3.1m pool option.

Tinwald Pool has its ardent supporters, as does a new outdoor pool at EA Networks, while the hydroslides at EA Networks are also getting support.

While they didn’t have a preferred option for the Balmoral Hall the ACA supported the council doing all four pool options, citing the country’s high fatal drowning rate, but secretary Donna Favel said “it doesn’t all have to be done immediately”.  

The ACA also requested a rethink of the second bridge location, supporting a new four-lane bridge to replace the existing bridge.

Of the big five topics, introducing the large green waste bins is receiving plenty of support – although it too has its detractors.

And some derision has come from users of the airport who are not happy with the proposed changes and increases to the fee structure.

Multiple submitters suggested the changes being made to make the airport more profitable, and reduce the rates contributions, are having the opposite effect.

Mid Canterbury Aero Club secretary and treasurer David Wright argued “the community benefit from the airfield is far more than the plan has asserted and it’s reasonable to ask the community to contribute more”.

“It’s a community good. I don’t think it could ever be seen to be self-sufficient.”

There have also been some requests outside the LTP document for the councillors to ponder next week.  

Base Youth Centre proposed introducing a council-funded youth worker in Ashburton and the establishment of a youth advisory group that operates externally from the council.

Hakatere Multicultural Council chairperson Selwyn Price told the councillors they have been operating at a deficit over the last few years. The council proposed becoming a council-funded organisation and receiving $25,000 per annum for the next three years to ensure they remain operating.

The hearings conclude Thursday, before councillor deliberations on the long-term plan begin next week.

By Jonathan Leask