Cr replies to library “passion”

Aug 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Hot Topics, Latest News
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Tamahere councillor Aksel Bech has responded to the “very passionate and plentiful” outpouring following the Waikato District Council’s axing of its southern residents’ access to the Hamilton city libraries.

Tamahere councillor Aksel Bech


In a lengthy reply to comments on this and other stories, and on social media, Bech wrote that “clearly the arrangement giving access to Hamilton’s libraries for the southern part of WDC (Tamahere and Matangi particularly) is dearly valued by many.”

“This was never in doubt and many, including myself, hold the view that as WDC ratepayers we actually need more and better access to library services locally.”

The Hamilton city access was a good start but with the growth in Tamahere and Matangi (and the majority of new homes being built being owned by families with young children) an improved service was needed in the southern part of the district, Bech said.

With the growth in mind, combined with a district-wide review of services, the council entered into negotiations with the Hamilton City Council (HCC) while also exploring other and additional options for increased services locally, he said.

“I supported this approach and WDC sincerely wanted to retain the access to HCC libraries but in the end, regrettably, the negotiations with HCC were unsuccessful.”

The negotiations had continued for so long that it had been “a bit of a scramble” to put in place the one year’s grace period of access for active library users, he said.

In the coming months – months rather than years, he stressed – the council would be working out what replaced the city library membership scheme.

He apologised for the “significant upset” that the interim library access voucher had caused.

“People use libraries in many different ways and the voucher [was] intended to allow locals to have continued access [but] appears from your comments not to have hit the mark and for that I apologise.”

Bech said he was listening to the “plentiful and passionate” feedback.

His job was to lobby for the people in the Tamahere and Matangi area, he said.

“I accept the feedback comments generally have not reflected a desire for more or better; the theme of comments are more in the nature of “I just want to be able to go back to Hillcrest with my family membership”.

“So, my second apology is that my own desire to see more and better locally might be out of step with what many of you in the community are saying currently – that the status quo is enough and works.

“Indeed status quo (option 1 on the recent community consultation) was the single most popular option, though (with respect) 47.4% is not a majority – and I was also guided by the 52.5% of respondents who favoured one of three variations of “cancel and do something else”.

His personal path forward as ward councillor would be to focus on supporting and lobbying for one of three main paths to the future that appeared aligned with the additional feedback received.

This would be instead of working on broader or various new options such as exploring a mobile library service or a pop-up/limited services facility at the hub or elsewhere, he told Tamahere Forum.

“It is clear to me now that the community is not interested in that unless it’s an extra. I see three main options to be most deserving of effort and priority as each one could offer a solution that is acceptable.”

He would focus his support and work on the three options simultaneously.

The options are:

1. Regional Service – “one card to rule them all” as it has been coined. A single library card to give access to all libraries in the Waikato region on whatever terms a local ratepayer would enjoy; a formal independently-led project is already underway and should be complete within a couple of months. This is the option with most promise and already works in several other NZ regions very successfully – and on top of that WDC can still do other youth activation/school-based initiatives, e-books and mobile services and so on.

WDC is strongly supportive and is right now working with HCC and Waipa on the feasibility of this as each council considers the benefits a region-wide approach might deliver to all their respective ratepayers – it delivers great benefits and allows maximum flexibility for users.

2. WDC will (from October onwards) have a saving in what used to be spent with HCC; this could be used to rent space in, for example, the new commercial hub. Clearly additional funding over and above the rent has to be available for library staffing and so on – and such funding has not been committed to by Council – but in speaking with [building contractor] Fosters, there is capacity inside the hub to rent such space.

The first buildings are due to open in November, the next to follow in 2019, and securing space for a local library (with adjacent playgrounds, cafe, sports park, bus stops etc) would be a good step forward. It would put us on par with other communities in WDC like Huntly, Raglan and Tuakau that all have a local library.

Please note this option would also require capital budget for the purchase of books etc which is not currently in WDC’s budget – and not only Tamahere and Matangi but also Eureka, Gordonton and other are affected by this decision: the full $300,000 is not available to spend here [Tamahere/Matangi] locally.

3. Return to an access arrangement with HCC – negotiate a more sustainable and appropriate arrangement going forward. Clearly this negotiation has not been successful to date and the failure to reach agreement led us to where we are now; I have no issue seeking to re-activate the discussion directly. It is obviously the quickest option to activate and provides a return to the status quo. I cannot be sure of HCC’s appetite or conditions required, nor the likelihood of success but I have no problem also prioritising exploring this approach as the current feedback suggests this status quo may be enough.

“It is regrettable (and I reiterate my apologies for this) that the interim voucher system to allow continued access to the HCC library did not appear to provide the satisfactory holding pattern hoped for.

“I trust this sheds some further light on the issue – I am listening, I have heard,” Bech concluded.

To contact Bech, email: aksel.bech@waidc.govt.nz

More on this topic: Hamilton library access to end

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3 Comments to “Cr replies to library “passion””

  1. Kitty Burton says:

    Thank you Aksel
    I am perplexed that if 1. is a real option (within a couple of months) why any change was made to the agreement with HCC.
    If the whole district was able to comment on the continuation of the service ( a survey a carried out before 1. was presented as an option) then the fact that so many people supported the continuation should have been enough to leave the scheme alone until a better one was found. We are told that was the intention but it was “unsuccessful” without any clarification about what could not be agreed. I guess we can assume that WDC was offering up to $200,000 of the previous rate given it is willing to fund 2390 memberships ($191200) and deprive the other 1140 current active members and any potential new members of free library access.
    My understanding from the statements made is that there is $300,000 allocated in the budget to this purpose and no plan of how to spend the $100,000 + “saving” given there will be months of consultation so it would seem both reasonable and fair to restore access for all WDC residents for this year while the next plan is discussed and made. How can this be achieved – a recommendation to your fellow councillors perhaps, Aksel?

  2. Marg Forde says:

    Thanks Pippa and Tamahere Forum for your sterling work on this issue

  3. Jamie says:

    Thank you for at least listening now… The only real solution is Option 3. Return to an access arrangement with HCC. This is what the people want and I think this is only the beginning of the “outrage”, so suggest you act swiftly and make this happen. Do that, come back the hero and be re-elected.

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