Country Living – Getting answers

By Julie Cotton

I was brought up in the poor working class, of course back then it did not have a label but most of us knew our parents worked very hard but there was not much money to go around. I am proud of this, and in fact it gave me a great platform in life, formed my core moral fabric and is indeed where my bones will always lie. So, it is with the above in mind, and now that the local government elections have given us some fresh eyes, I am now prepared to share with the public my Araparera story.

As you all have read, the Araparera Forestry Joint Venture was a 26-year targeted rate bestowed upon the rural land owners of Northern Rodney to seal our roads. My story of Araparera starts around four years ago when myself and four of the best men I have ever met ‘smelled a rat’. We went to the highest levels of government in this great land, along with various high profile media outlets. Along this road well-worn for us we wrote, emailed, organised public meetings, official information requests and pretty much begged. That road gave us a 70-page dossier into our investigations. Now I am not going to bore you with all the gory details, but what you all need to know is that we were ‘kicked to the kerb’ at every level and we dipped our toes into some murky water and nearly had them bitten off! The ratepayers of Northern Rodney were afforded an eight page report on their investment after 26 years and the reality of knowing that 99 per cent of us will not see any benefit from this investment or accountability is mind-blowing to me!

Our new Councillor Greg Sayers (formerly on the Rodney Local Board) listened to our concerns and proposed a motion to our Local Board to back a “full financial and independent audit of the failed JV”. Unfortunately, this motion was voted down by the (disaffected) south-western members of the Board (for which I find rather distasteful). Apparently, we should let “sleeping dogs lie”. Well sorry buckos, but the working class deserve better than that!
So now we find ourselves reading the papers and contemplating why it is that so many ex-Rodney District Council employees are in the High Court over corruption and fraud charges (my my, how uncanny is that!). However, it is now that I find the Araparera Forestry JV to be just a catalyst in our lives. The base of a mountain that needs to be climbed to conquer truth, justice and transparency for the working class.

There is a survey enclosed within this issue and I am politely asking if you would take the time to post it to me (it seems I require a mandate from the people to push on herewith).