Government reforms, road safety, economic development, recycling, funding agreements and climate change were among issues raised when the Waitaki District Council heard verbal submissions on its 2022-23 annual plan this week.

The council plan, which proposes a 7.47% rates increase, received 56 submissions and 13 people and organisations delivered theirs verbally on Tuesday.

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust chairwoman Helen Jansen asked the council to adopt its financial contribution of $146,880, continue to facilitate the geopark’s role in telling stories of the Waitaki, and become involved in the upcoming visit of international Unesco evaluators.

Two evaluators are scheduled to visit the district in the first week of July to assess Waitaki’s application to become a Unesco Global Geopark.

The Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust urged the council to increase its annual grant by $80,000, to $340,000. Chairman Neville Langrish said the major problem the trust was facing was freight and wage costs.

‘‘Freight is our major cost at the moment — it’s killing us,’’ he said.

The trust had two options for its current cashflow issues — request an additional grant from the council, or increase costs at the resource recovery park to the public.

Costs for recycling and waste had already increased twice in the past 18 months, and the trust was reluctant to raise them again.

‘‘But if all else fails we will increase our charges because we will keep the business profitable and keep it running,’’ Mr Langrish said.

Community House chairman Dick Cottier and Waitaki Community House Trust development officer Robert Roodnat asked the council to allocate resources to remove the barriers that prevented the former RSA building in Itchen St from being used.

Community House in Thames St is no longer fit for purpose, and the trust had identified the RSA building as one of three potential sites for a new community hub development. A feasibility study revealed more than 40 organisations were interested in using a hub.

If the legal uncertainties around the use of the RSA building could not be cleared up, they asked the council support the trust to find and acquire another location and help make the project a reality.

Simon Berry and Robyn Nind, speaking on behalf of Ardgowan School, made another plea for the council to dedicate resources to develop plans for a cycle/walkway along Ardgowan Rd. The roadside was too dangerous for pupils to bike or walk along to school unsupervised, and there had been a near miss on Tuesday morning, when a pupil ended up in a ditch avoiding a vehicle, Mr Berry said.

‘‘I just think it’s a matter of time before we have a fatality there,’’ Mrs Nind said.

Of Ardgowan School’s 130 pupils, about 100 lived in the Oamaru township — and many would walk or bike to school if it was safe to do so.

The school community was willing to fundraise to get the project progressed — and had already had offers of offers of labour and machinery and a donation of 200 tonnes of gravel — but it needed the council to provide plans to get started, Mr Berry said.

Andy Powazynski, speaking on behalf of a group of residents of the new Bradfield Rd subdivision, also asked for urgency to address safety issues in the Ardgowan, Parsons, Tutu Hill and Homestead Rd areas.

There had been many housing developments in recent years, and the roads were so longer suited to the amount of traffic and types of vehicles using them, and did not allow for safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians, Mr Powazynski said.

Until funds were allocated to address the issues, no new subdivisions should be consented, the residents said.

Business South Waitaki navigator Rebecca Finlay raised several concerns on behalf of the business community, including commercial rate increases, empty shops in Oamaru’s main street, red-billed gulls and housing.

The timing of commercial rates rise, as businesses were recovering from the Covid-19 fallout, was not ideal, Mrs Finlay said. Business South members wanted a continuation of free parking in Thames St, and an active collaboration with the council, especially on the economic development and tourism strategy.

Living Wage Waitaki spokespeople Mark Smith and Heather Machin called for the council to ‘‘take the bold step’’ and become an accredited living-wage employer.

An accredited living-wage employer pays its own staff the living wage and ensures those from whom it buys goods and services also pay the living wage.

Last year, the council indicated in a response to a LGOIMA request that about 25% of its workers earned less than the living wage.

Vanished World chairwoman Faye Ormandy asked the council to confirm the allocation of $50,000 for staffing for up to 1.2 full-time equivalent positions at Vanished World for 2022-23, to reduce its reliance on volunteers.

Vanished World would still need volunteers at the centre, but would not be wholly reliant on them as it had been in the past.

Councillors heard Vanished World was finalising a refurbishment plan and working towards sharing governance roles with the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark. Domestic tourism had been strong at the centre, and international visitors were slowly starting to return, Mrs Ormandy said.

Kurow resident Kate White asked the council to get rid of the ‘‘Special School Rd’’ name for the Otekaieke road. It was well-known that there was a history of abuse at the Campbell Park school and a lot of young men suffered a great deal of trauma there, Ms White said.

It was not a special place, and it was time the road name was changed to Otekaieke Rd, she said.

She also called for more support of East Otago tourism, and more sensitivity towards te reo Maori, wanting the name of Shag Point to be changed to Matakaea. She asked the council to contribute towards a shelter at the Shag Point reserve, and to address the issues with trees on public land in the area.

Federated Farmers, former Waihemo councillor Jan Wheeler and retired lawyer Paul Rutledge all called for the council to take a stronger stance against Three Waters, and join Communities 4 Local Democracy.

Mr Rutledge said there was a ‘‘strong undercurrent’’ of dissatisfaction with the council in the community. In his own dealings, he had found the council to be secretive, unhelpful and bureaucratic. He believed a lower than usual number of submissions on the annual plan was because people did not believe they would be listened to, and said change to council culture was ‘‘crucial’’.

‘‘At this time, more than any other, in my memory anyway, sound political leadership is needed and with it, vision, communication, commitment and consistency,’’ he said.

North Otago Sustainable Land Management and the East Otago Catchment Group asked the council to extend current funding arrangements with a longer-term focus for both groups.

Mr Kircher thanked sumbitters for their participation. A decision report would be prepared for an additional council meeting on June 7.