Kapiti Council has approved a change to Kapiti Coast District Libraries membership policy which means anyone living, working, owning property or studying in Kapiti will be able to join the libraries for free. Horowhenua residents who can show proof of their address will also have free access.
Anyone who does not meet these criteria will still be able to join the libraries and pay an annual subscription fee of $120 for their household, or alternatively pay $2 per item issued.
A new $120 a year per household membership fee for non-ratepayers was set in the 2014/15 Annual Plan. This was to bring Kapiti charges in line with other libraries using the SMART system in Porirua, Masterton and Hutt City, and with Wellington and Palmerston North public libraries.
Introduction of the fee was put on hold in July after it was questioned by some people concerned it penalised long-time library users who are neither ratepayers nor residents. Feedback also brought to light a little-known, 25-year-old reciprocal arrangement for free access between libraries for Horowhenua and Kāpiti residents.
The charge was introduced to recognise that Kāpiti ratepayers fund the District's libraries to the tune of $2.4 million a year, says Group Manager Community Services Tamsin Evans.
However, an unintended consequence was the potential negative effect on non-residents or ratepayers, especially those living just north of the District boundary, who have historically felt more attached to Kapiti than Horowhenua, she says.
"They contribute to our community, they shop here, volunteer here and so on, but under the new policy they would be treated like they are not part of our community. It also seems they have an historical right of free access which we need to honour.
"Council recognises that the new charge, while reasonable on the face of it, did not take into account some very specific conditions that exist in our district.
"In light of the new information brought to our attention by the community, we've taken another look at the situation and put in place a fairer solution."
The change took effect 1 October. The amended Membership Policy will be published on the Council website.