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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 


Associate Member NZ Press Council.   

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Water Quality Tool "Useless For Purpose"

The impossibility of councils being able to properly regulate nitrogen run-off from dairy farms by use of the tool developed by the two major fertiliser companies - Ravensdown and Balance, has been revealed in an article published in Newsroom by Eloise Gibson, who is rapidly becoming the 'go-to' journalist in the environmental sector.

The Parliamentary  Commissioner for the Environment - Simon Upton is suggesting that fixing the system will cost millions, and may devolve upon Government in order to achieve the necessary transparency.

How on earth it was imagined that the Overseer tool designed to help farmers make money from maximising the the milk or meat they gain from using artificial fertilisers could at the same time provide the information regarding excessive nitrogen run-off in order to mount prosecutions beggars belief, but regardless, it is still the primary tool relied on by Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, Hawkes Bay, Horizons, Otago and Waikato regional councils.

Upton's report says the councils with the most pressing water quality issues have had little choice but to use the tool. Farmers oppose councils using blunter controls to reduce run-off, such as capping stock numbers, limiting imported feed, or restricting fertiliser quantities, because those tools give them fewer options for choosing how to meet water goals. “The severity of the nitrogen problem they face has led them to Overseer. Council staff acknowledge the tool is far from perfect, but blunter tools would be required if Overseer was not available,” the report says.

As for the future, Upton wants the government to decide - quickly - whether it wants councils to keep using Overseer or to find another solution. If Overseer is going to be used, it needs to be transformed into an official, open-source tool, he says. “It is time to open up Overseer. If the Government wants to see the model being used as a regulatory tool then a large measure of transparency is needed,” he said in a statement accompanying report.

The report itself carries on with the open-ness theme: “Overseer does not meet the levels of documentation and transparency that are desirable in a regulatory setting … there is no full, publicly available, comprehensive description of the scientific framework.”

“If the answer (to fertiliser company ownership) is no, then it would be an option for the government to buy [their] ownership stake in the intellectual property,” says Upton.

Probably Upton'e most compelling argument lies in the statement:

 “Where Overseer is used to set a farm nitrogen loss limit …or determine compliance with nitrogen limits, there are significant incentives for the deliberate manipulation of Overseer modelling results.” 

To tighten compliance he recommends more independent auditing, to see if records are realistic for the farm and to check that Overseer inputs match other data, such as tax records and fertiliser invoices."


'Questions over accuracy may create as many problems for farmers as they do for our waterways. While the tool might be accurate enough for making commercial decisions about fertiliser purchases, that is a different matter to figuring out whether farms are breaking the law. Right now, the report says it is hard for farmers to have confidence that the estimates councils were using to make compliance decisions were right."

Based on these observations, how any councils manage to mount any prosecutions based on evidence provided by this tool is quite mystifying.

It appears that the DPI along with just about every other Government regulator has for years been applying the softest possible regulatory approach, whether it be phyto-sanitary in DPI's case, mining oversight by MBIE, or WOFs by Transport are by way of isolated examples. 

How this all started we will probably never know, but you can bet that it is rooted in pressure from Treeasury and Finance to save money, polititions endeavouring to avoid electoral 'blow-back,' or simple avoidance of any level of responsiibility by bureaucrats. You may not like Michael Stiassni's approach, but his cvurrent 'clean-up' of Transport is clearly long overdue!





Council Meeting 11 December

Apart from an impassioned appeal from a large group of concerned rate-payers in Public Forum for Council to begin to take climate change seriously, and sign up to the same declaration on the subject as almost all other councils and mayors, the only matters of interest concerned to Earthquake Buildings Consultation, and the proposed Productivity Plan.

The first was interesting if only because of obvious lack of understanding of the content of the paper presented by Policy Planner Ashleigh Howard on the first of the steps to be taken to implement Government policy. After some seriously dumb questions. the policy was adopted and Council staff will now set about assessing which buildings require engineering reports.

The second on the Productivity Plan was the subject of zero discussion, and yet another plan prepared by outside consultants was adopted without further ado. You may have thought in the light of my analysis in the post below that it was worthy of substantial discussion, but no such luck. Apparently it had been "thoroughly work-shopped" some time ago, so no need for any acrimonious public debate.

The level of publicly excluded discussion in this Council is becoming totally unacceptable - it has always been a favourite ruse of this Council to operate in this manner, but it is time that our elected members began to realise that they do have a responsibility to rate-payers to let then know what is going on, and to open debate to the fresh air of 'open' meetings. After all - I am normally the only observer- what could possibly concern them?

In this case, they have adopted a dubious policy based on the suspect findings of a faraway bunch of consultants who have spotted their 'main chance' as being to churn out $50,000 'glossy' pro formas in order to enable councils to take take advantage of Mr Jones's billion dollar slush-fund..

As CEO Rob Williams stated today:

"This would have been a five year 'in-house' development program, now squeezed into a few months in order to take advantage of the availability of this RDF."

That really says it all - how on earth did we get sucked into this disgraceful, discreditable scramble?





'Playing Chicken' With Council on Sea-level Rise. 

There is an excellent story by Eloise Gibson (Environmental and Science editor) in yesterday's Newsroom, on the manner in which developers have, and are taking advantage of a vacillating Government, and councils when it comes to rational prevention of coastal development.

Nowhere is this more evident in this District than in the case of the Richmond apartment development (crane on site!), and at Whitianga Waterways, the Whitianga town-centre upgrade, and at Cook's Beach. The developers simply took advantage of the lax rules that applied at time, and went ahead with selling the properties, thereby transferring the risk to the buyers, and eventually to the Council that will inevitably be called upon to provide the necessary protection when the inevitable sea-level rise takes place.

Eloise points to a particularly egregious example in the US where a mayor promoted huge expenditure on public facilities for a tiny town called Jean Lafitte in Louisiana in order to make the town "too valuable" not to justify Federal and State support in the event of flooding, or the imminent threat of flooding.

That rationale could not have possibly entered the minds of our planning authority, could it? - no, of course not. It was simply greedy for the developments and consequential fees and economic benefits that would result  to take place, and for approvals to be given before imminent new Government regulations under the Coastal Protection Act, raising the levels by an additional 1 metre above HWM where developments could be approved, were to be implemented.

This was not only deplorable, it was a completely irresponsible action on the part of our Council regardless of the legal jeopardy that it may have been feared by refusing planning permission at that time. It is evidence of why planning permissions should be removed from councils forthwith, and without regard to the squealing of mayors, including our own, who see such action as the 'thin end of the wedge' in regard to  amalgamations. 

It is notable that Eloise chose to include photos of Whitianga in flood, and the Moanataiari  sea-wall to illustrate her article. Our Council's plight has not gone un-noticed!





Earthquake Building Proposal Deliberations

These will take place at the 11 December 2018 meeting, and are worthy of close examination because they involve some fairly draconian proposals. These will put a number of businesses at risk of closure should they be adopted, albeit with somewhat of a delay in the case of those not involving un-reinforced masonry, or verandah/overhangs.

The area concerned, and designated as a priority thoroughfare is from 400-770 Pollen Street, and you may or may not be surprised to learn that Whangamata/Thames is deemed to be within a 'medium seismic risk' area under the legislation (Building (Earthquake-prone Building ) Amendment Act 2016.

All buildings with the 400-770 area are subject to determination of risk within ten years, and "strengthened, or demolished" within 25 Years. Any building that is in any way constructed of "un-reinforced masonry" will be required to meet half these targets - 12.5 years in the case of an estimated 20-30% of the buildings in the 400-770 area.

Here is the recommendation:

  • Complete initial assessment of buildings under MBIE’s Earthquake-prone buildings methodology;
  • Write to potentially earthquake-prone building owners advising we require them to
  • have an engineering assessment undertaken, or to provide an updated version of the previous engineering assessment undertaken under the previous earthquake-prone buildings legislation;
  • Advise affected building owners of reduced time-frames for completing building strengthening and reinforcing following consideration of engineering assessments.
  • Maintain a register of earthquake-prone buildings, their due date for strengthening and reinforcing and whether works have been completed or not.

It is almost certain that this recommendation will be adopted, and that owners of the buildings so designated will immediately required to undertake stipulated engineering reports - and remember, it is not just un-reinforced masonry that will be designated, but also verandahs and over-hangs. 

I can think of at least one likely to simply ignore the requirement, and plan closure at the end of the grace period.  The movie theatre comes to mind, but there are many other candidates. Our town simply does not have the resources, either individually, or collectively to meet this requirement. In time, I suspect that ratepayers will be called on meet the cost of them being demolished.


TCDC "Productivity Plan"

If you imagined for one moment that the prospect of accessing the Shane Jones’s ‘Provincial Growth Fund’ may have escaped the eagle eyes of our local body politicians, and Council staff, have another think.

The absolute hypocrisy surrounding this Fund is clear, and represents a return to bad old days of subsidies, and the favoring of sectors, companies and individuals who make the required obeisance in the direction of the current Government, Party or Minister – in this case Mr Jones.

The result is to be seen in a paper that goes to Council next Tuesday (11 December) prepared by the Communications and Economic Development Group Manager Laurna White, headed "Endorsement of the TCDC Productivity Plan,"   which does appear a rather overblown title for what amounts to a fairly lightweight document. 

I quote below from the "Background of the Plan Business Case" If this constitutes the totality of the case, then it would appear that Mr Jones's bureaucrats are under great pressure 'to get the money out there' - even he has stated as such, but in doing so, they are certainly not serving taxpayers.

"In August 2018 the Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones met with Mayor Sandra Goudie, TCDC Chief Executive Rob Williams and senior staff to discuss potential projects within the district that had merit for the PGF. At this meeting the TCDC wider economic development programme work streams were discussed, along with a more specific focus particularly on aquaculture related projects. [my bold1] The Minister signalled that he expected our Council would be making applications to the Provincial Growth Fund on some projects that sat under the work streams.

Following the meeting, Council staff and Rationale developed the Thames-Coromandel Productivity Plan (Attachment A) and completed the draft feasibility report for Kopu as a potential marine servicing centre (Attachment B). Business cases for both these projects have since been submitted as applications to the Provincial Growth Fund, so work can be progressed faster and not be entirely reliant on ratepayer money."

Make no mistake, the Productivity Plan is primarily a cover for the proposed Coromandel Aquaculture Development that simply cannot, and will not occur without manifest input from Government and Councils to the extent that any commercial venture will become nothing more than another great subsidised rort with all the risk lying in the public arena, and in the unlikely event of success, the profit privatised.

"The TCDC Productivity Plan is focused on high value opportunities, with five targeted work streams proposed:       

    1.        Land use
    2.        Land productivity.
    3. Connected journeys – roading, data connectivity, water and air transport.
    4. Aquaculture.
    5. Destination management and tourism."

As for the Kopu Marine Service Facility Precinct – here is the summary of the business case:

“An off-shoot of the aquaculture work stream in the TCDC Productivity Plan is the Kopu marine servicing facility business case project. This considers the merits of upgrading Kopu to link in with developments within Coromandel Harbour (specifically infrastructure to support commercial aquaculture growth at the Sugarloaf Wharf), as well as complementing a proposal for a new centrally located marina closer to Coromandel Town that would cater for a commuter Ferry from Auckland, 12 charter boats and dry dock boat storage (35 large boats, 180 trailer boats) and marine-side apartments.

The business case will also consider Kopu as a centre to support marine servicing operations across the Hauraki Gulf, as well as being a connector for water-based tourism opportunities – connecting across the Hauraki Gulf as well as through to the Paeroa Wharf”

The Attachments to the Paper include two consultant reports on each of the matters under review by an outfit based in Arrowtown (yes - Arrowtown!) called Rationale Ltd. The first is a 'once over lightly' summary of all the information we already know about the District, and posing the question - why has the District not done better in the overall scheme of things? It is pretty well useless for any purpose other than making an attractive brochure for addition to the RDF application.

The second is a little more 'meatier,' but again raises nothing that we do no already know, let alone answer the obvious question - if a Marine Servicing Facility at Kopu was such a good idea, why has no commercial developer appeared willing to take it on. Again, Rationale can suggest nothing better than another application for RDF funding cover the cost of a new slipway and single berth pontoon costing $300k by December 2019. 

But this is just the beginning of its proposed facilities that are detailed without a single mention from go to whoa of private capital. Kopu Engineering appear to be the major beneficiaries of any RDF largesse - good luck to them, but I fail to see why our money is needed to get them the additional facilities they apparently need, according to the Rationale report. The figures provided by Vaughan Austin  - Kopu's Managing Director would appear to more than justify their investment.

It could be suggested that the previous Government under Bill English completely ignored the needs of the provinces, but this Government seems to be showing a real determination to return to its discredited socialist roots under the almost distracted oversight of Ms Adern, and our benevolent attitude towards 'pork-barrel' hand-outs.

It could be said that in our case, our well paid Council staff have few projects to concentrate on in order to get their share of the Jones hand-outs,' so their determination to apply the 'gloss' to what they are left with at Coromandel and Kopu is understandable, along with the decision to employ one of the well-connected 'consultant' companies that have popped up around the country to take advantage of all the 'lolly' being distributed by councils. It is however remarkable that $200k staff are unable to fulfil this role themselves, and develop their own pro formas just like the 'consultants.' 

The problem is that in giving way to all demands from every quarter in order to maintain electoral advantage, the well eventually runs dry. It  has happened following similar previous electoral cycles, and it appears likely to happen again sooner rater than later as the nurses and teachers, by way of example, reject offer upon offer. They waited nine long years for this opportunity, and they are not giving up until they have the well really dry.

Meanwhile, both Winston and Shane on the one hand, and the Greens on the other are determined to fully mine their MMP advantage. Socialised commercial undertakings in Hokitika and Coromandel are but a mere bagatelle in the overall scheme of things, and can fly under the radar until the whole balance is tipped, and we suddenly become mired in the consequences.

Every known indicator screams for closer examination of all the contrary factors involved with the proposed kingfish farming proposal at Coromandel, but with Government money involved, and local boosters and iwi involved, the development will occur regardless.

Its likely success, and consequential environmental degradation remains entirely moot.





The Mercury Bay Multi Sports Park Legacy Lives On.

An article in the Mercury Bay Informer dated 21 November reported the decision of the Mercury bay Community Board to reverse an decision to charge several organisations the full assessed rates rather than the standard 'pepper-corn' charge of $350 that all community organisations are charged for the use of Council reserve land.

It has been a racket for some considerable tiome that organisations running commercial business such as licensed premises in their club-rooms have been getting away with an uncompetitive advantage as a result ever since 2009 when the full policy was adopted.

But some of these outfits are well practised in in the art of defending their backs when it comes to dealing with the Council on this issue, and such is the case on this occasion when the Board, under pressure, caved in, and reinstated the 'pepper-corn' rental.

Their quite credible defence on this occasion was to say that they would willingly accept the new charges, just so long as the Board applied them equally over all the organisations using the multi-million dollar Mercury Bay Sports Complex that the entire District was saddled with several years ago.

That would have course resulted in the rapid departure of all those organisations that were prevailed on to use it when their own facilities were perfectly adequate, leaving the Complex a ghostly shell on the outskirts of Whitianga as a testament to the manner in which the District was duped at the time it was built.

There are sitting councillors who should be embarrassed at the manner in which this extravagant scenario was shaped, and the speed of the back-down by the Board shows just who has the upper hand in this state-of-affairs.

These are by no means the only so-called community organisations throughout the district that should be paying full commercial rentals. The Whangamata Surf Club is probably the most egregious example, with massive bar receipts.





Effluent Disposal in Waikato As Bad As Ever

Regardless of the relentlessly upbeat Fonterra advertising and Federated Framers PR, the stark reminder of just where this province stands in regard to meeting effluent disposal targets is reflected in the recent WRC report to the Federated Farmers dairy section meeting in Hamilton this month.

This depressing report was summarised by Gerard Piddick in the HH  on 23 November - a most unusual occurance as generally these statistics are kept well hidden, or obfuscated by the PR. Here is the most significant finding:

"30% of 232 "high risk" Waikato farms inspected since 1 July were found to be "significantly non-compliant."

Council resource use director Chris McLay emphasised that:

"while the bulk of the regions 4,200 dairy farmns were outstanding with their compliance, there are still a minority performing poorly."

The anecdotes relating to non-complying units was simply horrifying, none of which I intend to repeat - you have probably already already read the story. What was interesting is that Chris reported that was an increasing willingness by complying farmers to 'dob-in' the slackers.

But that is not good enough on its own - the resources available to the inspectorial team simply must be upgarded to enable full inspection of all units under the slightest cloud for us to gain a full picture of just what is going on.

We all know full well the efforts by farming interests on the Council to quietly inhibit these services in the past, including the forbidding of over-flight helicopter inspections - disgraceful in light of the extent of the problem now revealed.

It is simply not acceptable for the 'powers that be' to claim majority compliance as the rationale for "no problem here - move on!" The odd court case extracting substantial fines from repeat offenders is no substitute for mass prosecutions of everyone found flouting the law. 

Here is a quote from the report that should concern everyone:

"Some farms have been visited three or four times since 1 July because issues were so serious.

The Council planned on visiting 400 of these farms before 1 July next year as well as continuing normal monitoring activities."

(Someone is fudging the figures here if I am not mistaken!)

If they were that serious, they should have all been prosecuted - only then will the resolve of WRC be recognised throughout the Region, and reasonable compliance achieved. The dairy industry has a great deal to answer for, and I for one am sick and tired of hearing the excuses on behalf of the "minority." They may be a minority, but they remain too significant in 2018.

Those who attended the Federated Farmers meeting should be seeking more action on the part of WRC, and Fonterra (and other processors) really 'cracking the whip' on 'denial of pick-up.' Pussy-footing around has gone on for far too long!





Climate Change Is "Speeding Up"

Regardless of all reports to the contrary, the evidence is in that climate change is not just some nebulous prospect beyond our lifetime - it is indeed "speeding up" according to the latest (fourth)  'National Climate Assessment' that must be published every four years by the US Governmen by law, regardless of Trump running interference.

Donald Trump has taken a leaf out of the Australian PM Scott Morrison’s sneak play-book – releasing a devastating report on climate change while the country was distracted by the busiest shopping day of the year.

In September, the Morrison government was accused of trying to sneak-release the latest depressing greenhouse gas emission figures by making them public on the eve of the footy finals. The White House similarly chose Black Friday – the somewhat frenzied opening of the US Christmas shopping season, and part of the extended Thanksgiving  holiday weekend – to release the latest National Climate Assessment.

I thoroughly recommend a read of the summary at least of these findings - they are the best and most scientifically up-to-date we are likely to see in the immediate future, and awash with significant graphs.

The report concludes that hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives will be lost if climate change isn’t met with direct action. As the crisis wears on, those losses will occur year after year.

The report – which has been immediately acclaimed as a “huge achievement” by American science – rings a loud bell from its opening sentences.

“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilisation, primarily as a result of human activities. The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”

Due for release in December, the report is endorsed by the Department of Defense, and 12 federal scientific agencies including NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that sits within the United States Department of Commerce.

The report is presumably an embarrassment for President Donald Trump as it contradicts every position he has taken on the phenomenon. Trump either shrugs off climate change as a Chinese hoax, whines that fighting climate change will wreck the US economy – or makes declarations on Twitter that are meant to mock climate science. He does this confusing weather (the immediate atmospheric conditions) with climate (the long-term trend).

On Wednesday, as cold weather descended on the US, he smugly tweeted: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” One of Mr Trump’s thought bubbles includes the idea that the climate will “probably change back”.

This, too, is in stark contrast to the report’s conclusion that "the effects of climate change will reverberate for thousands of years, and that much of the planet’s animal and plant life will never recover." The  relentlessly suicidal homo sapien trend-line spirals ever upward. Oh, happy days!

The Morrison government in Australia was accused of a similar tactic by trying to sneak-release the latest depressing greenhouse gas emission figures in that country by making them public on the eve of the footy finals.

Our Government has at least set carbon targets for 2030 and 2050, and looks serious about achieving them. Australia by contrast appears to have completely reneged on its Paris mandated targets by continuing its absolute devotion to coal generated power.

By recent by-election results in Sydney and Canberra, Morrison and his craven minority (+ independents) Government appears ready for the high jump at next years General Election. Unfortunately Labour's Bill Shorten appears equally devoted to a coal future.

With nothing likely to change in the US, the future appears bleak at the very least. Those in, or out of power in the US appear powerless to stop the childlike ranting of what appears from the outside (and probably equally from the inside!) as a deranged, and extremely dangerous Commander-in-Chief.

In the meantime, the immediate economic outlook looks rosy, so why concern ourselves about bleak and opaque graphs?





Kiwibank Kicks Thames In The Butt!

Stuff reports today that Kiwibank intends to close down the Thames and Whitianga Kiwibanks, and Postbanks after negotiating for other businesses to establish 'agencies. In the case of Thames, these will probably be the 'Four Square,' or a nearby 'Two-Dollar' emporium. Happy days!

This devastating news came 'out of blue' - there has been no indication to my knowledge of such a move until today. Residents of both towns will be shocked, and wondering just what it takes to maintain these services - particularly clients of Kiwibank which has done so much recently to encourage new custom.

Whitianga will have its collective nose right out of joint being so proud of its recent town centre re-development, and particularly in view of its projected growth.

Thames residents will be in despair as so much effoirt (Thames Business Association!) has been made recently to revitalise the town. The vacant shops do tell another story of course, and I guess rationalisation of bank activity is inevitable in view of what has happened elsewhere. 

The HH will carry the story on Friday, and I guess the reaction will set in next week. I wonder just what out Council will be prepared to do to lead a strong case for reconsideration of the decision.

[Read here of the reported disharmomny on the Kiwibank Board - its Chair Jane Taylor has resigned!. And it looks like a major legal stoush is on the way between previous owner - NZ Post Ltd, and the NZ Super Fund and ACC who paid $492m for the place, followed by huge losses resulting from the failure of a major IT upgrade.  Where have we heard that before?]





Sanford Profits Down Due to Climate Change

The following article by Owen Evans from 15 November SalmonBusiness is instrucrtive, and quite disturbing at the same time.

Take a look at the temperature chart - just what it is showing is a little opaque, but certainlty it does seem to indicate a substantial 'above average' range ver the entire Tasman during the period being referred by the Sanford CEO in his Annual Report.

He is the relevant extract that is probably replicated to a major degree at King Salmon in Marlborough Sounds:

"New Zealand sweated through its hottest summer on record. The nationwide average temperature for the 2017-18 summer was 18.8 degrees Celsius, 0.3C above the previous 1934-35 record of 18.5C, and a significant 2.1C above the 1981-2010 averages.

Sanford Chief Executive, Volker Kuntzsch, said that company will be providing “strategic safeguards” in mitigating the risk posed by climate change.

The farmers – who also have commercial fishing and mussel farming operations – are actively safeguarding future farms with an investment in oxygenation systems, net cleaning tech, cage configuration and lower stock density."




Mangrove Denouement 

The almost complete failure of the TCDC sponsored Bill to give it (and Hauraki DC) non-RMA regulated control of mangrove removal activities in the two Districts was reported back from the Governance and Administration Select Committee on 5 November. 

Rather than simply throw the whole thing out as it should have done, it has simply 'gutted' the Bill is such a way as to completely remove any possibility of it being 'fit for our Council's purpose, and intent.' Not only that, but it has restricted its operation to the confines of Whangamata Harbour.

What a 'slap in the face' for our Council, and its determined Whangamata constituents in particular who have fought so hard to get the power to simply remove what they consider a weed, and hindrance to their marine sporting activities, and views!

Mayor Sandra, who has been such a supporter - even to the extent of joining illegal removal activities in the past, will have some explaining, and fence mending to do on the other side of the Peninsula. No one on this side cares a tupenny-hoot about mangrove, and the Committee simply did not buy the arguments put forward in favour of by-passing all existing legislation to achieve the desired end.

Whangamata residents will be dismayed to hear that that even the definition of the Bill in favour of mangrove removal has been changed to "protection and maintenance," and removal of any reference to "whole tree removal and maintenance dredging" together with modification of mechanised removal to "hand-held" only.

The Report goes on to recommend that oversight of any mangrove management plan would lie with a committee comprising a representatives to TCDC, WRC, DoC, an appropriately qualified scientist, and iwi representation agreed on with TCDC.  Other tight regulating provisions follow, and a "sunset" clause of five years before the regional coastal plan would re-apply. Finally, any plan that emerges from any committee set up under this Bill would require the approval of the Minister of Local Government. Boy, talk about tying the ambitions of the Whangamata mangrove activists up in knots!

Frankly, these provisions alone, if adopted, as seems very likely, will result in utter frustration amongst Whangamata residents who envisaged virtually a 'free-hand' to get amongst the 'demon' plant with real machines, and create an environment more suited to their recreational activities.

By the way - here is the 'killer' provision:

"Clause 4(2)(a) would require the committee, in preparing the draft mangrove management plan, to complete an assessment of environmental effects in accordance with specific sections in the RMA. Clause 4(2)(b) would require the committee to consider where mangroves contribute to coastal ecosystems or protect the coast from erosion. We consider that these provisions would ensure that the committee considers environ mental effects as part of its preparation of a plan, and particularly any environmental benefits that mangroves may be providing."

The whole exercise has proven to be a colossal waste of time and resources, and by not 'knocking the Bill on the head' right from the outset, the Committee has created more scope for division and argument as it progresses to its inevitable denouement - hopefully.

The Report notes the members of the Committee indicating a Government majority of course, and with the Hon Scott Simpson only "participating in some of this item of business."

Neither he nor his constituents will be pleased to see that the Report comes back "unanimously." I guess Scott was absent when the vote was taken. You can imagine the un-likelihood of any revolt on the floor of Parliament in regard to its recommendations. Our Council will need to revert to the drawing board - I can't see any point in it attempting to achieve its objectives under the provisions of this Bill.





Thames "Sports Hub"

In a PR on 9 November, our Council acknoeledged for the first time that it had purchased:

"     a block of land in Totara adjoining Council-owned land south of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield creates an area big enough for a potential future sports and recreation hub."

Later down the article, it was revealed that the area purchased was about 7.5h, at a cost of $1.04m.

As indicated in an earlier post on the 18 September meeting, this decision was taken behind closed doors "because of commercial sensitivity," with no indication given at the time as to the purpose or details of the purchase.

Apart from the the considerations eloquently explained by Denis Tegg in his recent post related to the suitability of the land in question for the primary purpose of relocating the Centennial swimming pool, the process surrounding this purchase is totally unsatisfactory, and cannot be justified by the usual "commercial sensitivity" excuse when exposed to controversial proposed use.

It stinks - if not reeking of corrupt practice, certainly of reckless exposure of ratepayer funds to a use that has far wider implications than can be justified by post-purchase "discussions" with potential users. 

As readers will know, I have been highly complimentary of recent Council performance and practice, particularly surrounding the work of CEO Rob Williams, and Mayor Sandra Goudie. But no one is above criticism, and on this occasion, I consider that all concerned have 'stepped over the mark' into arrogant and outrageous mis-use of our rates - something that is inevitable when a Council becomes over-confident, and ignores its 'public service' status. 

Denis Tegg is absolutely correct in his analysis of what is likely to happen if this land is used for the primary purpose for which it was purchased. The life of what is destined to be a major, if not huge capital investment is likely to be of very short relative duration for no good reason other than blind refusal to accept the proven facts surrounding sea-level rise, and its likely effect on the entire coastline.

The inadequacy of existing sea-wall bunds, is already widely accepted, and yet our Council is prepared to go for a resource consent to build a pool adjacent to the flood plain that has already adversely affected the rugby and netball facilities. This is utter lunacy - and if this is not what is intended, then why pay over a million dollars of our money for the land in the first place. It begs the question - does someone have a vested interest in this outcome?

After all, it is beyond belief that a normal responsible, and professionally advised Council would undertake this purchase for this purpose in the circumstances. I for one will be very interested in the contents of the reports that the PR indicates will go to Council early next year along with inclusion the 2021-31 LTP, or as a separate "public consultation." 

This from the PR appear almost as an afterthought, and 'covering of the proverbial':

"We’ve also been continuing consultations with Waikato Regional Council (WRC) about the Totara site and requirements there for flood protection. A geotechnical report conducted earlier this year found no major flaws to the airfield south site, but noted that the existing stopbanks would need to be raised in order to cope with projected sea level rises over the long term.

The detailed design of the facility would take into consideration the stormwater and floodwater management needed to cope with sea level projections over the 50-60 year lifespan of any sports facility that is built there."

It is to be hoped that common sense will have prevailed by then, and that another use for this land, and another site for the proposed "hub" will have been found by that time.




Denis Tegg's Legal Opinion on Resource Consent 

It is interesting to note that the legal opinion written by Denis failed to make it onto today's Council agenda.

Here is the story he wrote about it on his website (an impressive new iteration if you have not already seen it - I will have to sharpen up!) You can access the actual opinion through that post. It seems clear, and leaves little room for argument.

What is important is that it is one issue about which our Council appears to have a 'blind eye,' and although we may all become a little tired of Denis going on about it at times, the facts are generally irrefutable, the outlook bleak, and our Council's reaction resembles that of Canute.

It is not going to go away. The likelihood of a Resource Consent being approved for the pool is remote, the fact that Richmond village continues to advertise its apartments borders on fraud, and our ability to do much other than 'retreat' in the face of the certainty of future inundation, moot.

I am not going to repeat Denis's arguments here - follow through at your leisure, but at least we cannot say that we have not been warned. It is up to our Council now to take action , belated or otherwise. Other coastal councils south of here have set the standard in that regard, and we are 'late to the party.'





TCDC is at a New Level

I could quibble, but I won't, because I have just sat through one of the most (no sorry - the most) satisfactory Council meeting since my first in 2007.

I will not argue with the apparently generous salary levels (Rob Williams stated today that 90% are now at the top of their range - well up on two years ago), the remarkable fact is that for the first time in my experience, the entire capital works budget has been achieved, along with all other major targets. Rob explained that the targets had been achieved with fewer staff, but on higher salaries. He has 21 unfilled vacancies that he only fills when the need arises. My only comment would be that if he does not need them, then they should be abolished, and re-justified when required - a normal commercial approach.

It is noteworthy that councils (the CEO in effect!) create their own establishment without outside oversight, as applies in the public service where the Public Service Commissioner fulfils this role, and every department is required to justify every position at regular intervals. What all this tells us is that previous chief executives ran anything but a 'tight ship.'

Interestingly, he revealed that the Annual Report only passed the Audit by dint of some very strong argument by staff, and the Audit Consultant on the Audit Committee. I would love to know what was holding up the approval - it must have been important for that to have happened in view of the 'rubber stamp' approvals of the past.

All this information arose from the presentation of the draft Annual Report, and to some extent, the Chief Executive's meeting Report. It was noted that the new IT system hardware - installed at the weekend will enable far greater graphical information to be presented in the future.

All in all, the turnaround at our Council - achieved without fuss or fanfare, is remarkable and a credit to the effort of Rob Williams and his entire staff.

And credit must also be given to Mayor Sandra, who has provided the support from the sidelines, and now presides over a united and pretty dammed good Council, though some of its members should seriously consider standing aside in favour of better qualified (and younger!) candidates at the next election in twelve months.

After the turmoil, and personal abuse hurled in my direction during the unfortunate Leach years, I now regard my presence at these meetings as purely providing a 'watching brief,' but nevertheless important in the absence of any other media.

Other matters dealt with at today's meeting were purely procedural.





Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre

Council meets tomorrow tro adopt the draft Annual Report, amongst other things.

I have not examined the Report in detail, but one item that stands out relates to the financing of the Jack McLean Centre, that was contentious from the outset - more-so when it building defects were discovered that required expensive repairs. It has been difficult to determine the full extent of the financial effects of these repairs, and the shortfall in the 'pledges' that were made at the time, and which formed a major part of the basis on the decision to proceed was made.

Readers will be well aware of the scepticism that I expressed at the time, and so it has come to pass that by far the majority of these 'pledges' have failed to materialise.

Here is the Note from the Annual Report that explains the whole sage:

"The Jack McLean Community Recreation Centre (the centre) project is a partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Thames High School with the facility located on the school grounds.

The new building is a two court facility and includes a foyer, administration, changing rooms, multi-purpose room, spectator seating and storage spaces. External works included roading, car parking, site services, paving and landscaping. The centre was officially opened in February 2018.

The total project budget was $5.7 million (including roof repairs detailed below). This budget included an estimated $1.5 million in external funding made up of contributions from the school ($440,000) community fundraising ($332,000 of which $122,484 has been received) and public grants ($725,000). As at 30 June 2018, $5.7 million has been spent.

Prior to opening the facility, it was found that the building itself had suffered from moisture damage. Specifically, the design of the building made insufficient provision for ventilation. As a result, condensation built-up on the underside of the roof structure, made its way through the building paper and insulation in the roof cavity, and dripped onto the playing surface. The moisture damaged approximately 200 ceiling tiles and the roof itself required a redesign in order to rectify the problem. The total roof remediation works cost approximately $620,000. Council is currently persuing the matter via the professional services contract with the designer.

The contractor is also claiming an additional $177,000 for works relating to an extension of time and additional physical works.

Until both matters are settled, Council is unable to measure the liability with sufficient reliability. Therefore, both claims have been noted as contingent liabilities."




Caged Fish Farming in Tasmania Under a Cloud

Because of the threat to our our environment resulting from caged kingfish farming in the Hauraki Gulf, I keep track of international news on this form of aquaculture elsewhere.

Yesterday, the Austrlaian Marine Conservation Society moved to downgrade its rating for Tasmanian farmed Atlantic salmon from 'amber' (think twice!) to 'red' (say no!)

This is a very significant move by this Society that is widely recognised, and whose consumer recommendations are widely followed in Australia. It follows a "comprehensive scientific assessment of the ecological impact of Tasmanian salmon farms.

The following is a summary of the conclusions:

“If done sustainably, fish-farming can provide an important source of seafood for Australians. It is unfortunate that the scientific evidence has led to a sustainability downgrade of Atlantic Salmon in the latest review of the Guide, particularly as the salmon farming industry was heading in the right direction until recent years.

“But in the past three years fish farming has had serious impacts on sensitive marine habitats and threatened species, particularly in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour. The salmon farming industry bears significant responsibility for the environmental impacts in the Harbour, and needs to clean up its act.

“Fish farming has reached such intensity in Macquarie Harbour that we’ve had consecutive summers of serious environmental impacts, including several massive fish kills. There have been dangerously low oxygen levels in deeper harbour waters, over a million fish have been lost due to asphyxiation and disease, and ‘dead zones’ have formed on the seafloor. This is a serious failure in management.

“If there is an aquaculture equivalent to overfishing, it’s growing many more fish than the local environment can support so you end up killing them."

Read the full account though the URL, and add this information to that which we already know about the probable consequences for our own environment once the overseas (understood to be Japanese) interests begin to apply their practices in the Gulf by way of the Hauraki iwi partnererd farm.

Japanese interests have alrerady applied for a area in Western Australia (the Albrohos Islands) ten times larger than that proposed 240h here, also for the purpose of cultivating kingfish.




Buffalo Beach Homeowners Association

For all those interested in the notified RMA Application (see page 25 of the 10 October Mercury Bay Informer) for a seawall, designed to protect 19 properties at Buffalo Beach - here is the letter dated 19 July 2018 from their consultant - Planners Plus Ltd (David Lamason) that outlines exactly what is proposed.

Two matters of interest:

1. It appears that this entire work is to be carried out at the expense of the Association members, though some recompense for work required to protect TCDC reserves (access ways etc.) may be sought.

2. David Lamason did ask for the application to be 'non-notified' - clearly not granted!

The work appears to replicate, if slightly alter the existing rock revetment in order to achieve a 35 year  protection to the legally consented existing houses.





Alistair Brickell's 'Conference' in Portugal


The following correspondence is self explanatory – the first is a letter published in the Mercury Bay Informer on 10 October from well known climate and sea-level rise denier – Alistair Brickell.

The second is an Open Letter published in the proceedings of the Conference at the University of Porto that he apparently attended. This Open Letter is signed by 80 scientists obviously concerned at the involvement of the University of Porto in this promotion of pseudo-science, which our Mr Brickell attended.

The damage caused by Mr Brickell’s determination to ‘muddy the waters’ continues, with grave consequences should any of his outrageous claims be accepted by a significant section of our population.

1 - Dear Editor - Sea level rise

Having just returned from overseas, I note in The Informer of 3 October Denis Tegg is still worried about our beaches.

While in Portugal, I was lucky enough to attend an international conference entitled

“Basic Science of a Changing Climate” held at Porto University. This discussed how processes in the sun, atmosphere and ocean affect weather and climate and I can now reassure Mr Tegg that he can stop worrying about sea level rise.

The most up to date scientific research was presented and I’m sure that Mr Tegg will be particularly interested to learn that the latest GPS tracking of tectonic movements of the earth’s surface have produced exciting results. These conclusively show that it’s the global tide gauge network that accurately records the rate of sea level rise, not the satellite data which is now shown to be in error.

The global tide gauge records clearly prove that the sea level is only rising at a rate of1.1 - 1.4mm a year... hardly anything to get alarmed about. This rate has not changed atall from the start of these records over 100 years ago, despite much increased CO2 levelsin the atmosphere since World War II. The satellite data is of much shorter duration andhas been corrupted by incorrect adjustment for tectonic changes in the surface of the land.

This research  clearly shows that CO2 is having no discernible effect on the sea level. Coastal landowners, Thames-Coromandel District Council, Waikato Regional Council and, I’m very sure, Mr Tegg will be relieved to learn that they have nothing to fear from sea level rise.

Alastair Brickell


2 - Open Letter to the Rector of the University of Porto
(translated by Google translator, so please be tolerant of some of the phrasing)

"The University of Porto must scrutinize the events it organizes and promote knowledge based on in Science.

As announced on the website of the University of Porto and reported in the press, September 7 and 8 at the Faculty of Arts of entitled "Basic science of a changing climate: how processes in the sun, atmosphere and ocean affect weather and climate".

Under the cover of this interesting title that suggests a scientific field recognized, this conference is ultimately organized by a well-known climate change, the so-called "Independent Committee on Geoethics", and will gather Denialists from various countries, and is presided over by Maria Assunção Araújo, of that faculty.

In her own words for the press Maria Assunção Araújo is explicit: "I do not care to listen to people that considers that the only cause of climate change is CO2."

The term 'climate change' now has different meanings. While not ignoring large temporal scale it has its own meanings, it is not possible today to deny the consensus the scientific community that the current climate change to watch, are caused by actions with human origin. It is a scientific consensus that areas of expertise, and encompasses scientists from all continents.

There is a unambiguous of the planet, not just simulated or predicted but measured. The emission of gases with greenhouse effect, the most relevant of which is carbon dioxide, is main reason for this warming and comes mainly from the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), but also from other sources such as deforestation and agriculture. This assertion was made clear in the last IPCC report (Panel Intergovernmental Organization for Climate Change).

Being a public university and one of the largest producers of Science in Portugal, the University of Porto is required to scrutinize the events it hosts. This institution, for the responsibility to disseminate informed knowledge, should not lend the name and give credibility to the denial of Science and Knowledge, but rather to promote knowledge climate change, following good international scientific practice."

That appears to put the scientific relevance of Mr Brickell's 'Conference' run by the Arts Faculty of the University of Porto, in context!





EV Promotion Needs Balance

Unless you’ve got a lot of bucks to spend, you’ll be pumping petrol for years to come.

That’s the forecast from Klaus Frohlich - chief of research and development at BMW, the German luxury automaker that has committed to having 12 battery electric vehicles on-sale by 2025.

He also estimates 85 per cent of BMW’s model line-up will still be powered by petrol or diesel internal combustion engines in 2030, and that 85 per cent of BMW’s model line-up will likewise be powered bypetrol or diesel internal combustion engines in 2030.

Mr Frohlich told The New Daily at last week’s Paris motor show in an article published today:

“If you look at the CO2 regulations worldwide there is an ambition to have a high number of battery electric vehicles. The only problem is we do not find customers who want to drive an electric vehicle and face all the constraints that come with that.”

Klaus Frohlich worries about increasing demand for rare earth metals, which will drive up the cost of batteries.

The biggest issue he cites is price. Without financial subsidies EVs will not be able to overcome the cost of their lithium-ion batteries to compete with conventionally-engined vehicles.

“No, never, never,” he insisted.

Mr Frohlich said the cost of a 100 kilowatt hour (kW/h) battery pack that  provides an EV about 500km of range, costs up to $A25,000 alone.

“You can produce whole [conventional] cars with the cost of the [EV] battery,” he said.

And Mr Frohlich claimed that building more batteries won’t reduce the cost because that will drive up the demand for cobalt, a rare-earth metal critical to the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.

Frohlich also described the EV discussion as “a bit irrational”.

“Perhaps in the eastern region of China; Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong … they might be 100 per cent electric.

“But the world – Russia, Australia, USA, big portions of Europe – they will have combustion engines for a very long time.”

BMW is making concessions to electrification, confirming every petrol and diesel engine in its range would have some form of hybrid assist by 2025 to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and boost power.

BMW’s negative forecast about EV take-up rates and costs comes in the same week fellow German luxury brand Porsche announced it would be exporting its first EV, the Taycan saloon, to Australia from mid-2020.

BMW is releasing its second electric car, the iX3, next year.

No pricing has been released but the Taycan is expected to compete against the Tesla Model S, which is priced between $A125,000 and $A250,000 drive-away.

At the other end of the scale, the Renault Zoe mini-car is available to the Aussie public from $A47,490, while the second generation of one of Australia’s most affordable EVs, the Nissan Leaf small car has been confirmed for Australian sale in mid-2019.

Again, no pricing was announced, but its predecessor was discounted to $A39,990 because of slow sales.

BMW currently sells only one EV, the oddball i3. It’s Australian pricing starts at $A68,700. Its second EV, the iX3 SUV, launches in 2019.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC, Audi e-tron EV SUVs and Jaguar i-Pace have all been recently unveiled. The Jaguar is on sale late 2018 and the Benz and Audi in 2019. All here will be priced well over $A100,000."

I am not looking for another 'run-in' with Denis, but this has been my view from day one - 'be careful what you wish for.' Reality is on two levels, both in regard to sea-level change, and the take-up of EV technology. Denis sees things through his lens much more clearly than most, and this enables him to stand apart as the community's conscience, amply demonstrated in another HH article this morning.

Were it that simple - life goes on, and despite our worst fears, we have to apply practical solutions within our conceivable time-frame, and I don't mean mine, which is shorter than most! In other words, drastic change will in the end have to be forced on us, and we will adapt - anything else is just too painful to contemplate, for most.

For the most execrable example of this, look no further than the Australian Government continuing to defend its 85% dependency of power from coal. Morrison's blatant lies to the Australian Parliament over recent days defy belief, but that is the reality - Australians are totally unable to face the truth about CO2 emissions, and neither the Libs or Labour are prepared to go to the polls on a platform to alter this, regardless of their domonstable inability to meet their commitments to the Paris Accords.     



DoC Digs In Behind Its Long-Planned Fortress 

Anyone in any doubt as to the seriousness of DoC's determination to protect it staff against potential attacks from the 'Hard-Core' Anti-1080 Brigade only needs to divert off the Thames-Kopu Highway just south of the Garden centre to see the latest iteration of what constitutes a regional office.

The surrounding 2 metre heavy steel fence topped with sharp profiles, and with a single heavy rolling high security gate that surrounds their new Regional Office would I suggest stop a determined mob, regardless of their weapons. The fence encloses all its assets including vehicles. This level of security has been long signaled in response to the past behaviour of certain protesters that has left the department little choice but to build the equivalent of a North-West Frontier blockhouse, and who can blame them.

But it is a sad reflection on the ability of the protesters to retain any sense of propriety in making their feelings and passions clear to DoC staff who are simply implementing Government policy. I suspect that we will be seeing similar protection erected at all DoC offices around the country as existing leases run out, and they move into new premises - at God knows what cost. A sad day indeed, but inevitable in the light of recent events.

Why this self-righteous group, imbued with such passion that enables them to feel empowered to conduct violent protest almost beggars belief, and leaves one wondering whether there is some other underlying cause that has not been satisfactorily explained - the protection of pig-hunters' dogs, and their quarry  comes to mind. Unfortunately the Peninsula appears to have more than its fair share of these people, quite separate from the majority of sincere opponents who simply wish to express their opposition to 1080.

Hence the need for DoC to protect its staff, and its property.