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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Media Council.   

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Tuesday
Nov122019

The Disgraceful Truth About Immigration 

Bernard Hickey has beautifully nailed both the Labour and NZ First colours to the mast in an excellent erticle in  today's Newsroom that pulls apart all Shane Jone's immigration 'dog-whistleing' over the past week or two. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the NZ First relevancy campaign that looks more and more necessary to offset electoral losses likely to occur as a result of Winston's disastrous court appearances over the last week. 

"Despite their 2017 election rhetoric about reducing the pressure on wages and infrastructure from low-skilled migration, the coalition Labour-New Zealand First Government has actually increased temporary work visas and not reduced student arrivals. There were 355,000 temporary worker and student visas approved in the year to September, up from 335,000 in the year before the 2017 election. Shane Jones is talking tough to distract from his party's own inaction.

But just like the previous National government, Labour and New Zealand First have squeezed down permanent residency approvals to 35,000 last year from 42,600 in the election year. It was 51,700 the previous year to September 2016. That means we are inviting in more and more temporary workers with the subtle and not-so-subtle suggestion we might let them stay, but we're making it harder and harder for them to win that permanence. We have become the Dubai of the South Pacific where we treat migrants as second-class or non-citizens, allow them to be exploited, and then throw them away when we're done with them.

This Government, also like the previous government, is also doing very little to deal with the infrastructure pressure from massive population growth driven by all the temporary workers. And the dirtiest secret of all is that's just the way home-owning and business-owning voters like it because it keeps government debt down, keeps interest rates low, keeps house prices rising and keeps wages down. Treasury also loves it because all those workers are pumping up the surplus with fresh income taxes and GST revenues, but without the infrastructure spending to go with it. (my bold)

Renters and the migrants themselves, who are now finding it much harder to get permanent residency, are the biggest losers. Their wages are stagnant, they are often subject to exploitation (that the Government has done nothing about) and their rents are growing twice as fast as wages. Rightly, they are mystified and angry when we renege on our earlier and ongoing suggestions that they might get permanence at the end of their allotted three years. Others are rolled on temporary work visas again and again. Some aged care workers have been here for up to a decade. 

That's what the growing anger in the migrant communities is really about. This effectively bi-partisan policy is both racist and profoundly not the New Zealand way. We are not treating our guests and workmates fairly, and we're hurting our poorest in the process through short term and selfish thinking and governance. This 'policy', which is more a series of accidental and opportunistic decisions than a clearly debated or agreed policy, is effectively delusional and fraudulent. 

But that doesn't matter to the Government or the councils who are making these decisions about migration and infrastructure spending respectively, because renters and recent migrants vote in general and local elections at much lower rates than home owning residents who have a stake in this migration-fueled growth in leveraged (and untaxed) home equity. It also suits businesses because they don't have to invest in expensive new equipment and training to increase output when they are in a position to expand production. They just add new temporary workers.

It's no accident New Zealand's output per hour worked or productivity has stagnated for the last decade, while Australia and other countries with lower population growth rates have done much better, in large part because they have invested much more in their infrastructure and their people.

New Zealand is kidding itself that it is growing its economy and its wealth, but all it is doing is bringing in more people, working them harder for less pay, and refusing to invest in the underlying infrastructure and social fabric of the country because its delivers a short-term financial and political gain. It is disgraceful."

Read the whole article to get the 'full picture.' I had an email from NZ First recently that said straight out that they had no intention of 'backing down' from Shane Jone's rhetoric, or allowing the Immigration Department to revert to its previous laissez-faire interpretation of what they claim is settled policy. Never mind Jacinda's declaration that this indeed is what will happen. 

It looks like 'Red Rover' is in play, and that we can only sit back and see who has the loudest, or the most tunefull whistle. The next Cabinet meeting when both Jacinda and Winston are in the room should be very interesting. Is this the inevitable 'crunch' issue?

Whatever the case, the poor old (and getting older!) temporaries remain the 'ham in the sandwich,' and in an intolerable situation. It is time for us all to dwell on the consequences of this disgraceful state of affairs in which they now find themselves.

To be clear, neither side in the House has reason to claim the 'moral high-ground' on this issue. 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov122019

Council - First 'Real' Meeting Today

The major business that was transacted today surrounded the committee appointments that are normally adopted without argument - Council has the right to dismiss, and/or change appointments that they are not happy about, and such was the case today in regard to a couple of areas where Mayor Sandra had quite definite preferences.

The major dissent came from Clr John Morrissey, who has returned to the Council table after a nine year absence. An absence that has not affected his knowledge of just how things work . Expect to hear a lot more from this quarter over time, and for his relationship with Sandra to be less than cordial at times.

At question was over the make-up of the Chief Executive Liaison Committee - the Committee that oversees the CE performance, and determines a recommendation on his contract extension, or otherwise. It normally meets only once a year. Clr Morrissey sought to extend its numbers to four from the three recommended by the Mayor - herself, Clr McLean and Clr Christie.

Clr Christie expressed irritation at what she initially thought was an attempt to impugn her service on the Waikato Health Board. Clr Morrissey quickly disabused her on this score, even though such a question-mark is eminently justified, for obvious reasons. Clr Morrissey explained vehemently that all he wanted was a 'fresh face' on the Committee. He subsequently nominated Clr Gottlieb to a fourth position after the increase had been decided, and the Mayor nominated Clr Rodley who was clearly more acceptable to her than Gary Gottlieb; who was in any case reluctant because of work commitments.

The result was I believe, a 7:1 victory in favour of Gary - the first time I believe that Mayor Sandra has suffered a defeat of this scale, or nature. and significant in terms of the future of the CEO, following the Whitianga Town Centre debacle, and other issues concerning project over-expenditure. Gary will provide a degree of perceived independence that may otherwise have been absent.

Following on from that win, Cr Morrissey tried his luck with an attempt to re-establish the Infrastructure Committee that the Mayor clearly had in her sights on, on the grounds that only such a Committee could provide the  oversight and governance required to avoid the recent project over-runs, and other problems.

Mayor Sandra was having none of it, and contended that the whole Council needed to provide this oversight, and indeed needed to be kept 'informed.' She further argued that mid-meeting 'workshops' were precisely for this purpose, and according, Cr Morrissey's argument lost, though he could easily have futher argued that keeping failures behind workshop 'closed doors' was inimical to 'public interest,' and tranparency.

The only other change was the timely addition of Robin Sinclair to the Hauraki Gulf Forum from which substantial progress is expected in this term towards delivering real environmental, and fish stock hits after years of talk-fests, and arguments over mandates.  

There was nothing else of interest - the Chief Executive continued with his exclusive use of charts to present his monthly report. I hope that at some point in the New Year that members instruct him to desist from this utterly idiotic practice in letting councillors, and the public know just what is going on with our Council..

Sorry, but charts simply do not 'cut the mustard,' and do not replace a narrative which can be closely examined, and subject to appropriate interrogation.    

 

 

 

Friday
Nov082019

Chair, Committee & Salary Allocations

Here is the paper from the Group Manager, Governance - Angela Jane on the recommendations that will go to Council on Tuesday. 

Notice that therer has been a substantial increase in salary's proposed from those paid during the previous Triennium.  Just what justifies these increases I have no idea, but clearly the Remuneration Authority has devised a method of calculation that involves large increases for fulfilling the role of Mayor, Deputy, Chair, and membership of Committees. Read the Paper to understand the reasoning behind it all, but the actual amounts to be paid are as follows:  

Goudie $130,000

Murray McLean (Deputy Mayor, ARC member) - $65,226

 Sally Christie (EMC Chair, Regional CDEM Group member, EM portfolio) - $61,226

 Tony Fox (Regional Transport Committee member, ARC member, Infrastructure portfolio) - $61,226

Terry Walker (Coromandel Catchment Liaison member, EMC member) - $55,226

John Morrissey (ARC member) - $46,069

Robyn Sinclair (EMC member) - $46,069

Martin Rodley (ARC member) - $46,069

Gary Gotlieb (ARC member) - $46,06

All up - $427,100

These are the totals paid - see the Paper for the actual reponsibilites, and to which must be added the various child, mileage, accommodation etc. allowances.  

It fair 'blows you away' to see these actual figures - all in all I don't belive that any of them can complain that they are not very adequately compensated in the liight of the actual workload, and responsibility. 

You will notice that my earlier prediction of the Chairs, was pretty much 'on the mark.' McLean is 'right up there' and will have an enormous influence on the manner in which the Council operates over this term. Sally Christie has been tucked right in behind Sandra as well to provide no doubt to provide her a degree of comfort.

Sally and Sandra have clearly established a 'close' association, and will both join McLean on the all-important Chief Executive Liaison Committee, that will in due course consider and recommend on the re-appointment of Rob Williams. This will probably ensure the renewal of his contract, regardless of the pathetic performance I earlier reported over the oversight of the Whitianga 'upgrade.' 

Once  again, I suggest that readers close examine Ms Janes Paper to understand how our rates are being spent in remunerating our elected members.

 

 

 

Thursday
Nov072019

Chloe Swarbrick 'Raises Eyebrows.'

Chloe's thoughtless response in Parliament yesterday - "Okay Boomer," was clever, and probably appropriate in dealing with an ageism interjection from the Opposition benches regarding some climate change issue, but was 'picked up' and raised eyebrows around the World. It certainly gave new meaning to meaning to the generational warfare that appears to have broken out around Parliament. 

Molly Roberts nails it in today's NZH:

 "OK, boomer" is appealing because, on the simplest level, it flips the script. Old people have been telling young people for years that they don't get it because they just haven't had the chance to learn. Now, young people have developed a cryptic code for telling old people that they're the ones who don't get it, and that failure is all the more flagrant because they have had countless chances to learn.

But the flipping is craftier than just that. What's important isn't that the kids are fighting back. It's that the kids are fighting back without really fighting at all. "OK, boomer" indicts not an argument and not an individual but an entire generation, or an entire generation's attitude - and it does it with two words dripping with dismissal. The Gen Z progenitors of this insolent slogan say they use it because they're inheriting a collapsing climate, an unequal economy and endless battles overseas that they didn't start. They're saying a lot with very little, and by saying very little they end up saying even more.

On the surface, perhaps a 'smart-arssed' response, more revaaling of Chloe's hard-line stand, but at the same time, it reveals a fundamental 'flip' in attitudes that may be well and truly overdue - the condescension and arrogance of the older generaltions shown towards generation Z in particular, but even 'boomers' when it comes to my generation.  

Our 'put-downs' of previous generations related to 'lack of experience' are simply, and rightly flung back in our direction as a response to the indescribable mess that we have left behind for the future generations to deal with, if that is even possible, Respect is earnt, and so easily lost. Make no mistake, we have lost it. 

But the flipping is craftier than just that. What's important isn't that the kids are fighting back. It's that the kids are fighting back without really fighting at all. "OK, boomer" indicts not an argument and not an individual but an entire generation, or an entire generation's attitude - and it does it with two words dripping with dismissal. The Gen Z progenitors of this insolent slogan say they use it because they're inheriting a collapsing climate, an unequal economy and endless battles overseas that they didn't start. They're saying a lot with very little, and by saying very little they end up saying even more.

"OK, boomer" sends the message that the grown-ups have screwed up so totally, and are veering so speedily into irrelevance, that convincing them of anything is a waste of keyboard characters."

Chloe's 'throwaway' response may irritate well beyond the Chamber of Parliament, both as a stand alone epithet, and as reflecting the unfortunate tendency of each generation to generalise about others perceived to be 'out of touch' - "a waste of keyboard characters"!

I am beyond being a 'boomer,' but I will take Chloe's intended admonition 'on the chin.'

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov052019

What Now At TCDC?

Mayor Sandra has promised that after a term of 'consolidation and unity,' that she intends the next term to be one of action - 'just getting on with it!

But first comes the meeting on 13 November when I expect some pent-up frustration regarding 'unfinished busiiness' to come to the fore following her announcement of her choices of Deputy, and chairs of committees. It seems that discussions may have already taken place in 'workshops' during which Sandra would have made clear her preferences.

Based on earlier remarks about the Infrastructure Committee being essentially 'redundant,' my feeling is that she will eliminate it, and probably appoint Murray McLean as her Deputy for what he indicated to me would be his 'last term.' Responsibility for over-expenditure on certain major projects needs to be shared between Infrastructure, and Audit & Risk, but the absence of meetings of the former over the last year indicates to me that it was being bypassed by staff, or at least that is how it appears from outside.

Audit on the other hand has simply not exercised due oversight in allowing over-expenditure to occur in the manner it has, and Tony Fox as Chair needs to takes ownership of this state of affairs. I expect him to be replaced by Sandra, probably by the external member - accountant and auditor Bruce Robertson. This is regardless of him having been on the Committee for some considerable time, and therefore responsible to a degree for the financial state of affairs that looks likely to lead to a substantial increase in rates from 2020/21.

Murray McLean has chaired the Regulatory (primarily RMA stuff) Committee for the last term, and I don't expect that to change, though Gary Gotlieb may well be given the nod, if he can make the time available. Note that a substantial hourly fee is charged to applicants, and paid to members for work on this Committee that normally requires having passed the  'Making Good Decisions' course run by the Dept. of Internal Affairs.

What is interesting is that but one set of minutes (Audit Committee -12 March, 2019) appears on the Council Website for the entire year - which could mean that no others have been 'approved, or that no actual meetings took place - several are shown as having been 'cancelled for lack of business.' 

Whatever the reason, it is an inexcusable oversight. We are all entitled to know what decisions were made, and the papers that form the basis on which they were made. And surprise, surprise - each Chair will nevertheless have continued to receive $8,000 for having chaired the committee.

With the expected demise of Infrastructure, I expect to see a distinct improvement in the manner in which the business of committees is managed over the next year. It had better be! And it is part of Sandra's $120,000 job to ensure that this is the case.

 

 

 

Friday
Nov012019

Communications!

It has fascinated me for some time as to exactly what it is that a bevy of Communications staff do around the Castle, that used to be handled eight years ago by one retired 'journo' on his own.

All was revealed yesterday in the 260  page 'glossy' Our Coromandel produced by the Council to promote the District amongst its various markets, which by the way does not appears to include Thames, was handed out at the Meeting. I was told last year that this glossy was only distributed to Eastern Seaboard rate-payers , along with Information centres etc., including Thames "where you can get it, if you want it." Thames is apparently not seen as part  of the 'target market.'

Now for the good part that you have all been waiting for - the members of the team that put together this 'in-house' glossy comprising stories about out tourist attractions, and predominantly real-estate and builders advertising, along with just about every type of business on the Peninsula. The design is by Modo Design, and the advertising is handled by, would you believe, Warren Male - ex Coromandel FM, more recently More FM 'Brand Ambassador.' There must be a huge budget, and revenue for the production.

Apart from the otherwise excellent articles that fully explore the Peninsula's attractions, this issue opens with e Mayoral panegyric headlined:

"Sandra's back and and getting stick into the the nuts and bolts of council core business for her next term as Mayor"

The remainder of the article rather gives the impression that it was composed well before the election in order to meet publication deadlines. It gives a gripping account of her previous term, and in particular, 'getting everyone to pull together,' and instigating widespread mitigating measures in regard to dealing with the effects of climate change. "Doing our part -(not talking)" - That is a relief! So it is clear that this is more than simply a glossy about tourist attractions - it appears an effective propaganda document masquerading as such - not, I would have to say for the first time.

The entire Communications Team at TCDC is listed on the frontispiece as handling the editorial, and just to giver you an idea as to how well served we are in that department - here are all their titles:

1. Communications and Economic Development Group Manager (Laurna White)

2. Communications and Economic Development Officer (Georgina Bond)

3. Digital Communications & Marketing Officer (Amber Baker)

4. Senior Communications Officer (Michael Doble)

5. Junior Communications Officer (Dana Little)

6. District Events Co-ordinator (Kirsten Richmond)

In addition, two other free-lance writers are employed part-time, together wiuth a photographer and designer.

We may be well served in the area of communications, but one would have to question whether the trickle of innocuous press releases comprise the otherwise full output of this line-up. And you have to ask just how this constitutes the 'core business' that our Mayor so claimsd to be the "first priority."of our Council. It seems that interpreting the 'core business' to rate-payers is seen as part of the 'core business.'

You certainly won't find anything on the Council website that raises any controversial issues, or that may reflect badly on any aspect of the Council's work. Releases are almost always bland, and about non-issues, or emergencies. I do know that Laurna White handles the Official Information Requests, but I don't imagine that is too taxing a task.

Get a hold of a copy from the Information Centre - it is well worth a look, but it may disappear quickly.

 

Friday
Nov012019

Inaugural Meeting

The Inaugural Meeting of Council and community boards with about 60 present was held at the Community Centre, and was uneventful . Two brave elected members tackled the Oath, or Declaration in halting te reo - somewhat painful to listen to, but least they put a Maori full-stop on proceedings that otherwise lacked even a nod to our putative partners  in running the District.

The CEO, Rob Williams did mention that this Tri-ennium would see the advent of the new arrangements that would result from 'The settlement' - where have we heard that before? And Wati Ngamane was invited to perform a Karakia to kick-off proceedings, but gave but 'lip-service' to the language. Their was certainly an absence of Maori in the room that gave one to believe that changes, when they occur, will be somewhat more than transformative. I wonder what David Taipari has in mind?

The assembled group of elected appeared comfortable - a number were returning after a couple of terms out of it, and looked a little older - in fact almost to a man or women they all looked to fit the elderly, white and 'comfortable' demographic that predominates throughout local government. It was certainly refreshing to see Martin Rodley and Robyn Sinclair stump up to the dais. And you heard it here first - Murray McLean told me categorically that "this is my last term."  Strat was absent - I hope he is okay.

The first 'real' meeting of the Council will be on 12 November, and I expect that some explanation will be sought at that time in regard to the progress of the Auditor General investigation into the Smart Environmental matter covered in earlier posts. It was cerastinly foremost on the minds of a couple of new members who queried me about the matter.

They may at the same time care to seek a miore thorough explanation of over-expenditure on various projects revealed in the Annual Report that was adopted without comment yesterday - probably approriarte in view of the 'formal' nature of the occasion. The obly staff presnt appeared to be Governance and Communications people, about whom - more later! But there was no need for it to be 'rail-roaded' through in this manner at this meeting - it will require a majority to get back into it now that it has been 'adopted,'

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct312019

Rising Sea-Levels Under-Estimated

I don't wish to be the harbinger of gloomy predictions, but we should take note of verifiable research that gives us warning of the climate--change effects directly relateable to our own situation,

I am often dismayed at the evident lack of interest in these matters directly reflected in the number of viewers recorded each day for this blog - numbers tend to plummet whenever i post climate information that I have gleaned form reputable sources - in this case, the 30 November Washington Post.

I have no intention of letting this dismal fact dissuade me from continuing to follow this course of action, and accordingly provide this  link to highly respected writer Glen Mooney's story here. 

Here are extracts that may convince you to read the full story:

"Rising seas will be much worse and more expensive to deal with than previously thought, new research finds, not because of faster changes in sea levels but because of an increase in estimates of the number of people living on low ground.

The upshot of the study is that 110 million people worldwide live below the high-tide level — including many partly protected by sea walls or other infrastructure, as in New Orleans. Even under a scenario of very modest climate change, that number will rise to 150 million in 2050 and 190 million by 2100.

If climate change and sea level rise follow a worse path, as many as 340 million people living below the high-tide level could be in peril, to say nothing of how many could be affected by floods and extreme events.

Such figures are three times — or more — higher than earlier estimates."

And:

"The new study uses the more accurate U.S. measurements as a guide, training an algorithm to apply similar adjustments to the global data set from the space shuttle. This is where the much higher numbers for exposed populations come from, with the biggest changes in exposure coming for countries in Asia.

“In terms of global estimates, I think the analysis convincingly shows that the situation is probably even worse than previous studies suggested,” said Stéphane Hallegatte, an economist at the World Bank who studies climate change and disaster exposure. “We are talking about hundreds of millions of people who will be directly exposed.”

And:

"The study considers a scenario that would lead to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, of global warming by 2100, the temperature rise that world leaders have set as an absolute limit. The study projects that 150 million would live below the high tide line by 2050 and 200 million by 2100. Those exposed to an annual flood in that year would be 360 million.

The world is on course to warm considerably more than 2 degrees Celsius, however, so there are more dire scenarios.

If key instabilities kick in in Antarctica, 480 million people would be exposed to an annual flood in 2100.

The findings are worst for Asia, notably in China, Bangladesh and India. In the worst-case scenario, 87 million, 50 million and 38 million people in these countries, respectively, would fall below the high-tide level in 2100."

The widely published and dire predictions of our new Regional Councillor - Denis Tegg, are certainly not 'over the top' - if anything  they under-state the case for urgent and constructive action by both councils to plan for a very uncertain future for the entire coastline that is 'at-risk.' The 'lead-footed' response from both previous councils must be rejected out of hand, and concerted action commenced that we can all support. 

I for one, will not accept that sea-level rise is any longer a theoretical concept that can be 'put off' for future councils to deal with. Action is needed now. Show some leadership all of you on your inauguration day. 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct292019

Inaugural TCDC Meeting

Has actually been called for 2 pm Thursday 31 October. Here is the formal Agenda that encompasses all the initial procedural matters, including 'swearing in' of Mayor and councillors.

Note that included in the list of items to be adopted are the 2019 Standing Orders, that as proposed appear identical to those previously adopted, apart from the following amendment:

  • The mover and seconder of a motion can move or second an amendment
  • Any members, regardless of whether they have spoken to the original orsubstituted motion, may move or second an amendment to it.
  • The mover or seconder of an amendment whether it is carried or lost can moveor second further amendments.
  • Members can speak to any amendment.
  • The meeting by agreement of the majority of members present may amend amotion with the agreement of the mover and seconder.

 Councillors should also note that under the Standing Orders the appoitment of the Deputy mayor, Chairs and members of committees by the Mayor is subject to the following provision (5.3) that allows for 'discharge' by Council of any, or all of her appointments:  (seee page 36 of the Standing Orders.)

5 Appointmentsand elections

5.1  Mayoral appointment of deputy Mayor, committee chairsand members

A Mayor may appoint the deputy Mayor,the Chairpersonand the members ofeach committee of the territorial authority. The names of any appointments made by the Mayor must be tabled at the first meeting of the council after the appointments aremade. The Mayor may also appoint him or herself.s. 41A (3) LGA 2002.

 5.2  Council Discharge of a Mayoral Appointment

Nothing, however, limits or prevents a territorial authority from discharging deputy Mayor, a Chairpersonor a member of a committee appointed by the Mayor. Any decision by the territorial authority to discharge a deputy Mayor shall follow the procedure in Standing Order 5.5. 

If the Mayor declines to appoint a deputy Mayor or committee Chairpersons in accordance with s.41A LGA 2002, the council (or a committee, if so directed by the council) must elect those positions in accordance with standing order5.4.cl. 31, Schedule 7 LGA 2002.

 5.3  Establishment of committees by the Mayor

 The Mayor may establish committees of the territorial authorityWhere a Mayor exercises this right a list of the committees and their terms of reference must be tabled at the next following meeting of the Council. Should the Mayor decline to establish committees under s. 41A then any decision to establish committees must follow the processes set out in these standing orders.

Nothing, however, limits or prevents a territorial authority from discharging or reconstituting, in accordance with cl. 30 of Schedule 7, LGA2002, a committee established by the Mayor or appointing, more committees in addition to any established by the Mayor. 

Please note that a Mayor is a member of every committee unless specific legislation provides otherwise, for example a committee established under s. 189 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.s. 41A (3) and (4)LGA200

Other provisions then follow in regard to the election process that should follow in the event of the discharge of any or all of the Mayoral appointees. These provisions should be carefully noted - particularly by new councillors who may have concerns about current appointments - there is no time limit on when such 'discharges' may occur. 

The accompanying Annual Report (for adioption) indicates some staggering variations of 'actual' from 'budget,' that warrants further considered investigation befoire being railroaded through as appears to be the intention of having this item on the agenda for the inaugural meeting.

Members may be prudent to seek to have adoption deferred until to following meeting on 12 November, or even 17 December. It is not unusual for important matters to be rushed in this manner - don't be fooled by them having been 'audited' - it doesn't mean a great deal these days as we have learnt from past experience. The AG's oversight is extremely limited, and performance needs to be examined closely at all times beyond the fact that numbers 'add-up.' 

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct242019

Election Aftermath

Alison Choppin has applied for a recount, which is her right, and predictable given the very close result (2).

The 'new team' (as it stands!) met on Tuesday for an induction, and 'meet & greet' with the Executive.

The full Council will 'come together' on Thursday - the final result should be known Tuesday after the official re-count, with the initial meeting following in early November when committees and chairs will be appointed.

 

Thursday
Oct242019

Cremator, At Last!

How long do you think it would take to secure all the approvals from both councils (alone, at a cost all up of $250,000!), Distrrict Health Board, and the court processes resulting from protests and appeals to be able to install a cremator capable of meeting the needs of the Peninsula for the foreseeable future?

Seven and a half years - that's how long - order and delivery from the US took just 12 months of that period. A mighty effort by Adrian, and two mighty low-loaders and one very large crane were required to get the load down here, and into the building. It was 'touch & go' for a while when the base of the stack met the doorway, but eventually, it was in place, and now final preparations can begin. 

Think what you like of Adrian Catran, you have to admire his persistence in following this through and coping with all the petty bureaucracy that has continuously hindered his efforts to get this facility in place. It is in the old Judd foundry building opposite his other facilities -offices, mortuary, chapel and reception rooms that provide this district with what is probably the finest and most historically significant undertaking facilities in the entire country.

I have included a picture below that will provide an idea of the size of the equipment, with Adrian sitting on the gurney associated with the human crematory - he assures me that he has no intention of being in the 'trial-run.' The equally large animal version is out of sight here.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct232019

Acknowledgment & Thanks 

to all those who responded to ny earlier request for contributions. The number who came forward have certainly covered my outgoings, which is most gratifying, and encourages me to keep going into the new term of Council.

Please note, by the way, that the first meeting at which councillors are sworn in, and committees established has not yet appeared on the Website, even though it has likely been scheduled and notified for November. It should appear in the meeting schedule for November that is generally published in the last HH for the month.

You may be sure that Mayor Sandra will have called a closed-door Workshop in the meantime in order to 'line-up her ducks' for chairs before the first Council meeting - oh, to be 'fly on the wall.' It is a 'convention' that the Mayor gets to choose her own Deputy, and I presume that this will again apply. And please note that board chairs have a speaking, non-voting role only on Council, and do not sit on committees.

One committee that I failed to mention earlier is Judicial, which handles all the RMA stuff, and conducts 'hearings.' Of necessity, a returning member would normally be appointed Chair because of the requirement to have passed the 'Advanced Making Good Decisions' course to be able to fill this role for this Committee, The role would otherwise appear to suit barrister Gary Gottlieb to a 'T,' though It can be time-consuming.

I will report when any information becomes available.

 

 

 

Monday
Oct212019

And Back To Climate Change!

From today’s Guardian

"As the climate crisis escalates…

… the Guardian will not stay quiet. This is our pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.

Our independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.”

Meanwhile Rod Oram reports in Newsroom today:

“Ignoring the science and the broader public mood, National continues to take its 'do-nothing, know-nothing' lead from powerful party members desperately clinging to deeply vested interests in a high emissions economy, writes Rod Oram.

Judith Collins' recent Facebook post about climate change is a classic of its kind.

She asserts climate change is not nearly as serious as “media and the political left” say it is; we and other nations are incapable of sufficiently cutting emissions anyway; and she blames everyone else for this mess while accepting no responsibility of her own, either political or personal.

Her post also reveals much about the state of the climate debate within the National Party. It has attracted some 1,100 comments so far. The strong majority of them urge her on, a sign to National there are votes to be had from holding out against action on the climate crisis.

One sign of National’s enthusiasm is its reluctance to distance itself from Collins’ comments. Via Bridges’ chief media handler Rachel Morton, I asked him to identify which of Collins’ points were National Party policy and which weren’t.

She refused to reply.

Bridges laid out National’s five climate policy principles in a speech at Fieldays in June of last year. They are: science-based; technology-driven; long-term incentives; global response; and economic impact.

It has failed to flesh-out these skeletal themes. Last week, National’s climate spokesman Scott Simpson said they were still the operative framework. He and his party fail to acknowledge how rapidly climate science, action and public support are strengthening here and in many other countries.

He and his party also continue to use highly misleading data. Typical is its support for the claim from the dairy sector that it produces one-third of the emissions per litre of milk compared with the global dairy average. But the average is sharply skewed by some heavy emitters.

The Government has spent a lot of time trying to persuade National to engage in a constructive, science-based and ambitious way. But at every step, National has taken its do-nothing, know-nothing lead from powerful party members who are desperately clinging to their deeply vested interests in a high emissions economy.

Collins’ Facebook post is filling this blackhole in National’s climate policy. Consequently, National runs the great risk that voters who want action on the climate crisis, including those who are members of its party, will see Collins’ views as the party’s policy on climate. While that might buoy Collin’s ambitions to be party leader, it’s a big political negative for National.

Collins’ post shows her ignorance of the science, or her willingness to ignore it. For example: “Scientists expect the impacts of 1.5c warming to be lower than 2c. But the same statement is true for the difference between 2.0 and 2.5 degrees.”

Well, adults are having those constructive debates here and around the world. But National’s only contribution is ‘can’t’, ‘won’t’ and ‘no’ from the side lines.

... the Government would be making a serious mistake if it compromised the bill in order to secure National’s support. It would be far better in the long run to pass the best bill possible ...

While all-party support is important, the Government would be making a serious mistake if it compromised the bill in order to secure National’s support. It would be far better in the long run to pass the best bill possible, even if National didn’t vote for it. National’s failure to engage seriously on the science and economics of climate change, and to promote the benefits to society and business from doing so, should be immortalised in its vote against it.

The support for the Zero Carbon Bill is far broader and deeper than was the support for the ETS. The companies that have signed up to the Climate Leaders Coalition generate some two-thirds of NZ’s emissions. They understand how much they can improve their businesses by shifting to cleaner technologies and deeper sustainability. They also know how fast many of their competitors are moving on climate. They know they need robust climate legislation.

Likewise, citizen support for and involvement in climate actions is far greater than it was a decade ago, and growing fast.

But National might not even get the opportunity to try. If it persists in its know-nothing, do-nothing climate strategy epitomised by Collins and the party’s weak leadership on the issue, it will lose more votes at next year’s election than it will gain from supporting sceptics and vested interests.

And Meanwhile Mathew Hooten in today’s NZ Herald claims that Ardern will soon need to make a strategic choice:

Is she best to let events unfold with NZ First scuttling all the issues her core supporters care about most, backing herself to trounce Bridges whenever the next election is held, even if her favourability keeps falling in the meantime?

Or does her brand require her to take charge even before the end of the year, and make clear to Winston Peters that issues like climate change and water quality are absolute bottom lines, and that she would rather face the voters early than to cave in to NZ First once again?

We still have a long way to go!

 

 


Friday
Oct182019

Election Final?

12 midday - I aimed to have the final results posted immediately that they were up on the Council website, but alas, it appears to have been all too much for the over-worked staff at the Castle to achieve what appears to have been achieved by every other council - posting of the 'finals' by yesterday.

This is pathetic, and inexcusable for such a small Council - they are not conducting a 're-count' after all (or are they?) - simply tallying the votes that for whatever reason were unable to be tallied on the day. Quite different results are even showing in the Saturday presser, than are showing on Election page on the Website - that is straight out carelessness.

I will continue to monitor the Website, but cannot guarantee a result before the weekend, or before it is time for staff to pack up for the day.

Sorry Robyn  - stand-by!

 

Thursday
Oct172019

Mayor, TCB and Regional Council

Someone has correctly pointed out that Alison Choppin has only a majority of 7 over Robyn Sinclair with specials still to counted, so her occupancy of that seat is by no means assured. This is the closest majority of any across the Peninsula, so Robyn still has an excellent chance of taking it out later today when they are finally tallied. I am very supportive of Robyn - she is young and a 'go-getter,' and I think she would add some real vigour to the Council, and perhaps be more amenable to change than Alison  who does not appear to have these attributers in abumdance.

I will provide an up date later today, if required, along with the notification of the date of the first meeting if such becomes avaiable. 

Now for the other results as they affect us in Thames:

The re-election of Sandra Goudie as Mayor was almost inevitable even though Len Salt put up a good showing. I hope he 'keeps his powder dry' until the next election because Ii think he has considerable potential to effect the changes that will inevitably be required by that time. The cooling of my enthusiasm for Sandra was entirely down to what I considered to be her stubborn and ill-judged attitude towards 'climate change,' thereby avoiding  the necessary leadership role for our Council to take the necesssary steps towards putting in place practical and effective measures in dealing with its effects.

Otherwise, there can be no doubt that Sandra is an extremely effective 'chair,' who uses her consumate political skills to generally arrive at the decision she desires, but as with many mayors throughout the country, she regularly succumbs to the temptation to hide behind the 'closed doors' of workshops to suppress any suggestion of dissent. Decisions are made, contrary to requirements of the Local Government Meetings Act, and simply returned to the Council agenda as a fait accompli for formal ratification. But she is by no means alone in pursuing this 'loophole.'

Her support in the electorate is strong, and has often been noted, Sandra is adept at cultivating her 'base' - she will 'attend the opening of an envelope' if she deems it worthwhile. Her resulting majority gives her a clear mandate to implement a limited range of policies that she has promoted, but her past 5:4 majority at the table is clearly at risk, and she may have to work harder to achieve all she desires. She clearly has a close relationship with CEO Rob Williams, and this may be tested' in coming months. 

The cleanout at the Community Board provides somewhat of a dilemma in regard to predictions as to the direction it will take, though almost certainly it will elect Strat Peters as its Chair, and he will continue to push for his pet Thames 'renewal' project' - particularly the Town Centre., though he may find some stiff resistance to any suggestion of major expenditure a'la Whitianga. Clr Fox will no doubt breathe 'fire & brimnstone' at any suggestion of 'district' funding of any aspect off this project. They spend so much money planning and designing these projects that there is little left for the actual work in any case. 

Cherie Staples, Sheryll Fitxpatrick and Peter Revell all seem to have secured a similar block of votes, and appear solid citizens who are unlikely to unleash any major surprises on the population, particularly since Sandra intituted policies to 'clip the wings' of boards that had been given wide latitude by Leach. As Chair, Strat will continue to 'sit at the Council table' should he be elected. 

I was a little surprised at the result of the Regional Council election - Denis Tegg will I am sure provide an extremely strong voice at that table, though his 'single-minded' approach may take some time to secure support from the farmer majority who for some time have controlled its decision making process - most notably in regard to weakening enforcement of environment controls over the entire dairy sector that forms thr back-bone of the regional economy.

As readers will be aware, I was always a loyal supporter of Dal Minogue who I believe 'fought the good fight' and secured unexpected support from sceptics around the table who may have been expecetd to oppose his point of view. He was extremely analytical in his approach, and was able to deal with all sides of an argument with patience and aplomb. It was a great pity that the election was tainted by the lies regarding  rate increases in particular promulgated on the air-waves, and in print by his opponent Clyde Graf. Thank-you Dal for a job well done. 

Denis's approach that may not garner support immediately, but I wish him well, and hope that he is able to unify the Council's approach to a range of issues that have been inadequately handled in the past. There has to be clear deliniation of responsibilites for instance as between the district and regional council in regard to 'climate-chnage' issues in particular - it is a total mish-mash as it stands, as exemplified by the coastal protection shambles at the head of the Gulf where protection of farming and urban interests are eye-watering in their complexity.

And 'retreat' has to be on the table at all levels. Neither Council can 'run away' from the issues any longer - time is now 'of the essence,' and further delay will cause real grief in due course. Good luck Denis - you  have the mandate to get the job done.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct162019

Back To Life, Starting With the Council!

No, I was not shocked off my perch by the results of the election, or the downpour on Monday night, though I was touched by the enquiries! It was simply a case of being fully engaged with entertaining friends from 'Bundy' (the 'Every Dog a Dingo' story went totally 'over their heads,' but the idea of $3,500 jars of honey on the shelves at Harrods made an impression. 

Frankly, there did not appear a great deal to comment on, though on reflection a couple of changes do warrant examination, if only becasue of the effect on the future dynamic of Council, and willingness to accept Sandra's domination as was patently obvious on the last Council.

The two who I know have the knowledge and experience to 'take her on' as it were, are Police OIC John Morrissey from Coromandel, and barrister Gary Goitlieb from Whangamata. And I will go so far as to suggest that the first sparks will fly over the make-up of the Committees - in particular the all-important Chief Executive Committee that oversees the performance and salary of the Chief Executive, and his three-year contract that will shortly be up for review.

No-one was impressed with the CEO's 'last-minute' revelation of the $2m overspend on the Whitianga Town Centre, including the two - McLean and Fox, who would normally have expected re-appointment to this Committee along with the Mayor. Fox's tenure as Chair of Audit and Risk, may also come in for attention. He should have known far more about what was going on in regard to over-expenditure generally, and the 'run-down' of depreciation reserves -he clearly displayed inadequate governance nous to have let this 'get away.'

McLean will probably get Infrastructure again, though there are also questions over his oversight of the Whitianga contract. I am picking an attempt will be made at a complete 'clean-out' on all committees, and an introduction of 'new blood' to shake up a complacent structure. Mayor Sandra may find her authority well and truly 'on the line' when the process comes around.

It is interesting that the first meeting has yet to be notified on the Council website - somewhat unusual I would suggest, and perhaps indicative of background maneuvering through 'closed door' workshops. These are often used to impose a level of uniformity on the thinking of new councillors (four), particularly in regard to the authority of the Mayor over Committee appointments. I am not at all sure of the where Martin Rodley and Alison Choppin, both from Thames, are likely to stand in this regard, but they may well  be influenced by other more experienced members. 

As a 'parting shot' in regard to defeated members - Jan Bartley, Tony Brljevich and Rex Simpson (Note that Strat Peters 'stood down'), I don't think any will be missed - Jan is well past his 'use-by' date, Tony has been far too indecisive, and Rex simply useless by my observation. I was not surprised by Sally's return at the top of the poll, but regard this as an entirely inappropriate success when viewed through the lens of her involvement with the Waikato Health Board debacle. On the other hand, she has applied the 'blowtorch' on occasion to the some of Mayor Sandra's more egregious moves. 

All I can say is that based on past performance, Walker, Fox and McLean with stand 'four-square' with Mayor Sandra on most issues; Sally will waiver, and the remainder are 'in play.' Should be interesting. 

Next, the Mayor, Thames Community Board, and the Regional Council.

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct032019

ECan 'In The Gun' 

The return of a fully elected Environment Canterbury Board will foreshadow some make or break changes over the entire Province that is causing conniptions amongst the farming community who are simply unprepared for the changes necessary to reduce the nitrate run-off that is fouling waterways, and threatening the health of the entire population.

Hopefully, and at last, real enforcement action will be forced on the authority to ensure compliance that has been successfully avoided since the appointment of commissioners by the National Government ten years ago.following sustained pressure from the farming community. This is what both bete-noir identities - artist Sam Mahon, and university lecturer Mike Joy have in common in claiming that far too little, too late characterises to actions of the reposible regional authorities, including ECan. 

What is interesting from our standpoint is highlighted in David Williams excellent article in today’s Newsroom  that points to what in the view of outgoing ECan’s Chair – David Caygill that constitutes what he considers to be its greatest achievement:

"Only last month, ECan notified plan change seven to the regional plan, which includes catchment limits for the Waimakariri and Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora areas. (By notifying the plan before this month’s election, the plan still falls under temporary legislation that restricts appeals to points of law.)

Caygill says several thousand farms are covered by the new, nitrate-limiting rules, maybe as many as 5000. “All dairy farmers, for sure.”

That is a staggering achievement after ten years! But enforcement has always, and will remain the issue – one successful prosecution is noted for the entire Province over the last year.

But for all that, they are still a country mile ahead of progress in this direction here in the Waikato, and there is no sign that with the Election, there will any change in the power balance on our Council that will ensure that nitrate restricting measures will be put in place that will ensure the cleanliness of or our waterways being achieved at any time in the foreseeable future..

It is just too difficult, and points to the necessity for central Government to take control in the manner now proposed, but against which a rear-guard action will be interminably fought by Federated Farmers and the entire cohort who feel threatened by any measures likely to place further demands on their farming practices.

Undoubtedly ECan faces a entirely different and fragile situation with its porous soils and underlying gravel structures, but it is laughable for the South Canterbury Fed Chair Jason Grant to claim that knowledge of the nitrate effects post-dated the mad charge into intensification – an 1980 OECD report on pastoral farming in this country pointed out the potential dangers from nitrate leaching into the waterways. Evidently, nobody took any notice. 

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct032019

Calling Every Dog A Dingo!

Here is a good one from Newsroom today to chew over around the water cooler:

Mānuka Honey Appellation Society spokesperson, John Rawcliffe, isn’t opposed to collaborating with Australia to grow the industry but Rawcliffe wants to differentiate New Zealand’s product. 

“It’s not shutting Australia out. It’s ensuring that the consumer is getting a product that they have previously purchased and recognised."

Rawcliffe rejects the notion that Mānuka plants (leptospermum scoparium) in New Zealand and Australia are the same. 

“It’s like calling every dog a dingo."

Boy, we certainly know how to get up Okker noses. I can't wait to pass that one on to our Queensland friends when they arrive to stay next week!

The whole story reminds me of when Jack Turner - then CEO of Turners & Growers came up with the name Kiwifruit (actually the Hayward cultivar), but failed to register the trade-mark around the World because no-one knew if it would 'catch on.'

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct022019

Time For A Contribution!

I find it remarkable that I can garner well over 700 (by 8am today) page views following yesterday's story on the Whitianga Town Upgrade, but I have received almost zero contributions over the past twelve months to assist with keeping the blog going.

It is not that it costs a great deal - about $400 all up, but it does involve a substantial contribution of my time, and I have to be constantly aware of the dangers of someone taking offense, and even threatening legal action - that can be crippling. So while I am extremely careful about what goes on the site, it would be reassuring to know of real asnd tangible support from out there.

It woud certainly be reaffirming, and encouraging were regular readers able to find their way clear to stuffing an appreciative note in my stocking top on occasion. I can't promise titillation, but at least you will continue to get a regular diet of Council tid-bits for your edification, and amusement.

Details of how to keep this small organ grinding are at the top of the page.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct012019

Last Minute - Bad News! 

Nothing of note happened at the ultimate meeting of the current Council today until the subject of the annual financial ‘wash-up’ (See ‘Insignificant‘ Expenditure from 26 September below) came up , and then all hell broke loose..

Suddenly, Rob Williams was declaring his utter ”shock and surprise” at having discovered the extent of over-expenditure on the various projects – "the quantum of which I now know, but the reason for which I do not know."

You would have imagined that the Group Manager – Operations Bruce Hinson, and Corporate Services Manager Carl Dudley, would have been in the ‘hot seat’ for this interesting discussion, but they both managed to make themselves ‘scarce,’ and leave it to Finance Manager Donna Holland to ‘carry the can.’ - Carl did front later on, but his responses were mumbled, and incomprehensible to me, at least. 

To say that apoplexy was the ‘order of the day’ would be a gross understatement. Both Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Fox and McLean) were venting fury at the sheer and obvious incompetence being demonstrated by our very highly paid senior officers who have assured the Council for months that they ‘had everything under control,’ and that the Whitianga Town Centre would be brought in at, or under budget. It was the revalation that over-expenditure on this project alone was some $2m that ‘brought the house down,’

One remarkable statement to which I earlier drew attention related generally to ‘over-expenditure’!

"In general, over expenditure is usually able to be offset by corresponding increased revenue or over expenditure in one activity can be offset by under expenditure in other activities but within the same group of activities. This is a usual situation and process at year end.

This was not possible in all instances this year. In some instances, capital projects that had planned to be funded from retained earnings were funded by loans so the retained earnings could be used to fund operational over expenditure.”

But buried in the Recommendations was the following:

7. Approves funding the deficit caused by the the subsidy revenue shortfall on the Whitianga Town Centre upgrade Project by Mercury Bay Loan.

What was hidden here was $1.9m in over-expenditure at Whitianga that was clearly set to swell the already grossly over-extended budget on this project – now some $13m. No, I did not make this up – just like the Sports Ground and now the Billy Point Boat Ramp, this Project will no doubt enhance the already over-enhanced self-image that Marina towns here seem to have of themselves. I heard McLean say today that it was a ‘stylish,’ rather than an 'extravagant' project. He was joking, I think!

Be that as it may, Fox is determined that we all dip into our pockets to pay for it, reminding others wanting an ‘upgrade’ (i.e. Thames!) that they will have no call on District funding unless he gets his way.. Since the Thames upgrade is hardly likely to involve any ‘underground-services,’ the situation is hardly comparable, but Fox was ‘lashing out.’

Of course this has to be someone else’s fault, and in this case it is clearly Transport NZ who are copping blame for failing to come through with expected subsidy, but why it took so long to work this out was not explained, let alone to accept the incompetence that simply failed to get the budget figures correct and keep the ledgers in order. Williams was flailing about pleading ignorance, but it was not a convincing performance -after all, 'blind Ned' knows that the TNZ subsidy is only available for national highways, and the Whitianga main street fell out iof that category some years ago. By the end, the inadequacy of the software system again came in for a flailing, regardless of the millions already spent getting it to this stage.

There are 42 projects that involve over-spending, and that is simply a reflection of total disorder, incompetence and inefficiency in running a Council. Perhaps it is time to throw the system out, and revert to high chairs and hard-bound ledgers in the accounts department. It would certainly be better than the constant 'blame the computor' culture that has existed in there since time immemorial.

Of course, as Williams was want to remind us, previous councils had that previously had substantial capital under-spends were able to absorb the over-spends, along with the famous ‘depreciation reserves’ that Leach and Hammond raided with monotonous regularity as a ‘management prerogative’ it seems. But now, reality has set in, and there is no such back-stop - only more borrowing!

As I said in my commentary on the TYP earlier this year, you may expect a substantial rate hike at the next Annual Plan to cover all the shortfalls that have been revealed. And unless the next Council is prepared to ‘bite the bullet,’ and cut back on the grandiose spending plans laid out by this Council, then we are certainly heading for substantial rises over the next ten years.

As for current staff, I don’t think that Rob Williams made his position secure by his performance today – even though he did claim to be the first to bring transparency to the Council table for many years. My comment would be – too little, too late, and how come did he not know about it until so late in the piece?  The borrowing slide has started, and I cannot see it being reversed.

I don't blame current elected members for this debacle - it is clearly a reflection on the quality of staff that we have running the show, and the incoming Council has a job on its hands to deal with that isssue.  Though on reflexion, Fox does have some responsibility - he after all is Chair of the Audit Committee, and should have been more sceptical about the answers he was getting. .