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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Press Council.   

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Sunday
May202018

Hauraki Gulf Forum

You are probably unaware of the machinations within the Forum recently following John Tregidga resigning as Chair. This was brought about by his frustration at the inaction of Government at implementing the recommendations of the Forum, and establishing an acceptable form of governance for the Gulf.

Much of this is the result a huge disparity in the way many of its own members perceive the role of the forum, and in particular, the overlying role of iwi in determining its future. For iwi, read Paul Majaury who has played a dominant part in determining its direction to date. One can detect his hand in the manner which the Governance Review was formulated leading to the Co-governance model with equal numbers of mana weheua, and other members.

This was to be considered alongside the Sea Change Tai Timu Pari and Treaty settlement process, and that leaves the gate wide open for the introduction of corrupt practises, particularly in regard to the allocation of fish and other resources from with Gulf. A Forum of 16 - eight iwi, elected through their own processes, three from local authorities and 5 appointed by the Minister, is proposed.

The Forum would regulate and control virtually all activities that take place within the area covered by the Hauraki Marine Park Act. Make no mistake, our Mayor was having none of it, and on the departure of Deputy Mayor Peter French, who was accused of dereliction of duty by some, soon replaced him on the Forum where she has reputedly played a 'spoiler' role ever since.

The upshot of John Tregidga's departure was the election of new Chairman last week, and believe me, this role is significant in regard to the progressing of the reforms. Liane Ngamane apparently thought that it was a foregone conclusion that as Deputy Chair she would be elected, but 'hold horses' - both Majaury and at least two other iwi members were absent in Wellington fighting the Hauraki v. Tauranga battle over ownership of Tauranga land and resources in the Hauraki Settlement soon to be signed by the Minister.

Liane went down in the event by a substantial margin, and in a huff resigned as Forum deputy chair - a new election will now be held at the next meeting. It is quite significant because if the tribal interests get control of whatever fishing arrangements are put in place, it will almost certainly mean that any applicant for any type of license will require iwi approval. I am sorry, but  that system is simply too wide open for abuse - it is an invitation for corrupt practice similar to that which pervades other aspects of life in this country - naive and opaque. There are unfortunately many in the community who are only too anxious and willing to exploit such systems.

Already iwi interests are endeavouring to secure primary control over the areas allocated for aquaculture so that no matter who wins the tenders still under consideration, they will be able to 'clip the ticket'. This will  become a public relations nightmare before it as all over, particularly as all the various fishing interests begin to realise just how they been 'dudded' in this whole exercise. Never mind the widespead opposition to any form of finfish aquaculture in Gulf - the extent of which has not yet been fully tested.

 

 

 

Thursday
May172018

And On The Expenditure Side

Pool

The expenditure decisions were ‘headlined’ by the swimming pool (‘Aquatic Centre'), and it was on this issue that major fault lines opened up with everyone wanting their own 25m enclosed pools, and questioning the logic of basing the more ornate pool in Thames.

The conversation was confused by the pipedream of a ‘regional pool’ that few could see on the horizon, though there was talk of discussions with regional players, and major funders who would only ‘buy-in’ on such a regional concept.

Strat wisely tried to draw attention to the sea-level rise issue but with little support from the Chair. In the end, the proposal went nowhere – parked in effect while ‘further investigations’ take place. I don’t believe that this issue will affect rates for some considerable time, and no provision was otherwise made.

Roads

Murray McLean  strongly advocated for Option A (upgrade and maintain the 24 roads currently unmaintained), but staff argued for Option C – higher quality maintenance to attract ongoing NZTA subsidy standards. The difference is a $3.7m debt increase v. a $16.7m increase. In the end they took Option C, but only where they can get the NZTA subsidy, and they have added another 5 roads to the 24 in the draft - not sure where that leaves the increase in borrowing, but it won't be much short of the $16.7m, and the $54.40 per ratepayer in the draft - bloody outrageous if you ask me for some barely trafficked by-ways.

Wentworth Valley caused the most consternation with Fox strongly opting instead for an upgrade at Dalmeny Corner and Bridge. But deserving of support that that work with increasing tourist traffic may be, they gave Wentworth the tick – a long awaited improvement that needs to be done now. Debt increase is $1.3m. Pottery Lane at Coromandel was also given a tick - $2.5m.

Totara Valley attracted much comment – particularly at the lack of a prospective developer, but in the end they accepted it at $2.8m, with the proviso that all existing residents be required to ‘hook-in’ and pay – Fox against!

Coastal Hazard Management

They were literally shamed into this $2.6m allocation by Denis Tegg who put them all ‘on the spot’ over their total inaction to date. 5 January finally sank in – I don’t believe it would have happened  if not for that, and the belated interest of Thames councillors in what happened at Tararu was enlightening to say the least.

I see no reason to outline exactly what happened on this issue- Denis was present and has provided an excellent summary on his website: https://teggtalk.wordpress.com/ - everyone should read this and understand the distance that Sandra and her team have come. – still a long way to go, but this is encouraging, and indicates that democracy is not dead, even if struggling!

The Coastal Management Strategy is to be published with the LTP in June, and will include “community-based response and coastal hazard response planning” – that should enable some limited ‘non-capital’ maintenance work to undertaken at ‘pinch-points’ that suffered on 5 January around the Peninsula.

I cannot emphasize enough just how important this ‘toe in the water’ policy is in terms of a long term commitment to rationalise our approach to impending climatic changes..

Thames

I have no intention of analysing the ‘local’ projects’ other than those that affect us here in Thames. Overall, because of the limited number of projects here, and the affect of maintaining the UAGC at 22%, we have done pretty well out of the exercise - see rate projections in previous post.

Kopu Stormwater (year 3 onwards), and Thames South Water ($790k in the first year) went through as ‘District items,’ along with the "covering of open gutters" – long overdue and $268k (Local) in the first year.

The ‘big one’ of the Shortland Wharf Renewal in Year 2 ($422k, and Year 3 ($1.063m) was dropped in favour of a mere $100k mainrenance in year 1 & 2. Th upkeep of this redundant asset has become a total scandal – why are we paying millions to maintain facilities for a half-baked fish factory, and a fish & chip shop. Staff have been told to simply make the place safe to the minimum standard.

The Rhodes Park Grandstand at $332k in Year 2, and $2.801m in Year 3 is another total waste of time and our money. Sea level rise will certainly put paid to this facility in due course, so why are we even contemplating this kind of expenditure. Fortunately staff ‘got the message’ and it has been deferred due to “under commitment of external funding and higher costs with the Dry Court and Skate Park” - they can 'put a ring around that' - it is a convenient excuse, but they should have 'bitten the bullet,' and deferred it forever while explaining a few facts of life to the Rugby Club.

Finally, the late item introduced into the Thames Community Board meeting dated 8 May 2018 by the convener of the Thames Business Association requesting the allocation of $80k

“For remuneration to support the initial work programme of the Thames Business Association; $25,000 be allocated to support the initial work programme of the Thames Business Association; $15,000 for a prioritisation plan for the activities outlined in the Thames Urban Development Strategy and Thames Promotion Project.”

Readers will understand from a previous post my concerns regarding the process followed in the handing of this request, and indeed the whole proposition surrounding rate-payer funding of interest groups of this nature. Thames business has not distinguished itself in the past by its willingness to associate, and fund its own activities. I am not sure why this should be any different, apart from in regard to the undoubted quality of its promoters – Heather Moore and Katina Conomos.

It seems that CEO has agreed to provide a 0.5 FTE for a year to help get it off the ground. The documentation does not indicate whether the $80k covers this 0.5 FTE – let us hope it does, because it is a substantial commitment for rate-payers for what I for one consider a dubious purpose.  

Chair Diana Connors indicated that they were able to fund the $80k from an unspent portion of their Economic Development Grant.

Finally, the rates projected in the LTP Consultation Document are now completely out of date following the decisions taken over the last two days - see previous post

Councillor Performance

This was the end point of a long and difficult process and I know that many readers enjoy hearing about the performance of their representatives over this trying time. These are purely based on my observations, and should not be taken too seriously.

Firstly Mayor Goudie - Sandra performed her task with aplomb and considerable patience when certain councillors displayed a less than full understanding of what the LTP was all about. She used humour to keep McLean and Fox in check – they being the loudest, and most insistent of their entitlements - Fox in particular grates with the pomposity of a parade-ground Sergeant-Major.  McLean’s undoubted experience showed on many issues, and I give them both ‘top marks’ for their vote on the UAGC – that took some courage.

Tony Brljevich was somewhat diffident, but ‘held his corner’ for Coromandel, as did Jan Bartley for Whangamata even if in his trademark rather pompous style. I think we are used to this by now, and it is harmless  stuff. Terry Walker can be somewhat obtuse, but generally only intervened when he had something useful to say affecting his area, which was quite often.

The three Thames representatives are a mixed bunch. Strat I would have to say held his own on this occasion, and talked real sense on most issues on which he chose to speak. Sandra tries to shut him down, but he holds his ground well. Neither Rex Simpson, nor Sally Christie appeared to have a great grasp of the plan, and its effects - understandably. Sally’s stated position on the UAGC was simplistic, and Rex’s well known bent towards social equity showed up, but he doesn't ‘follow through.’  

As for the board chairs who all have a seat at the table, Keith Coulam stood out for appearing to have a grasp well beyond his own area of responsibility, but they all seem to have control of their portfolios and their inclusion is fully justified. Diane Connors appeared totally up to speed, and well able to defend her (our!) patch

Finally a comment on staff performance. In my entire time observing this Council, I have never seen the TYP handled as well. The process was impeccable, the documentation clear and extensive, and the performance inside the Chamber excellent. Both Angela Jane and Scott Summerfield are deserving of the highest praise for the performance of their respective roles, likewise the finance staff - Group Manager Karl Dudley rode his Excel spreadsheet like a pro, which he undoubtedly is.

The TYP can be a major trial for everyone without this level of skilled input.

 

Wednesday
May162018

The Effect Of Changes On The Revenue Side

Today saw some deep ribbing of the Whitianga councillors over their definition of 'needs,' but to be honest I felt well inclined towards them following their magnanimity yesterday over the UAGC. Whether they (or any of the others) understood the ramifications of that decision is debateable.

Let it be stated right at the outset - the changes at the end of the day were significant - very significant.

Here are the rating facts:after all the adjustments (including the UAGC)

Mercury Bay increases local rates by $78 over 3 years, and together with the District the increase is 6% in year 1.

Coromandel increases loacal rates $41 over 3 years, and with the District rate it increases .55% in year 1.

Tairua/Pauanui increase local rates by $18 over 3 years and with the District rate it increases 6.52% in year 1.

Whangamata increases local rate $1 over three years, with the District rate it increases 9.69% in year 1

Thames decreases local rate $10.20 over 3 years ($5 in the first year), and with the District rate it increases .65% in year 1.

These are the effects averaged over each area - they do not represent what will happen in regard to any particular property. The District rate changes reflect the reversion to the UAGC status quo, and changes to major project funding. 

Now here is the rub - some  mill say (as did Sally Christie ad nauseum) that there are many in the other Board areas on fixed incomes who will be disadvantaged. What this overlooks is that while the UAGC remains at 22% as at present, these folk have the undoubted advantage over Thames and Coromandel residents of a dramatic increase in their land values on which rates are based - that is what is driving their rates.

Sally nevertheless voted for it, and she should perhaps remember that anyone occupying these high land-value properties can easily borrow against their asset if they need to, or seek relief under the Council's own rates relief scheme. Their beneficiaries in any case get the benefit in the long run. They should be thankful that our Council has eschewed Capital in favour of Land Value, to date!

This was a major achievement by council, but the Governance Manager - Angela Jane had a final 'sting in the tail' with a suggestion at the last moment today that Council could resolve to review the UAGC on an annual basis at the Annual Plan. This was adopted - I think illegally, as is it my understanding that the UAGC is a TYP matter, and should only be be reviewed on a three year cycle, but no-one demurred.

On another funding issue, Council resolved yesterday to maintain the status quo in regard to the Economic Development Rate paid by commercial and industrial properties of $8.35 per $10K of improvement value. This has long been resented by business generally, but was ostensibly used for the purpose of funding 'anchor projects' (Coromandel Harbour, Hauraki Rail Trail, and 'Leach's Heritage' Walk at Mercury Bay) The draft TYP indicated that there would now be a change to "focusing on facilitating engagement." Believe that or not, but yesterday they decided that this could not be justified.

Then at the end of the day, they were told that there may be "legal implications.' This generally indicates that staff have 'concerns' about the process. In the event, a 'decision on the decision' (already taken!) was postponed until today, and they went into a three quarter hour 'public excluded' session when I believe advice was given that related to whether or not the decision could be 'challenged' on the grounds that the charge could not be justified without a specific use being indicated in the Plan.

In the event, Council decided to stick with its decision. Business will not be happy, but it will, along with the UAGC decision have brought about the major changes to rate increases as set out above, and in regard to Thames, it may serve to offset the $80,000 that rate-payers are now to provide its newly formed 'Business Association' as 'seed capital' - but more of that later. 

My next post will cover the major expenditure items, including this little 'boondoggle.'

 

 

 

Tuesday
May152018

Stop Press! - Council Drops UAGC Increase, And Votes $2.5m to Coastal Hazard Assessment 

The TYP Deliberations today were the usual drawn out and somewhat acrimonious affair as councillors sought to 'defend their backyards.' It is perfectly normal of course, but some major decisions stood out, and will need additional explanation tomorrow after the Meeting actually finishes - yes it carries on into a second day to deal with items that were put on hold while implications on the overall budgets are considered by staff.

I will deal here only with 'stand-outs' from today.

First up was the proposed increase in the UAGC (Uniform Annual General Charge) to 30% (of rates, excepting waters) The net effect of this change would have been an increase of over $260 in the second year of the plan for us on a relatively low land value property - as in regard to almost every other Thames property, which of course reflects the comparative low values on this side of the Peninsula.

I objected strongly to this increase that appeared to have wide councilor support through the hearings  process, so I did not hold out much hope for a change. Mind you, the boards supported the status quo 3:2, and submitters were evenly divided. As it turned out, Strat led the charge  with an excellent opening salvo, and Keith Coulam - Chair of the Whangamata Community Board gave the best speech of the day, touching on all the unfair aspects of the proposal. Watch this guy - he has an excellent grasp of business principles and council procedures and has real potential as a possible replacement for Jan Bartley.

There were conniptions in the Chamber amongst the Finance staff as they suddenly realised the discussion was turning strongly against the change - leading to a unanimous vote. Only the Mayor indicated support and it seems that the proposal must surely have originated in that quarter. But this Council was not having a bar of it - even the Whitianga duo whose area had most to gain from the change stayed silent, and Sandra abstained.

That was victory No. 1, and it will inevitably lead to some rapid changes in regard to the overall 'rate-take.' It may require some delicate re-arranging of priorities in the morning as these changes are quantified in order to maintain the overall projected 5% rate increase.

the second 'victory' came later in the meeting with the adoption of a $2.592m allocation, loan funded, to "implement the coastal hazard risks investigation." The program roughly approximates that which has been adopted in Hawkes Bay, and is entirely down to the pressure applied by Denis Tegg with the support of many other submitters, disgusted at the manner in which our Council had apparently chosen to ignore these risks while awaiting forlornly for some kind of Government action that is unlikely to materialise - certainly not in the form or scale required.

The $2.5m is just a start, but it will enable some important work to be undertaken - particularly at 'pinch-points' where recent storm activity has caused huge consternation. Even Tararu got a mention in that regard, and it should give enormous heart to the residents of that small suburb who were entitled until now to consider that they had been entirely neglected by both councils.

Some of the postponed decisions will have substantial financial implications, and generally, 'items in' must equate with 'items out.' I will report fully on the full meeting tomorrow after it concludes - there were many other items today that readers will have an interest in for for different reasons.

There is still some 'horse trading' to come, believe me!

 

 

 

Monday
May142018

LTP Deliberations Tomorrow

I intend to be present tomorrow if for no other reason but to observe the adoption of one the most financially crushing LTP's to come before this Council. The proposed rate increases are indefensible, and the failure to address coastal hazards in particular makes one cringe. Perhaps they will adopt the Hawkes Bay model - let us see.

I am particularly incensed at the proposal to increase the UAGC to 30% - a 'Trumpian' attempt by the rich to rob the poor, but strangely, on examining the supporting documents I discovered that the Community Boards had opposed the change by 3:2, and that the individual submissions were evenly split on the proposal; 47:47. That seems to me a clear mandate for maintaining the status quo so we see what happens. I intend to put in a Public Forum appeal for them to follow their conscience on this one, but don't expect any relief as a result - disgraceful! 

Readers of this blog will will aware that I have long expressed scepticism at a number of the financial practices adopted over the years by this Council - particularly during the term of the previous Mayor when my reasonable enquiries culminated with the him demanding in open meeting that the then CFO calculate what it had cost to formulate responses to my enquiries - arrogance personified, but perfectly in keeping with his splenetic response to my presence in the Chamber.

The advent of a new CEO and financial oversight structure that he put in place gave me reason to believe that improvements would be forthcoming to ensure that some of the more egregious aspects of the previous structure and processes may be corrected. Such has been the case in most areas, but I was extremely disappointed to see some of the previous arrogance creep back into the response to my query regards the financial projections provided for the LTP.

This is my letter to the Auditor General that I have forwarded today seeking intervention in order to obtain better explanations that I have been able to obtain to date:

Dear Sir/Madam

Thames Coromandel District Council Long term Plan

The above Plan will be deliberated tomorrow following what has been an excellent process – The best that I have seen since becoming interested in Council affairs in 2006.

However, there is a matter that has caused me considerable concern regarding the current Plan that I raised in consultation that I do not believe has been satisfactorily answered, and in regard to which I seek your further review, and if necessary, intervention.

My  Submission on the Plan contained the following comment inter-alia in this regard:

“The first (comment) relates to the long overdue decision to stop using depreciation reserves for building new assets rather than preserving the reserve for the purpose of replacing assets for which the depreciation has been set aside. The net result of this foolish, and possibly illegal policy is that the depreciation reserve cupboard is now bare with a mere $6.8m remaining, and with our Council facing $168m of 'renewals.' 

This reversal, and the stated intent to rebuild these reserves to $124m by 2028, while acquiring new assets of $126m appears contradictory, particularly in the light of the intent to eliminate external debt. It seems to me that this can only be accomplished through internal debt to its mandated limit, and a substantial increase in rates far beyond that already  signalled in the financial projections accompanying the LTP.  There is something 'screwy' about these figures that need better explanation, particularly as we appear to have been misled over the term of the last Plan, based on the use of depreciation reserves as outlined above.

And secondly, the question of asset re-valuations of from $24m to $58m annually, totalling $347m over ten years was raised in consultation at the outset of the previous 2015/2025 LTP, and never satisfactorily explained. Para 87 of the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the Local Government Financial Prudence Regualtions (2014)  states clearly that "These transactions provide local authorities with no financial resources to meet their outgoings,. Therefore they should be excluded from a balanced budget measure."

The proffered Financial Strategy on this occasion makes no mention of asset re-valuations, so that we are left in the dark as to their effect of the ciurrent projections, and claimed 'balanced budget,' if any. I believe that Council has an obligation to disclose this information for the purpose of consultation, and seek an immediate explanation. I should add that the previous CFO was unable to give an unequivocal assurance at the time that it complied with the Regulatory Impact Statement.”

The Paper entitled “Overview, submissions outside a Council activity and out of scope submissions” that goes before Council’s Deliberation Meeting tomorrow contains inter alia the following:

“Depreciation reserves

One submitter suggests that Council’s stated intent to rebuild depreciation reserves to $124M by 2028, while acquiring new assets of $126M appears contradictory, particularly in the light of the intent to eliminate external debt. It seems that this can only be accomplished through internal debt to its mandated limit, and a substantial

increase in rates far beyond that already signaled in the financial projections accompanying the LTP.The proposed Financial Strategy makes no mention of asset  re-valuations. The submitter requests that Council disclose this information for the purpose of consultation.

Analysis

Council's Long Term Plan financial assumptions and statements are independently audited prior to the adoption of the consultation document, and again before final adoption of the Long Term Plan. Any issues arising with financial information is best identified through this process by professional auditors. No issues were identified in the audit of Council's consultation document and supporting information”  (my underline)

The issues which I find concerning were drawn directly from the information provided on page 7 of the Council Consultation Document that incorporates your Audit Opinion. Council appears to be relying on that Opinion to avoid commenting directly on the issues I have raised.

I find this response unsatisfactory, and therefore seek a review your Opinion, and in the light of that review to advise both Council and myself that their proposals are fully in accordance with ‘best practice’ Council accounting standards.

Yours faithfully

 

 

 

Wednesday
May092018

Thames Airfield 

A un-agendered item appeared on the information that i received about the Thames Business Association, and it is interesting:

  • The Hauraki Aero Club proposes a new hangar development zone be established on the airfield with power, water and waste services.

Analysis

The Proposed District Plan includes an 'Airfield Zone' on the Thames Airfield. This zone provides for hangars to be constructed on the airfield. Council has also designated Thames Airfield as an 'airfield', providing for all airfield activities. Provision of utility services to the airfield can be addressed when there is demand for these services. Staff are currently exploring options with regard to enabling development opportunities at the Thames airfield. No hangar development zone is required as the Airfield Zone rules in the Proposed District Plan provide for hangars. This area is covered within the existing Kopu to Thames structure plan.

The investigations into the suitability of the airfield for future development is progressing with the flood investigations complete and the geotechnical investigations underway (in conjunction with investigations for a pool site).

Recommendation

Direct staff to work with the Hauraki Aero Club and other interested parties on development options at the Thames airfield.

Well yes, there are all manner of "interested parties" keen on the development at the airfield.

The only problem is that they all want the Council (that is - you and me) to foot the substantial bill for bringing services to the hangar area. This together with the demand for drainage works to enable 365 day a year operations would involve millions of dollars - make no mistake.

It is imperative that whoever is given devlopment rights is required to cover these costs - there is no justification for them to fall on rate-payers who will derive no benefit whatsoever from any development that takes place.

This argument has gone on for some years, and the Council came under pressure from one particular developer who had the ear of the previous Mayor and several councillors. His proposal involved housing (or apartments) and looked most attractive until you costed in the Council supplied services.

The trouble is that history gets lost amongst current enthusiasms - those of both elected members and staff.

 

 


Wednesday
May092018

A Grant By Any Other Name

Following on the previous post in regard to Thames Economic Development Grants, I was informed yesterday that the newly formed Thames Business Association had fronted at Monday’s meeting in order to present their case for an $80,000 grant under the LTP submission – not as a Economic Development Grant.

This group is chaired by prominent Thames pharmacist – Heather Moore, with former TCDC Planner – (now an independent consultant), Katina Konomos acting as its interim executive officer - a formidable 'team of two!'

This matter was not on the meeting agenda, so that the only way in which it could have been discussed was by way of introduction as “a matter not on the agenda” with an appropriate motion. I have seen no evidence of this to date, but have been promised that the minutes should be available tomorrow. I draw attention to this because sloppy meeting procedures have bedevilled this Council in the past.

On request today, I have been provided with the following information:

“The Thames Business Association requested an $80,000 grant under the Long Term Plan submissions, not as an economic development grant. This was considered and agreed to by Thames Community Board at its LTP deliberations meeting on Monday 7 May, to be funded from existing budgets, including the Thames Promotion Project budget, with the proviso that the business association achieve some of the objectives of the promotion project.

The grant request then goes to the Council as part of its LTP deliberations next week.

The attachment is the grant request tabled at Monday's meeting. The minutes from that meeting should be available tomorrow.”

This is interesting because on examining the paper that was produced at the meeting dealing with both this and another matter concerning the Thames Airfield (also not on the agenda!), it is revealed that the staff recommendation was that the $80,000 request be declined, and referred to the Chief Executive.

In the event, and as you can see from the information provided today, the request was granted by the Board – this can only have been done with the support of the Chair – Dianne Connors, and this raises all manner of questions around probity - staff recommendations should not, and are not lightly ignored in these circumstances.

I set out here the Analysis that accompanied the request for funding:

“Council staff including the CEO have been in discussions with the Thames Business Association Action Group with a view to striking a targeted rate to fund the Thames Business Association operation from 1 July 2019.

The $80,000 requested is for the 2018/2019 year gap of operation. Council has been asked to fund this resource from the Thames Community Board funding. The CEO has indicated that he could resource a part-time resource (less than 0.5FTE) on behalf of the business association for the gap year to assist in gaining support of the members for the Business Improvement District and associated targeted rate. This resource could also assist the new association to be formed soon with some early initiatives that would show the proposed members the benefits of having the business investment district.

Should the Council continue with its proposal to remove the Economic Development rate then the Thames businesses will have a significant rating reduction in the coming year. This may make the businesses more open to funding the gap year through higher voluntary subscriptions.

Staff note the requests for $25,000 and $15,000 to develop a work programme for the business association, and to identify an implementation and prioritisation plan for the Thames Urban Development Strategy. Staff will work with the Thames business Association and the Thames Community Board to identify possible resources to support the work program.

Recommendation:

Decline the request for $80,000 for the Thames Business Association funded role in 2018/19 and refer support for the Association to the Chief Executive.”

I intend to be present at the LTP Deliberations on 15 May – Note, the deliberations will follow the ordinary meeting commencing at 9am. I will be interested to see just how this particular item is handled. I emphasize that I am not opposed to the idea - it probably has great merit, but such a large grant requires that it be determined in a 'squeaky clean' manner.

Such does not appear the case to date, and the indifference of Thames business's in the past to any suggestion of 'organisation' does not give great confidence that they will be any better at organising (and paying their way!) than they were when something similar was mooted in years past - though there could be a different reaction if the Ecopnomic Development rate on business is removed next week as proposed in the LTP.

But rate-payers need to be very cautious about permitting their rate dollars to be used to subsidise any type of interest group. This, along with reference to Strat's discredited, and long abadoned (or was it?) Thames Urban Development Strategy sends shivers up the spine - "anyone for traffic lights?"

 

 

 

Wednesday
May092018

Local Economic Development Grants

The Thames Community Board on Monday discussed a Report on the distribution of its 2018/19 Grants, along with the 2017/18 Report.

The word 'boondogle' comes to mind as we Iook over this display of largesse with our rates. I suppose all councils and boards get up to this method of making 'hand-outs' to favoured groups in the community, but that does not absolve these organisations from being totally 'up-fron' and transparent when it comes to reporting. That is not the case on this occasion. The opportunity for corrupt behavior should be clear, and every precaution needs to be taken to prevent such occurring.

If you can make 'head or tail' out of this Report, then you must must know a great deal more than I. It simply does does not make sense - or for that matter, add up!

I am interested to see that the only grant made last year was to the Treasury (Coromandel Heritage Trust) - ($30,000 to pay for a "full-time manager/archivist") That may well be justified, but our Board needs to be aware of the substantial resources made available in the past to this organisation, and avoid becoming 'trapped' into a permanent funding model for a worthy, but limited institution.

But it appears (it is by no means clear) that they have a substantial number of other institutions looking for  'hand outs' this year - it appears the Board wants to make the grants in this financial year, and 'carry-over' this funding until next year when presumably other grants will be made. That will be interesting.

The objectives for the TCB Local Economic development Grants are to:

  • Provide a fund to support local economic development initiatives;
  • Encourage and support local community endeavours to develop tourism infrastructureand visitor attractions within the Thames Community Board area

I question the whole logic of funding 'tourism infrastructure, and visitor attractions" using our rates, but I guess that can be interpreted fairly widely. It must be the case, because the list of applicants is certainly from a wide spectrum.

I note with concern the amount of $30,000 being made available for the Thames public Art Trust - by far the highest amount, and remember that this Trust is heavily influenced by Board Chair Dianne Connors.  It is supposedly to be used to extend the already bedraggled 'Underfoot Gallery," and to purchase more sculpture for the Rail Trail. If that purchase approximates the last valued at $50,000, then it could be described as a waste of rate-payer funds - if it takes sculpture of dubious artistic merit to attract visitors to the Trail, then it is in even bigger trouble than we had imagined.

We must watch the oversight of this fund very carefully - it has the potential to grow, and grow!

 

 

Wednesday
May092018

Hearings Season In Full Swing

Yesterday, it was the turn of WRC to hear from disgruntled rate-payers, and there was by all accounts no shortage. I had my 'two-bob's  worth over the failure of either council to accept any responsibility for the 5 January event, or its aftermath at Tararu. Remember, this event had little or nothing to do with climate change, or rising sea levels - it was purely the result of gale force winds from a narrow NW quarter, combined with the highest tide in living memory.

Boiled down, this is the paradox - the WRC has through its Waihu/Piako Catchment Committee the mandate and responsibility for protecting the coastline from Tararu to Kaiaua, but has interpreted that mandate in the past as being limited to rivers mouths, and farmland. It claims to have no responsibility for protecting Thames or Tararu. Other areas of the Region are covered by other committees, but the major protection is that afforded farmers on the Plains by the Waihou/Piako Catchment Committee, and it faces major problems in the years ahead for reasons that hardly need repeating here.

I would argue that they (the Committee, and the Council) cannot pick and choose - they collect rates to protect the entire area, including Thames and Tararu, and they are avoiding their clear and legal responsibility in that regard by turning a blind eye in this case. They clearly believe that any protective works inside the town boundary are the responsibility of Thames Community Board, and the TCDC. 

The District council has in the past undertaken protective works - principally at Moanataiari, and on an extremely small scale at Tararu following the last threat in 2005 - that latter work being informal, unconsented, and only effective in a limited way. It failed to prevent the inundation on 5 January that circumvented the end of the bund.

Apart from that, I have not had it proven to me in any legal sense that the Regional Council is able to escape responsibility, other than the old shibboleth about the existing ramshackle defences between Wilson and Robert Streets being on 'private land' (as trhe result of past erosion) and therefore no responsibility of anyone other that the three or four land-owners. That particular excuse completely ignores the fact that on 5 January, the 25 odd insurance claims resulted from water that flowed through those three or four properties into the surrounding area.

It is utterly senseless, and irresponsible for the two councils to each deny responsibility, and point to the other while claiming 'it is not our problem.' We all pay rates to cover this eventuality - if more are required through a taretted rate, so be it. Not one resident has indicated resistance to that suggestion during the course of private discussions, but neither Council appears willing to go even that far - it appears simply a case of 'digging in their heels,' and hoping it will all go away. 

I, and others have submitted to both councils TYP's on this issue, and we have had no indication of any acceptance of responsibility - quite the opposite. There were certainly several expressions of disgust at yesterday's meeting at this attitude by this Council, and in the case of Denis Tegg, a well argued plea for both councils to put far more resources into planning for sea-level rise, and hazard protection around the entire coastline. Denis has in the past expressed some misgivings about councils stepping in to deal with a particular problem as occurred on 5 January rather than deal with the problem holistically. 

Regardless of the virtue of that argument, there is a particular problem at Tararu that cannot simply be left to be handled by residents alone. Both councils need to sort out who is responsible and step up to the mark, even if it requires resorting to the Environment court for a determination - and that is not out of the question in the circumstances.

The 200 to 300 metres of ramshackle sea-wall between Wilson and Robert Streets must be repaired regardless of who owns it, and if necessary, the existing bunds restored. Already, insurance companies are reviewing policies in the area to exclude inundation, and a large number of mainly elderly residents are fearful of a repeat of the 5 January tidal and storm event that may wipe out their entire asset.

What about some leadership on this - please, from both our Mayor, and the WRC Chair?

 

 

Tuesday
May012018

Rubbish - Do It Yourself!

It was interesting to hear Smart Environmental owner Graham Christian on National Radio yesterday bleating about the need for Government and Local Government assistance in regard to the storage and disposal of plastic waste.

This part of his waste stream has now been banned from China where it has all been sent in the past because, surprise, surprise, processing of same has begun (?) to cause major environmental problems and the Chinese Government has decided that its already highly polluted countryside will no longer play the role of rubbish dump for the entire World.

If Graham Christian was unaware that this was likely to happen sooner rather than later, then he has not been reading the tea-leaves in the bottom, of his (plastic?) cup. It has been telegraphed for ten years or more that this was coming like night follows day, but Smart, along with Waste Management and all the other NZ companies involved in the industry have continued to gather up unwashed milk and other containers, apparently in the belief that the Chinese were bluffing.

Now the curtain has come down, with all the certainly and speed for which the Chinese are well known, and already mountains of the dammed stuff are building up around the country with no idea as to how it will be dealt with in the future. Christian wants the Government and councils to “share the cost of storage” in the meantime, and until an alternative has been devised - preferably a plant to process the stuff.

It is beyond belief that Mr Christian and his crew were unaware of the likelihood of this situation developing as they went about preparing their tenders for the now many contracts that his company holds for collection around Auckland, and elsewhere in the country.

I am always incredulous when these guys turn around and seek subsidies when their  tenders turn to dust when circumstances that they should have fully taken into account when preparing them change for the worse. That is the way the worm turns, and Mr Christian should have been fully prepared.

He has evidently done extremely well out of his contracts here and elsewhere, and it is now the  time for him and his cohort to put some resources back into the business without falling back on the old familiar subsidy rort. The next turn of the screw will come when they demand funding of the plant required, and protection from any change in overseas demand.

We all know just how these things work in a small country, but on this occasion, the Government should remain firm, and tell all of these operators to ‘get their act together,’ and build a suitable plant in a central location poste haste - after all if they are not in a position to put togther a  business case, no-one is. While they are at it they should do something about ensuring that the raw product is delivered clean - if that takes Government regulation, so be it.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr252018

Musings Of A Tripper

Barby and I were invited to take part in a five day family sojourn around the Taranaki Circuit + Kawhia/Raglan last week that left us both gob-smacked with the way in which that province has progressed. It was a combined double 80th, and 50th wedding celebration, and it could not have been bettered.

We stopped off at Tauramanui to do the four hour Lost World Railway adventure - an amazing initiative that is really starting to wind up with about thirty separate motor powered golf-cart 'jiggers' - 2 to 6 passenger, and amazing scenery, though we were told that the eight hour journey to Stratford and back is the one. The four hour trip was enough for us, and we drove the heritage Lost World highway to Stratford anyway, via the unique Republic of of Whangamomana, where we stayed in the pub - electric blankets and log fires de rigour. Not exactly gourmet food, but filling!  The Tongarakau Gorge is an absolute wonder - dense podocarp forest.

The Heritage Trail winds on down through Stratford to Dawson's Falls - still a wonderful attraction, beautifully maintained by DoC - staff indicated that the place is now over-run with tourists during summer, but nothing can detract from the lichen drenched kamahi forest on the short walk to the Pools. Wherever you go the 'Mighty Mounga' overhangs you, if you can avoid mist and cloud.

The coast road to New Plymouth is a must, and the city itself a revelation after 20 years absence. It is probably one of the most prosperous little cities in the country, and it shows it. The restaurants and cafes are at least Auckland standard, and on Friday night, filled with the same jostling bar hugging crowds of revellers - often poncy, yes, but perhaps drowning their sorrows after the recent Government oil and gas announcement. I should explain that it was  a tapas joint - say no more!

An Indian establishment on the other hand called Flame provided the best sub-Continent food I have ever experienced in this country, and a 5-star place called Salt, overlooking the water was superb - both with  atmosphere, and top service.

Saturday was for the Len Lye, and Govett Brewster Gallery - the former a surreal architectural 'stake in the sand' that loudly pronounces itself, much like the Guggenheim on 5th Avenue, but with less salubrious surroundings. The range of Lye exhibits was disappointing - don't quite know why - the major one we had seen previously in the Moma.

The library was immensely helpful in identifying family history for Barby - one Eustatious Griffiths by name, prominent figure, and importer of the first Jersey bull - now that is real distinction in Taranaki where the pervasive odour is of a distinctly bovine character. As an aside, there is not a great devotion to riparian planting evident. In fact. the streams are generally of a disgusting colour to go with the smell.  

We took a bunch of e-bikes off on the renowned 13km bike-trail that separates the city from the pounding seascape - that was a revelation, both in regard to the motive power, and the wonderful landscapes to be seen from the 1.5m wide track. Just mind out for kids and walkers - it seems that the entire town uses it. The drive home via Te Awamutu, Kawhia and Raglan was uneventfull and hardly needs explanation here - the driftwood at Mokau provides the same, almost magnetic attraction as ever for certain un-named people.

We used AirB&B units all the way (excepting Whangamomona),  and although I sympathise with other accommodation providers and councils that find it difficult to rate them, there is no doubt that they provide a splendid, and well moderated service.

A wonderful five day trip - thoroughly recommended.   

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr252018

Antarctic Ice Melt "Under Way"

This is information that we have read, and wondered about for some time. Now, it appears to have eventuated, and the real "bottom-warming" is under-way. This appeared today in the Washington Post.

Pick up the remainder of the article to get the full picture. It is not pretty, and the warnings given at last week's meeting here with the the Chair of the Insurance council should not be ignored. I was unfortunately in Taranaki, and unable to attend, but Denis Tegg has reported fully on it.

"Two years ago, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and a number of colleagues laid out a dire scenario in which gigantic pulses of fresh water from melting glaciers could upend the circulation of the oceans, leading to a world of fast-rising seas and even superstorms.

Hansen's scenario was based on a computer simulation, not hard data from the real world, and met with skepticism from a number of other climate scientists. But now, a new oceanographic study appears to have confirmed one aspect of this picture - in its early stages, at least.

The new research, based on ocean measurements off the coast of East Antarctica, shows that melting Antarctic glaciers are indeed freshening the ocean around them. And this, in turn, is blocking a process in which cold and salty ocean water sinks below the sea surface in winter, forming "the densest water on the Earth," in the words of study lead author Alessandro Silvano, a researcher with the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia.

This so-called Antarctic bottom water has stopped forming in two key regions of Antarctica, the research shows - the West Antarctic coast and the coast around the enormous Totten glacier in East Antarctica.

These are two of Antarctica's fastest-melting regions, and no wonder: When cold surface water no longer sinks into the depths, a deeper layer of warm ocean water can travel across the continental shelf and reach the bases of glaciers, retaining its heat as the cold waters remain above. This warmer water then rapidly melts the glaciers and the large floating ice shelves connected to them.

In other words, the melting of Antarctica's glaciers appears to be triggering a "feedback" loop in which that melting, through its effect on the oceans, triggers still more melting. The melting water stratifies the ocean column, with cold fresh water trapped at the surface and warmer water sitting below Then, the lower layer melts glaciers and creates still more melt water - not to mention rising seas as glaciers lose mass.

"What we found is not only a modeling study but is something that we observed in the real ocean," said Silvano, who conducted the research in Science Advances with colleagues from several other institutions in Australia and Japan. "Our study shows for the first time actual evidence of this mechanism. Our study shows that it is already happening."

Hansen said that "this study provides a nice small-scale example of processes that we talk about in our paper."

 

 


Tuesday
Apr172018

Long Term Plan - Submission

These were my principal comments on the LTP that closed on Monday:

Increasing the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) - page 16. Which option for the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) do you support?

This proposal is immoral, and contrary to most basic social obligation our Council has to lower income members of the community who tend to own lower land-value properties, including pensioners, and the vast majority of those in Thames.

Conversely, by benefiting the owners of higher land-value properties in this manner when virtually every other council has or is moving towards capital value rating, our Council is demonstrating contempt for those on lower incomes, and pensions. It is deplorable that this Council sees fit to slip this change through with minimal publicity.

By way of example, the UAGC on our own low to medium land-value property at Tararu will increase $246, or 51% in year 2 of the Plan, and at the same time your Council denies any responsibility for restoring the sea-wall that failed on 5 January. . There is absolutely no justification for this increase, and I ask that this proposal to increase the UAGC to 30% be rescinded. 

Have more to tell us? Please provide details here:                                                

The issues selected to highlight in the Summary are not the end-all and be-all of Council most pressing needs and responsibilities. They may be important, but it leaves out mention of at least three important issues.

1. The first relates to the long overdue decision to stop using depreciation reserves for building new assets rather than preserving the reserve for the purpose of replacing assets for which the depreciation has been set aside. The net result of this foolish, and possibly illegal policy is that the depreciation reserve cupboard is now bare with a mere $6.8m remaining, and with our Council facing $168m of 'renewals.' 

This reversal, and the stated intent to rebuild these reserves to $124m by 2028, while acquiring new assets of $126m appears contradictory, particularly in the light of the intent to eliminate external debt. It seems to me that this can only be accomplished through internal debt to its mandated limit, and a substantial increase in rates far beyond that already signalled in the financial projections accompanying the LTP.  There is something 'screwy' about these figures that need better explanation, particularly as we appear to have been misled over the term of the last Plan, based on the use of depreciation reserves as outlined above.

2. And secondly, the question of asset re-valuations of from $24m to $58m annually, totalling $347m over ten years was raised in consultation at the outset of the previous 2015/2025 LTP, and never satisfactorily explained. Para 87 of the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the Local Government Financial Prudence Regualtions (2014)  states clearly that "These transactions provide local authorities with no financial resources to meet their outgoings,. Therefore they should be excluded from a balanced budget measure."

The proffered Financial Strategy on this occasion makes no mention of asset re-valuations, so that we are left in the dark as to their effect of the ciurrent projections, and claimed 'balanced budget,' if any. I believe that Council has an obligation to disclose this information for the purpose of consultation, and seek an immediate explanation. I should add that the previous CFO was unable to give an unequivocal assurance at the time that it complied with the Regulatory Impact Statement.

3. The other issue that remains the 'elephant in the room' that must be faced relates to the incredible proposal to reduce coastal and hazard management from $6.68m to $3.88m in this period just when all indications point to the need to increase the provision substantially.

It is well known that the 5 January storm highlighted a number of areas that are low-lying and vulnerable for one reason or another, not the least of which is our own area of Tararu. Our Council chose to ignore the effects of  established sea-level rise parameters until belatedly accepting the Government recommendation last November. It remains a mystery as to why we appear reluctant to accept hazard dogma that appear to have been accepted in virtually every other area of the country that is at similar, or even lessor risk.

Our ratepayers deserve a reasoned explanation as to why you appear to ignore the risk to our 400 km of coast, and avoid an appropriate allocation of funding in this Plan to accommodate hazard management. It is irresponsible to sit back and state that you are waiting to see what happens elsewhere, and what level of risk our Government is prepared to shoulder when it has given no indication to date of willingness to accept any level of risk.

The work done to date on erosion hardly meets the standard required, and the 5 January event demonstrated that in spades. Potential flooding from storm and othe more serious events, must be assessed, and provision made for prioritizing relief. The provision of $75k annually for assessment of risk to Council and community infrastructure is derisory, and appears an abrogation of the requirements of the Governments 2010 Coastal Policy Statement.

We in Thames are entitled to ask just what our Council is doing now that it has some understanding of the risks faced by this town with both ground-water, and inundation - the 5 January event is just the first of what must surely become a regular event, and we appear totally unprepared. This is simply not good enough, and this LTP needs to recognise this need.

The proposed 'well-being' projects that comprise the Rhodes Park Grandstand and Aquatic Centre are 'pipe-dreams,'  and unlikely to 'surface' other than through sea-level rise.

Please take them out of the Plan, and substitute wide-ranging assessments and prioritizing of necessary works as outlined above. The savings should otherwise be used to implement urgent coastal work, and reduce the proposed rate increases, and borrowing. 

This LTP is a big on spending, an 8.8% rate increase in our case, and huge additional borrowing to the disadvantage of every rate-payer, but it is completely unbalanced inasmuch as it fails the needs outlined above. I seek a thorough re-examination of these proposals, and for every councillor to examine their conscience before agreeing to its adoption.                                                         

There were many other matters that were worthy of comment, but you have to draw the line - it is hard enough to get your submission through in the ten minutes allowed.

 

 

 

Friday
Apr132018

Mississippi Delta - Waihou-Piako

I tseems that when it comes to bad news about the Waihou-Piako, we would rather not hear it.

The Washington Post has a story today by Chris Mooney that you should read, because the similarities between what is happening on the Mississippi Delta, and what is happening on the Waihou-Piako is very similar.

Inundation appears inevitable. and it appears that controlling the rate of retreat is all that is left for us to plan for with our already stretched Waikato Regional Council. In talking to Council officials and others who charged with keeping the Piako swamp and its environs drained, it appears that the 100 plus pumps that have done the job to date are in the process of being overwhelmed.

This is not meant to scare anyone who will be affected over time, but everyone should be aware of the fundamental problems arising here from sea-level rise. Stop-banks cannot be expected to be effective with imperceptibly  rising ground water simply soaking through the underlying peat and achieves equivalence with what is happening in the Gulf.

The WRC is attempting to mount a rea-guard action through replacing pumps that are said to be old and possibly obselete. That is simply not the case - it is a case of existing capacity against overwhelming odds, and anyone who observed what hapened following last years inundation while driving across the plains on the Paeroa to Tahuna road cannot help but having been shocked by the time it took to clear the water from what had been pristine pasture.

Read the story by Chris Mooney to what is happening in the Mississippi Delta to understand what is in fact a similar problem. What we have on one hand is acknowledged sea-level rise that proceeeds apace regardless of the Canute-like response of our Councils, and on the other, the subsidence of our stop-banks and bunds .

Our Councils have a responsibuility, currently not displayed, to take this into account with their Ten Yaer Plans.

Every rate-payer has until 4pm on Monday afternoon to get their submissions in. If they don't hear from you, they will proceed on their present path. This is the only way of showing your displeasure at the plans and rate rises being proposed, And remember to tick the box enabling you to present your submission at the hearings that follow in person. I can tell from experience that the only submitters that are listened to are those that 'front-up.' 

TCDC may have limited influence over the Waihou-Piako situation, but planning for action to deal with hazards arising from the increased frequency of storms, and coastal inundation protection, is imperitive. It appears totally absent from the draft plan.

 

 

 

Saturday
Apr072018

Revenue Proposals

The proposed changes to the Revenue are reflective of the regressive thinking amongst our councillors inasmuch as it is proposed to maximise (to 30%) the proportion of rates raised through the Uniform Annual General Rate - this moves the burden to the owners of lower value land to the maximum permitted by Government. Note that is separate from water and sewerage that are already uniform other than in regard to water usage where it is metered.

The proposed elimination of the Economic Development from commercial and industrial rates is supported by one of the most convoluted, and arid arguments you will ever see - it suggests that tourism is no longer subsidised, and that a "connect the dots" approach will enable all ratepayers to access funding by engaging with Council - utter balderdash.

The removal to the second dwelling rates remission is long overdue - it has enabled many - 131 at last count to use the loophole to maintain AirB&B, and Book-a-Batch units etc while pretending to keep mother (or father) independently living on site. Long overdue. You simply cannot rely on people's honesty - naive in the extreme.

The return of B & Bs with four bedrooms or more to the residential category is puzzling - clearly there is a wastewater issue, but four was always an arbitrary number that many of us suspected was motivated by a personal issues involving the previous administration.

All in all, the proposals reduce rather increase revenue, meaning that we will all be paying a great deal more to cover the ambitious projects proposed on other pages of the Plan, and lower income rate-payers will pay even more reflecting their generally lower land values. That is what happens when you put higher income foxes in charge of the hen-house, if you get my drift.

 

 

 

Saturday
Apr072018

LTP Sumissions Close on 16 April

Readers have only one week to put together their submissions on the LTP - the most importnat document our Council prepares - it is what allows for, and constrains expenditure over the next ten years. Changes are extremely difficult to make following adoption on 26 June.

I, along with Dennis Tegg, based  on his email, intend to concentrate on the clear deficiencies in regard to funding for coastal hazard - both sea level rise, and coastal flooding/erosion. You can assume that the Plan as it stands reflects the priority bias amongst present members in regard to these issues - staff after all simply follow the instructions of elected members in arriving at draft plans.

I implore anyone who is also concerned about these issues to get onto the website and fill in a written submiussion form. Please ask to submit in person. I can tell you from long experience that written submissions are geiven scant attention without the writer being present to 'add teeth.'

Dennis has prepared a bullet point summary on thse issues that should not be repeated, rather paraphrased, and reflecting of your own thoughts on the subject. By all means add other issues with which you take exception - particularly in regard to expenditure items that appear totally 'out of kilter.'

Here are Dennis's bullet points: (Guide only - preserve the integrity of the process!)

  • The budget in the 2018-28 LTP for coastal and hazard management has been reduced from $6.68 million in the previous LTP to $3.88 million. Rather than a large reduction in spending, a substantial increase in the funding for coastal and hazard management is required.
  • The damaging storm surge on January 5 was a warning that mapping, modelling, identification and risk assessment of coastal flooding needs to be an urgent priority for spending.It is good that the Council has adopted into its LTP the climate change and sea-level rise assumptions from the Ministry for the Environment Guidance on coastal hazards. But this is meaningless unless the Council commits the necessary funds in the LTP to carry out the necessary district wide assessment of all hazards.
  • The Council needs to catch up with the coastal hazard work already done by many other councils. We have 400 km of coastline and NIWA has identified that many of our towns and communities are some of the most at risk places in the whole of New Zealand from sea level rise and coastal flooding.
  • The Council has an obligation under the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement to carry out the necessary identification of all coastal hazards, including coastal inundation but so far has only tackled coastal erosion.
  • The continued emphasis in the LTP on coastal erosion is misplaced. The January 5 storm surge and expert advice confirms that there is far greater risk to more District properties, communities, and infrastructure from coastal flooding than from erosion. The priority for future spending must be on coastal flooding, particularly on the western side of the Peninsula.
  • There is a huge and expensive risk to Council infrastructure from coastal inundation. But only $75,000 annually has been allocated to investigate not just the roading and non-roading infrastructure at risk, but also the risk to coastal communities and water supplies. This amount is totally inadequate and needs to be substantially increased. Also, why the delay in starting this investigation until 2019/20?
  • Some foreshore suburbs within Thames Township have a potential serious risk from groundwater sea flooding, and from subsidence of reclaimed land on the foreshore. These risks must also be a priority for urgent investigation and risk assessment.
  • The high degree of risk to Thames Township (and other low-lying communities) from direct coastal inundation and from groundwater sea flooding is just ignored in the LTP. The priority for spending must be to obtain an expert assessment of the degree of risk from coastal hazards to Thames and other townships, and to then get expert advice on what options (if any) there are to protect these town(s) from coastal hazards.
  • Does Thames have a viable future in coming decades?  Funding for major projects such as the proposed new Thames sub regional swimming pool and improvements to the Rhodes Park grandstand must be deferred until a proper risk assessment of coastal hazards has been carried out, and the Council has established whether it can comply with the Ministry for the Environment guidelines on climate change and sea-level rise.

I intend to raise in addition the issue of the cost of the Shortland Wharf upgrade ($1.5m), the cost of providing wheelchair access to the Thames War Memorial$ ($267k), and the outrageous proposals regarding the Rhodes Park Grandstand ($3.133m) and Aquatic Centre ((Unknown, but possibly $22m+). These alone are responsible for a substantial proportion of the proposed Thames rate increases. 

Go the website to get the submission form - it is very easy to follow, and submit before the 16th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr032018

And Another Matter!

Another matter that I alluded to in my 29 March post, relates to the Major Events Fund, accessed again today to the tune of $15,000 for "Dare2Sweat Event - Waihora Spirited Women" which is a commercially sold as event covering many sports and involving some 1,560 participants, plus supporters - an important, and undoubtedly lucrative event indeed.

It was at Ohope this years, and either at Coromandel, Mercury bay or Thames in 2019, though I suspect that Mercury Bay is the front runner given available beds.

The actual event does not concern me - gender based or otherwise. What does concern me, and I suspect many others is the manner in which substantial sums of rate-payer money is handed out to a variety of organisations to persuade them to come here, or stay here.

Without doubt, large groups in the community, both commercial and otherwise benefit from these events.  But that is the extent it. The Economic Development Committee set up Leach, partly with the intention of overseeing these activities, but on the advent of Mayor Sandra, this redundant unit was disestablished without the slightest hesitation, and the applications are dealt with in-house precisely as in the past. 

The question that I believe must be asked is, what earthly benefit are these, often extravagant events to the general rate-payer, and why if they are so successful are they not able to 'self-fund.' Why are we constantly being prevailed on to fund them, whether they be motor-car rallies, sports events, or cultual extravaganzas.

I believe that these activities are all non-core, and add to our already excessive rates imposition. It is time that their funding was reviewed. Note, that I do not include the other smaller local event funds in these comments, though they certainly do need to be closely examined to ensure that they are fulfilling a wider community role.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr032018

Council Today

There were only two stories that interested me in  regard to today's Council.

The first concerned the Hauraki Rail Trail which come with its 3-year Draft Business Plan. This was presented by the our Economic Development Programme Manager - Colleen Litchfield in the absence of the General Manager who presumably prepared the Plan. This absent person appears averse to appearing at meetings - she has only appeared at one to my knowledge.

The Plan as far as it goes appears sound, and goes to great trouble to appear to now be in control of things after a very rough period when it was under the control of a PTO ( Principal Trail Operator), and a Trust that appeared incapable of running the show, or exercising oversight of the PTO during its entire five years. But the full extent of the losses, and stuff-ups were well and truly hidden from rate-payers who were indirectly funding the operation - not even the much vaunted Economic Development Committee aws given access. .

It is now operated as a CCO (Council Controlled Organisation) that while appointing a General Manager who we are told is competent, has otherwise continued the practice of keeping its entire business operation secret. In the entire 32 page business case presented today there is not one mention of the audited accounts for the previous year, or the year to date, or any relevant information of comparative usage of each section of the trail. Rumours persist of Thames to Paeroa usage being severely under projection. This is information that I would have imagined was critical in enabling councillors, and rate-payers to assess the success or otherwise of the current governance structure.

Indeed, the CCO structure apparently relieves the organisation of any obligation in that regard, and this is a common complaint elsewhere in the country where similar reluctance to release information occurs, but by no means in every case. In another paper today Council was asked to re-appoint trustees - John Sandford, John Coombe, and Scott Lee - all apparently mates of the previous mayoral incumbent. How good they are we will never know.

All we do know is that the budgets in the Business Plan are totally 'break-even,' with a covering "Underwriting Agreement" that makes our Council liable for a further $165K in 2019, $159K in 2020 and 161K in 2021, should it become necessary. One must assume that previous such agreements have been acted on in the past as no mention is made in the Plan regarding past losses - a case of 'hopefully, no-one will notice,' by the looks of it. 

I am heartily sick of these amateur attempts to hide information from the rate-payers who have funded this debacle from day one - no matter how worthy and well meant the entire enterprise has been, The Kopu to Kaiaua section remains closed as a result of the 5 January storm, and complaints appear to be coming in thick and fasst in regards to the gate system put in place between here and Paeroa. Certain concillors today expressed concern at the manner in which complaints are handled.

I will undoubtedly be accused of whinging when it come to this facility, but at least I have been consistent, and I am very disappointed at the total indifference demonstrated today in relation to the issues I have raised. It can only mean that once again, relevant information has been hidden behind the closed doors of 'workshops,' no doubt to protect 'commercila sensitivity.'

Rob Williams put a bomb under this outfit when he arrived, and much has changed, but lack of information breeds suspicion.

 

 

 

Friday
Mar302018

Aquaculture - The Other Story

If you have ever wondered just why the Marlborough salmon farming industry has suddenly found it necessary to pressure the Department of Primary Industry, successfully, to allow them to begin shifting  their farms to the outer sounds, just read this story that appeared recently in a 'healthy living' magazine that is admittedly no friend of the industry.

The story relates to a documentary produced by one Nicolas Daniel on the farmed fish industry - principally in the Baltic Sea, and Norway in particular - that paragon of virtue so often quoted to us as having standards in ever level of life to which we should all aspire.

I will not go further into the article - read it, and form you own view on the matter. But I will say that the whole idea of our council continuing to promote the farming of Kingfish, and other species in the Gulf is beyond foolish - it is sheer madness, and will inevitably result in irredeemable environmental damage.

They must be stopped, one way or another from pursuing this crazy course of action with advisors who appear totally devoid of any understanding of the dangers. Fortunately the level of interest by local and foreign farm operators in responding to the 'opportunity' afforded them by the widely distributed tender documents appears minimal. Long may it remain so, but we must remain eternally vigilant to ensure that none of them get a foothold in, or adjacent to the Gulf.

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar292018

Council Meeting Tuesday 3 April

Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust

Coleen Litchfield – the Council Economic  Development Programme Manager presented a report to Council in this manner

This is a staggering display of arrogance in terms of advising the rate-payers who have been required to fund this debacle to date of just how their rates are to be applied over the next three years to keep the thing afloat.

I am not suggesting that it is not currently being managed efficiently and effectively, but if this is the extent of the information that is to be supplied in this regard, I feel much less inclined to support it.

Staff often suggest that the essential details will be presented at the meeting - an abbrogation of the requirements of the Meetings Act, I would suggest. There are several examples on this agenda.

But this is the worst example I have seen to date of staff simply ignoring the public.

Majot Events

There is only one applicant to date:

The Wahoriora Spirited Women - funding of $15,000 to be approved - Here is its story.

Now, I am all for Spirited Women, and they do seem to bring in a lot of dosh, including ours, but are these gender based events appropriate at this time using hard-earned rate-payer derived funds of this magnitude. I can imagine the outcry should a 'mens'' event be organised in this manner using our rates.

Just sayin!

Nothing else of much interest on the agenda - The CEO Report is his usual graphic depiction of the state of the Council finances, and needs little explanation, other than patience working through it

Take a look at it, and see what you think. I would have thought that there were a few other matters on which he could provide a verbal explanation, but his habit seems to be to keep information at a low, low level - that way you avoid controversy. You just have to hope that all is well on all the other fronts! I have no reason to believe otherwise.