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Thursday
Dec092010

Mayor on the Ball (Berl?)

Once again Council is being subjected to the advice of "experts" in relation to growth projections on which so many planning decisions are based. Until two  years ago when they were replaced by Berl Economics, the University of Waikato provided Council with growth projection advice that proved to be so far off the mark that Council committed itself to building wastewater plants that are well beyond our needs for 40 years or more out.

Those 2006 projection should have been treated with scepticism - my questioning of the figures at the first meeting I attended in 2007 was heaped with considerable scorn by all concerned - our people had the same rosy coloured outlook as those who invested in South Canterbury Finance, and acted accordingly.

Berl Economics came aboard when the University was finally dumped in 2008, and immediately moved the growth projections down to a more reasonable level, but again the basis on which they have calculated current growth rate predictions to arrive at some 2,100 dwellings over the next 15 years needed to be questioned.

To quote from the District Growth Projection paper presented to the 8 December Council Meeting,

"The projections cannot be revised as such as they are an expert assessment of the most likely future growth. The decision being sought is whether to use these projections to inform future Council decisions, particularly to inform the 2012-2022 Ten Year Plan processes".

Again our Council is sadled with advice that over-rides the wisdom of its own members, or at least that of the Mayor, who questioned the growth rate proposed. He indicated that he had spoken to several developers and others familiar with growth on the ground, rather than in the hallowed halls of Wellington, and they had indicated that there was nothing on the horizon that indicated any chance of  the projections proposed being achieved.

He is right - the rate recommendations should have been thrown out, but instead they were adopted, as recommended by staff, and now they will be used to develop the ten-year plan. Ratepayers need to understand the substantial influence that these projections can have on rates as they feed into capital works planning.

I guess plenty of other councils are facing the same problem - the crystal ball will always remain opaque, but perhaps councillors should be prepared to more often follow their instincts, or at least leaven "expert" advice in order to avoid any more wastewater debacles.

 

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