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Boat Ramp Fees (4)

The circus continues, only now it has been passed to the Community Boards to state whether or not they wish to suspend fees permanently beyond 30 June.

Both Coromandel, and Tairua-Pauanui have clearly stated that they wish the fees to be be reinstated.  Whitianga and Whangamata are expected to follow. Thames is not involved, other than its rate-payers having resumed the subsidising of boat ramps following the 8 December motion. 

This follows the misguided actions of Whitianga Councillors Fox and McLean who led the charge to remove what they claimed were the "hated" fees. On 8 December, Tony Fox moved the motion to suspend the fees until 30 June, and subsequently our new councillors who had been "sucked in" (not for the first time, or likely the last) went along with the move.

Councillor Fox's personal situation regarding conflict of interest (he owns a trailer boat), and predetermination, remain to be tested, and may end up in court. He appears to have broken rules, but of course with conflict it is up to each individual councillor to determine whether or not he or she is in conflict. Beyond that, only the High Court can determine whether that call was correct. It may come to that.

The last Council determined that it was time that charges were instituted for the upkeep of boat ramps - over $1m a year, and consulted thoroughly during both the 2006, and the 2009 Annual Plan and LTCCP process. It agreed on a split decision to a $65 a year fee, or $6 a launch, and commenced the charges late in the 2009 season. All costs were covered by revenue, including those caused through substantial sabotage of signage by those who are normally considered upstanding members of the community.

Fury and emotional claptrap were the order of the day throughout the summer, and the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club, led by Tony Fox played a prominent role. 

Fox used rousing speeches during the election campaign, (along with many other candidates on the Eastern Seaboard) devoid of any recognition of the irony posed by the long term charges that had been in force at Waikawau (private), Whangamata and Sugar Loaf, the latter two of which disappeared when the 8 December motion was passed. Oh, what a mess!

Then we had the spectacle of the supporters claiming victory, and that it was only a matter of time before the fees were "gone by lunchtime", permanently.

The reality hit home in January with the pathetic plea from Councillor Wells (who voted for their removal, along with the Mayor and all the others) for ramp users to continue to pay their fees at Whangamata, "voluntarily". The Coromandel CB rebelled, following parking mayhem at Sugar Loaf, and have now demanded a return to "user pays".  What a turn around!

Once a postal survey is competed at Whitianga, Councillor Fox's whole house of cards is likely to have crashed to the ground, and all the bluff and bluster of his campaign exposed. It  only remains for his role in putting the motion to be examined, either by the OAG, or the High Court - that should be interesting.

A sidebar issue concerns the issuing of infringement notices for warrants and registrations by enforcement officers (their normal role by the way) while enforcing boat ramp parking fees. This has caused fury in certain quarters - it seems that a section of boat owners consider themselves immune from the law, and that otherwise law abiding citizens deeply resent the issuing of infringements in this manner. This in itself is a concern.




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