EW Reaction
Friday, March 18, 2011 at 11:53AM
Bill Barclay

EW Chief Executive Bob Laing is quite correct in one aspect of his response to the purported 'outrage' of TCDC councillors in today's HH over the $200 increase in EW rates likely to result from adoption of the Regional Policy Statement.

There is confusion amongst councillors as to how the EW $24m. surplus is made up, and little attempt was made at the 2 March TCDC meeting to explain the circumstances arising from the transfer of the $12m. Franklin drainage assets. Lay persons do not easily draw a distinction between non-cash and cash assets until it is pointed out to them. 

The performance of the Investment Fund is another matter - it generally results from gambling in the form of currency dealings that can just as easily go in the opposite direction. It appears that EW's advisors have  scored well on this occasion with a $8m. surplus, and normally the best place for such surpluses would be in the so-called 'equalisation' reserve. But in this case, $54m. in total reserves increased to $59m. and questions need to be asked as to the eventual target, or purpose of such a level of reserves.

TCDC Councillors were perfectly correct to question the steep rate rise in the light of such substantial reserves being further enhanced, and Bob Laing does not provide the answer. One is left to speculate that there is a hidden agenda involving major future capital expenditure.

What is of much greater concern is the wording of the Policy Statement that seeks to concentrate management of natural resources, the environment and major regional infrastructure in the hands of the Regional Council. The original draft of this statement was totally unacceptable to the previous Council, and all the other councils in the region. Major re-writing took place, but EW has the final power to determine its content, and in the end exercised that power as a dictat.

A government imposed February deadline meant that our new Council had a very limited opportunity to come to grips with the content of the Statement. The unhappiness at the 2 March Council meeting was palpable, and no amount of smooth talk can overcome the dissatisfaction felt by both Council and staff over the manner in which this Statement has been imposed. The concessions made by the Authority were minimal and window dressing at best.

Mr Laing is at pains to draw attention to water quality, and the need to impose more stringent conditions on dairy farming in particular. As everyone knows, but most in this district and its neighbours refuse to acknowledge, dairy pollution could have been eliminated, or at least maintained at tolerable levels at the outset had the Authority had the courage to impose stocking limits - simple!

Somehow this was promoted by the vested interests as an intolerable and gross interference with property, and even human rights, never mind animal rights, and the net result is over-borrowing, gross overstocking, overuse of supplements, largely uncontrolled nitrogenous run off and increasing degradation of our waterways.  So now we all have to pay the price in so many ways, and cow cockies again get off scott free while pushing their contribution to the national accounts down our collective throats, and paying lip service to the 'voluntary' impositions of EW and Fonterra.

If I have to listen once more to Federated Farmers Laughlan McKenzie on this subject I think I will scream! He of course farms in Southland.

EW has dragged the chain on this for far too long in comparison with other dairying dependent authorities - i.e. Taranaki. It has the power already, but has lacked the will. The Statement will change nothing in that regard with rural interests dominating its make-up - greed comes in many guises.

Regardless, the Statement goes far further, and will give the Authority the ability to impose novel new restrictions on this and other councils and ratepayers in regard to the manner in which they carry out their business. Mr Laing mentions natural hazard management, coastal development and protection of native bush and wildlife.

That is just the beginning. Ratepayers may be surprised to find out just how unresponsive our Council may become as roles and functions are absorbed and enhanced through this bureaucratic monolith.




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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