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Tuesday
May172011

LTCCP Day 2. Highlights

Absentees

Cr Connors was absent all day; Cr. McLean all month; Cr Brljevich and BC Peters until after lunch.

Solid Waste

There was not much new – councillors catching up and coming to terms with the blue bag dumping cost of some $5.23, and a heap of questions about re-cycling – all councillors want to be seen to have good enviro. credentials when it comes to re-cycling, but nothing emerged of any great moment.

One thing that did become obvious was the almost complete ignorance – particularly from the East, regarding the modus operandi of our beloved Seagull Centre. They could not quite understand how it operates as a trust, with substantial volunteer input, and is responsible for a significant reduction in the Thames waste stream, as well as fulfilling a huge community need.

Doesn’t quite fit with Eastern values I suspect, though from the look on Mercury Bay CB Chair Allison Henry’s face, and in accordance with her well established Greenie credentials, I think she would love something similar in Whitianga, but whence the volunteers?

Bio-Solids 

There is a story here that will need investigation in due course. Three years ago Council was persuaded with some very logical argument to spend over a million dollars importing a second hand bio-solid plant from England that was to be the last word in processing the Eastern Seaboard waste-plant residue, together with green waste from around the peninsula into valuable compost for on sale. It was to be pilot plant, based on Council owned land at Tairua, and duplicated at other locations if and when it proved successful.

There was considerable scepticism as is warranted when it comes to these marvellous fix-all schemes (why were we the first, and why was it second hand?), but we were sufficiently impressed with the technology story, and approved the expenditure. The cost was to be added to that of the already grossly over-capitalised waste-plants, with an operational costs advantage resulting from reduced transportation of WW plant residue to the Turaheia Landfill.

There were all manner of start-up problems, but the product was rated highly. The only problem is that the neighbours don’t want it where it is situated, and complain of noise, smell and rats. The Nimby factor will always be present, and the LTCCP meeting was told in much more subdued tones that these were real problems that may only be overcome by enclosing the plant in a vastly expensive building.

Expect more on this before too long. I have not sighted any operating costs, or revenue figures to back up the original claims – that should be interesting. The Draft Forecasting Assumptions are rather coy when it comes to this activity, and I have concern regarding its future. Another unfortunate experiment, perhaps.

Economic Development

As usual, the ‘I’ Centres brought forth a huge amount of partisan comment, support, opposition, suggestion, but overall, the usual bleat regarding a funding ($205,000) shortfall. This was a wonderful opportunity for BC Johnston to wag the ‘empowerment’ dog, and everyone to seek to disconnect event promotion from event management, and not before time. The Whitianga Scollop Festival has absorbed too much Tourism Coromandel resource for far too long.

The Mayor seems to have this under control with a major re-organisation of Tourism Coromandel taking place as we speak. It was further agreed that the Centres should be funded through a local rate – that should take the current arbitrary allocation off the table by 1 July 2012, and is a sensible move.

There was a heap of discussion regarding a possible change to the manner in which motels and other accommodation units are rated – mainly with the object of capturing B & B’s that are seen to be operating at an unfair advantage. After all the difficulties were examined, at length, they decided to stay with the status quo.

Harbour Facilities

This was the opportunity for all the Eastern Seaboard councillors to have a real gripe about the standard of boat ramp facility, and more particularly, the cleanliness of beaches. They all seemed to want beach grooming and timely removal of post storm debris from all major swimming areas. This activity is of course ‘district’ funded for capital works, but the Director of Service Delivery indicated that he could find $$40 - $50,000 local funding for beach cleaning, above high water mark presumably, and encourage EW to take greater responsibility for log removal in harbours.

Anyone for beach grooming at Thornton Bay? And please get rid of those nasty logs in front of the Yacht Club. Sometimes I think we live in different worlds.

At the risk of again being accused of fostering the East/West divide, can I say that the absolute anomaly of ramp provision at district ratepayer cost on the East, and through self funded trusts on the West, and the vehemence of these demands appears to go right over the head of certain councillors, Though of course Whangamata is the exception, having lost its revenue. The irony of Cr. Wells having voted to remove the fees in December, and bleating yesterday about the loss of revenue was not lost on observers.

We had warnings of revolt and street marches should ramp fees be reinstated at the June meeting when CB comments are to be considered.  Oh well, I guess this is just another battle that will come down to numbers. But the blatant hypocrisy should not be overlooked.

Social Development

At last Cr. Hoadley had her opportunity to ‘put her foot down’, and state that she would not vote for any further postponement of the development of a ‘positive ageing strategy’ (PAS). She must have detected a strong community reaction to her previous outburst in the press about the need for Council to become involved in the provision of more pensioner housing, because she indicated that she would develop the strategy herself, if necessary.

She seemed to be strongly supported in this by the Mayor, and from round that table, and indicated that she would shortly call a public meeting on the subject. Forgive the cynicism, but it is of course a real vote winner, until the likely cost on taking on this central government responsibility becomes clear to already overstretched rate-payers.

Cr. Fox was predictably totally opposed to our Council becoming involved in any way – “Housing is a personal responsibility”. He was possibly expressing what most felt, but were not prepared to be quite so forthright about. Nevertheless, the cost of preparing a PAS was added to the mix. 

Swimming Pools

Staff brought a suggestion right out of left field that current area of benefit (local) funding be changed to 80% local, 20% District. Heaven only knows where this came from – they used the current library break-up as the example, but it still went down like a pork chop in a synagogue. 

I think it may have resulted from empirical observation of use of the now properly warmed pool by those from outside the Ward, but it should have gone to the CB so that the Thames Councillors could have formed a united position before coming to the LTCCP meeting. There was some amusing banter as this group of old fogies deplored the inability of today’s youth to swim in water heated to less than 27.5c.

I remain puzzled that this should have come up just when both Thames and Whitianga are angling for pool funding to be incorporated in the LTCCP – Mercury Bay may have some Development Contribution funding left over (unlikely) after their sports ground development, and Thames should certainly have access to accumulated, and ‘ring-fenced’ (BC Strat’s description) TUGPRA income for the purpose when required in seven or eight years time.

It was decided that the matter should be left until a business case has been prepared for the purpose in due course. 

Two issues emerged from this discussion – the first was a strong stand by CB Chair Strat Peters on the priority of the pool replacement over any other claim to TUGPRA funding were it and the Zoom Zone Dry Court to go ‘head to head’ – that is reassuring, and hopefully reflects the actual position of the CB which appeared at its last meeting to remain equivocal on the matter.

The other more disturbing Mayoral suggestion was that all or part of the endowment farms be sold, and the funds ‘invested’ until required. The Board was previously advised by the Chief Executive that this was impossible in terms of the Act under which they are held, but the Mayor indicated that he would not accept ‘impossible’. That suggestion should cause considerable concern on the part of all rate-payers of Thames who are in effect the beneficiaries, under this Act.

The Mayor wanted the acceptance of the $6-9m. in the latter years of the LTCCP tagged with this suggestion/requirement. This needs to be closely watched when the final document comes out later in the year. 

 

 

 

 

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