Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 2:25PM
Bill Barclay

The discussion at yesterday's Board meeting was a complete waste of time – the decisions had already been made in a ‘closed door’ workshop, and there remained little to decide.

That did not prevent most of the remaining discussion taking place in an atmosphere of total confusion brought about by the determination of Chair Strat Peters to ensure his particular slant on the wording of the motions, and the adoption of a list of ‘equal priorities’ that may have a call on TUGPRA funds.

But before cutting to the chase with the project priorities, it is necessary to explain the confusion that clearly existed in the minds of those present as to the state of the TUGPRA account. Those who have read my earlier posts on the subject will have some idea as to the complication surrounding the manner in which this fund was established, and administered over the years.

The long overdue report on the account prepared by Kim Cuttriss preparatory to her departure from the position of Area Co-ordinator, and its Appendices, provide a level of transparency previously unavailable. (see post - TUGPRA (3) of 28 April)  

First motion off the block was to confirm the 2009 recommendation by the previous Board to remove the EFLR (Endowment Farm Lease Revenue) subsidy (previously $150,000, now $260,000) to Parks and Reserves over a three year period that will have to be met progressively by rate increases of around $20 a year. The only problem here was that the Chair introduced a contradictory and confusing requirement that this should be achieved without actually increasing rates, though I am not sure that this actually made its way into the motion.

Further confusing the members until carefully explained by the Financial Controller was the fact that the $150,000 previously transferred from farm income has grown in 2010/11 through lease re-negotiations to $260,000 (actually $270,000 by my calculations). The $120,000 difference gave rise to several ad hoc claims.

Secondly, to seek ministerial approval to expand the old town boundary restrictions on TUGPRA benefits to include the entire Ward. Staff previously ignored referring of both these recommendations to Council, and implementation is long overdue.

A draft criteria for future allocations decided on at the ‘closed door’ workshop was then adopted over the objections of the Financial Controller who pointed out unintended consequences. He departed the meeting – I think somewhat frustrated at the inability of members to understand the limitations on their ability to allocate these funds.

Discussion followed on the possible AP withdrawal of the $100,000 allocated from TUGPRA in 2010 for the Rhodes Park Multi Sports business case on the grounds that it was no longer required – Chair Strat having established that the project has other sources of funding. I don’t think this got up, but we will no doubt find out during the AP Hearings later this month.

Eastern opposition to virtually anything taking place on this side of the hill, including this and the Cycleway, may kill it off in any case. Though it is interesting to note the advertisement in the 29 April Hauraki Herald for Expressions of Interest in appointment to Chair Strat's pet project - the Destination Thames Sub-Committee. This seems premature inasmuch as it has not yet gone through the AP process. The membership may be un-paid, but there is still a cost - $50,000 is in the as yet unapproved budget.


Project priority

All apparently have equal priority because those present were unable on the day to state exactly which of the three (Zoom Zone Dry Court, Swimming Pool and Rhodes Park Multi Sport Complex) to be included in the LTCCP is to have the TOP priority - well such is life on the political stage when you are under pressure from all sides.

What became clear is that the Board has been told in the ‘closed door’ workshop that they can ‘have their cake and eat it too’, now that Council has proposed, subject to the LTCCP to increase the limit on borrowing by $55m. This will enable TCB and other boards to achieve their pet projects, and avoid paying for them through rates. Except of course that rates will increase, albeit more slowly, as interest and depreciation are brought to account.

Of those present, BM Baverstock, BM Yates and  Cr. Connors definitely favoured borrowing to enable the Zoom Zone Dry Court to proceed immediately.  BM Bridgeman sat on the fence, and Chair Strat who wants both the Dry Court and the Swimming Pool rambled on about the latter being achieved through a ‘public charity trust’, whatever than means. This is because “there is time to achieve this before the replacement of the swimming pool is upon us”. He referred to “the wonderful example of funding achieved by King’s College for their swimming pool”, that he has investigated with Mary Hamilton (the main protagonist for the Zoom Zone Dry Court). 

Cr Connors was quite upfront about the need to achieve the Zoom Zone Dry Court immediately in order to keep faith with ratepayers “who need to see something tangible on the ground as soon as possible”, (or at least before the next election!).

Election promises made to the Zoom Zone people are being called in – that was abundantly clear.




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