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Wednesday
Aug102011

Council - Round-up

Today's meeting was notable - it was probably the shortest in living memory, being all over bar the shouting ('public excluded') by 11am. There were two items reserved for 'public excluded'- Economic Development, and Appointments to Destination Coromandel Trust. The latter appears to be the new governing body for Tourism Coromandel.

Just why Economic Development is considered 'confidential' raises questions as to misuse of the 'public excluded' provision of the Local Government Act. I fully understand the need for certain matters to be reserved when they fall within the narrow parameters set out in the Act, but 'Economic Development'?

One is left to speculate that members are again demonstrating an unwillingness to discuss normal business in open Council. This is exemplified by the manner which secret 'workshops' have become the modus operandi - such recourse is inclined to become habitual. 

The meeting was further notable because of the almost complete absence of a single penetrating question. This may indicate that all the papers were particularly well written and implicitly required no further explanation.

All of the staff recommendations were adopted, and although there was nothing particularly controversial, it hardly explains the torpor that descended over the two hour meeting (with morning tea thrown in of course). Our new Mayor is demonstrating real skill in getting to decision making rapidly. It is not that he does it in an overbearing manner - clearly there is just no one prepared to challenge him. Certainly, no staff were put under any pressure, and they batted away the perfunctory questions without any difficulty whatsoever.

As predicted in the previous post, the Interim Accounts were adopted without question.

These were the other major issues:

Rates Remissions for Economic Development   This appeared to be the reincarnation of the paper that was sent away from the previous meeting for further work - in its new form it specifically excludes residential developments. It appears to be aimed at providing rating benefits for new industries, or existing ones wishing to expand, and which meet strict criteria concerning the level of investment ($1m,), and at least 5 new FTE jobs, or 50% more than their existing complement.

The Mayor was adamant that the proposal was too narrow as it stood - he wants it extended to Development Contributions, and Resource Consents et.al. And Cr. McLean was indignant at the exclusion of residential developments, but he did not appear to make much headway, and later allowed the motion to pass without a murmur.

Head of Planning, Peter Mickleson appeared to be opposed to extending it beyond rates, but the CEO indicated that the proposal was simply to establish the policy and that it could be extended later. Much like a Trojan horse I guess. The proposal came with a $20,000 financial commitment in the first year, but don't for a moment imagine that is the end of it. The proposal is is now added to the consultation process for later in the year. 

It was all clothed with noble intentions, and the universal 'economic development' cachet, but believe me, this proposal comes at what is potentially a considerable cost to ratepayers, particularly were it allowed to become a mechanism to 'bail-out' developers.

TUGPRA Criteria   Unfortunately, Board Chair Strat Peters was not present to shepherd this particular Thames concern through the 'woods and marshes' of full Council. It was left to the  Chief Executive to explain what is obviously a source of considerable envy to other councillors, but it remained unscathed at decision  time, so the criteria outlined in my TUGPRA (4) post last week went through as outlined. The CEO was also authorised to go to the Minister for permission to extend the area of benefit from the old Thames Borough to the entire Ward, which will remove an anomaly.

Everything else went through without debate, including the Trade Waste Bylaw proposal.

Member's Reports were interesting for a change for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Crs. McLean and Fox expressed concern that Enforcement Officers were still issuing Rego. and WOF tickets. They indicated that they thought that staff had been instructed otherwise, which is precisely wrong. What they would have got for their trouble had they proceeded with their complaint would have been a reprise of the  civics lesson from Deputy Mayor French, and Cr. Hoadley.  Oh well, it was probably late in the meeting last time, and unappreciated!

The other matter to note was a suggestion (that's all!) from the Mayor that in the absence of any likely action by Transport NZ on the Pepe Bridge (Taiarua) for at least five years, the Council may like to consider undertaking the $4m. task itself and attracting the 50% subsidy that would be available. The Mayor was anxious that no-one say that this would be a charge against ratepayers - it was just a suggestion - that's all. Talk about flying kites!

 

 

 

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