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Timely Warnings

It was interesting to note the timely warning regarding unplanned (TYP!) expenditure into which Council is beginning to slip. Steve Baker is unmatched in his ability to suddenly bring reality to the situation, and this was no exception last Wednesday. There was silence around the table as the effect of unplanned expenditure on rates was explained, and the cause and effect penny dropped.

Steve was of course explaining the effect of the additional $1.5m blithely entered into at and since the last meeting - almost all relating to Mercury Bay. It was most interesting to note the reaction to the suggestion that they may have to go out and explain to the populace why rates increases were necessary, rather than the glorious decreases that they were preparing to exploit for election purposes - a salutary lesson that Steve has delivered on several occasions in the past with recalcitrant spendthrift councils.

This was followed by a stern (and lengthy!) lecture from the Mayor in regard to Boards encouraging expectations that could not posibly be met - inside or outside of the TYP. "I am not picking on anyone in particular" said Leach while looking pointedly at Strat Peters who has got some explaining to do as he meanders around the dream-world being created imminently by his unelected band of followers on the Thames Focus Group.

Yesterday's exercise at the Civic Centre was nothing more than an attempt to expand expectations without the wherewithal. You can say that planning is good, and community involvement in that planning is better, but with all the gaming, and consultants running round amongst the 80 odd participants yesterday, it looked to me like an exercise in futility. They were participating in a form of town planning that just does not exist outside of command economies. Group-think may a wonderful guage of 'wants', but it does not constitute sound planning when it is far removed from what those who be will 'paying the piper' for any development will be prepared to fund. It was interesting to gauge the atmosphere - something between a Green / Labour fair, and a Transition Town Thames community rev-up. In fact, there appeared to be a great deal of TTT influence over the manner in which the whole gathering was conducted, and a ratepayer funded slap-up luncheon contributed joy to the occasion.

Somehow or other, I was reminded of the futile exercise that was conducted a couple of years ago to get the Penisula Blueprint better accepted by the community - the same kind of earnest consultants with their wonderful tactical toys to provide a feeling of participation. What on earth does it all mean - well nothing actually - there is no money to undertake any of the wonderful 'improvements' being suggested, and these consultant types are about as far removed as may be expected in a town with the demographics and economics of Thames.

This is what happens when you give a group like the Thames Focus Group $80g to throw around on activities to keep up morale. It is as far removed from the needs and ambitions of the vast majority of the town's inhabitants as you can possibly get. If Strat and his team simply concentrated on running the town in as economical a manner as possible, they would closer to what they were elected for - subcontracting planning activity to an unelected bunch of earnest town notables is just asking for trouble.

What Strat and other Board members should be concentrating on is just how they intend to explain to all those people who elected them just why there is no funding, and nor will there be any funding for the ambitious Zoom-Zone,  Grandstand, and Swimming Pool projects that they have managed to get into the TYP. Those expectations alone will difficult enough for them to handle, and the Mayor made no bones about that when he let fly at last week's meeting. Strat's muted bleat  in response about the need to give people what they want won't be much help when the rubber hits the road. And the creep in the cost of the Thames Valley water supply - to be funded by Thames alone, won't help.

I am going to be a very interested observer of just how they intend to deal with these issues at the next election.




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Reader Comments (3)

I thought they introduced the process by making the same points you do on affordability - were you there then? The day seemed more realistic and positive than the description you give - maybe we were at different events.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Perhaps you should stick to reading the Hauraki Herald John - it reproduces Council press releases verbatim, asks no question and critically asses nothing.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDal Minogue

I went along to the afternoon session of the planning exercise on Saturday, somewhat cynical about the propects for success I must admit.
I was not disappointed. The expectation of the facilitators as to the amount of meaningful and useful work that could be achieved by the group of eager participants was staggering - all conducted in a surreal air of expectation.
I have little doubt that the intentions behind the exercise were noble; but were, I fear, misplaced.
For all the reputation of the presenters, I was surpised that they adopted the format they did, believing that the end result would be a useful contribution to shaping the future of Thames.
Yes the room was abuzz with the excited banter of enthusiastic participants wanting to reshape our little towns future, but the notion that you ought to do so against the backdrop suggestion that you are free of any constraint is likely to result in suggestions ranging from rediculous to sublime-and so it proved to be.
I guess what is sad for me, is that this sort of exercise has been run many times in the past, with the inevitable result that citizens expectations are raised, only to be dashed on the hard rocks of reality, or the quietly shelved or thrown out in a tidy up with the many other planning documents that have accumulated. And with this comes the cynicism, and so I return to my start point.
I seem to have gone around in a circle, in much the same way this non-sensical planning exercise will.
Sorry John but I think that Bill and I were in the same room, while you were combing your hair in the toilet or feasting on the opulent free lunch...... which by the way probably wasn't free, as someone confided to me that this total exercise will come in at $95,000? Someone tell me this is wrong ... please!

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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