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Wednesday
Feb012012

Here We Are Again!

 

Just when you thought I had gone away forever, somnolence departs, and 2012 roars back into life with a 1 February Council meeting.

And what a meeting - it was the first time that I have actually heard a Councillor apologise for anything, let alone for something as important as the SNA's letters. (See District Plan Review (2) below.

The matter was raised during 'Members Reports' period when the Mayor moved the Suspension of Standing Orders' to allow for everyone to express their views on the matter. Huffing and puffing were the order of the day with all the backwoodsmen sounding off about the negation of "rights", and "takeover of private property by the Government". Cr. Wells went so far as to accuse staff, and EW staff in particular of "communism, socialism and fascism" - all at once! - not too bad an outburst of fury from the Bard of Whangamata - he spoke continuously for two minutes words that he said were "entirely his own"! But they were probably representative of the views of a great number of landowners from around the district who according to Jack are "all good people".

It took good old Alison Henry (Whitianga Chair) to bring some sanity back to the debate, while smoothing the grossly injured feelings of all who went before. We had earlier heard crocodile tears from Cr. Hoadley who had apparently agreed with all the other members of the District Planning Committee to let Chair Peter French approve the final letters - so they can all say they did not see it. She huffed and puffed along with all the others, but I still have no idea where she stands on the matter, other than that she wants it further discussed with the DPC "behind closed doors". (apparently because we in the media misinterpret what she says!)

Note that the DPC comprises Peter French (Chair), Allison Henry, Cr. Hoadley, David Taipari, Morrie Dunwoodie and Ian Munro (Auckland Planner). The Committee considered the draft letters, asked for changes, and left it to Peter French to sign off. It seems pretty clear that it was their responsibility, and they should be stepping up and supporting Peter who at this stage is taking all the heat. 

Peter's mea culpa was given in measured tones, heavy with regret and remorse - he just did not understand the ramifications, "and it is part of the learning curve". Poor Peter - talk about out of his depth, even while displaying consummate courage - he too has apparently suffered many semi-abusive phone calls. To his credit Mayor Leach stood four square beside him ("I am ultimately responsible"), while hanging him out to dry.

My reply to S Goudie (see below) that should appear in the HH on Friday goes some way to explain how this imbroglio came to pass, but in no way explains how the hell extremely competent bureaucrats, led by Leigh Robcke could have allowed those unbelievable documents to escape the office into the boxes of over 3,500 rate-payers. There was much binding in the marsh today about the dastardly denizens of EW who are apparently behind the whole shemozzle, but somehow that just does not stack up. I think it best if we all just accept Cr. French's apology and move on, but unfortunately I believe that there is much left to play in this debate - too much frenzy has been stirred up, and the entire Council will have to learn some harsh realities as a result.

What remains to be decided is just what happens to the letters - are they to be withdrawn, re-written, and re-submitted, or simply binned? Watch for the 'behind closed door' sessions later this month, and be ready to take up the cudgels if you are unhappy with the result.

Sir

In reply to Ms Goudie’s query (HH 27 January) as to whether I was made aware of the Significant Natural Areas proposals during my term on Council – emphatically, yes!

Ms Goudie should have been aware of the directive by the Environment Court several years ago (during her time!) rejecting the Council’s blanket ban on mining without specific designation in its District Plan of such areas of significance now referred to in the letters sent to 3,500 ratepayers. It would have been derelict in its duty to have done otherwise.  

It is my understanding that the current plans are designed to fill this gap, and provide Council with the necessary tools to preserve landscape and other values generally considered important in the context of our Peninsula.

My objection to the letters that have caused so much concern lies only in the convoluted and obscure language employed, and it is highly unlikely that letters framed in this manner would have been approved during the term of the previous Council.

It is inconceivable that these letters were despatched without the knowledge of the Mayor and Councillors as claimed by Ms Goudie. The District Plan Committee under Chair Peter French has certainly dealt with this matter during its current deliberations, and the silence on this issue from that quarter is deafening. This Council may be inexperienced, but is not naïve. The apparent refusal to refute Ms Goudie’s claim is damaging to staff, and moreover, dishonest.  

Perhaps before Ms Goudie plays politics with this issue through “woolshed” meetings, she should undertake more thorough research, and temper her “bull in a china-shop” approach.

 

Bill Barclay  

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