Stop Press
Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:47PM
Bill Barclay

Two Year Rate Remisions for Developers - Thrown out on Diane Connors motion. This was extraordinary because it was doing in the absence of the Mayor, who promoted the concept from the outset, and who clearly regarded it as a major plank of his campaign. May have been a bit of 'payback' by Connors who deeply resented the way in which he handled her attempt to mount a 'strike' against fluoridation earlier in the day. McLean spoke vehemently in favour of the motion earlier but faded when he  realised that he did not have the numbers. Someone will need to be accountable to Leach who will not be best pleased - he was away getting radiation when it returned to the table late on Thursday.

District Waters - An amazing turnaround for those of us who had ridden this jalopy for several years. The Mayor changed horses, saying that District Capex could not be justified and it was time the whole thing was looked at again with opex going District, and capex area of benefit. The CEO said it was "unsustainable, and inequitable." That was Tuesday, and CFO Baker was sent away to compile a set of figures that illustrated the effect on the communities rates bills on unwinding the capex. By Wednesday, Baker had mounted a rear-guard action and had convinced sufficient of those present that it was just "too difficult" - exactly as he has done on several occasions in the past, and the idea was dropped - they reverted to District wide on all waters, fudged on Stormwater, as ever. Leach had returned from his treatment in the morning and was in no condition to mount any kind of counter attack. He just accepted it, and French led the move to restore order by saying that the matter had been long considered in workshops, and he would not support any change. Actually, Baker had a final piece in his armoury that he did not need to use - to have reverted would have contravened the Act as no attempt had been made to consult on it. But regardless, it was a revelation to observe Leach's epiphany.

10% UAGC on waters district-wide - completely stuffed at the last hurdle, just as happened on the last Council, and as I predicted. It was not mean't to happen - their courage deserted them, and they  showed themselves up as a craven bunch on several occasions, particularly whenever they detected votes slipping away. Oh well, I suppose you can't blame them, but it was a sickening spectacle.  This back-down cost $40 a year for every urban connected ratepayer.

Thames Sports Facility  - Hammond showed that he had had quite a few discussions with the various groups on this and led the way into  putting in $1m in 2013/14 for the Rugby Club who are apparently far advanced in getting their facility off the ground at Rhodes Park. They are aparently in cahoots with Zoom Zone who are apparently happy to wait for a couple of years for their $2m to come through - what they think they are going to build with this is anyone's guess. Hammond doesn't think much. They will need to raise community and sponsorship funding to get off the ground and there is not much sign of that to date. What was revealed was that the Council funding is intended to come from TUGPRA $1m, $1.7m from depreciation reserves and $.3m from retained earnings. This will completely clean out reserves and put the re-building of the Pool off the scale - just as I predicted from the time I went on Council. In addition, they reduced the Council provision for the Pool from $12m to $5m in 20/21 as a final added insult. Well, if the Pool people are not able to stand up and defend themselves, they deserve all they get - just a shame for the multitude of users, while Mary Hamilton/ Richardson et. al. get their way after their ten year bleat., without actually doing anything other than put the squeeze on the Council.

Matatoki/Thames Valley Water - The decision was made to remove the treatment facilities from the equation, and as predicted (sorry about that!) that brought the final estimate down from $11.1m to $3.1m - amazing after all these years that we were subjected to ridiculous $11 to  $13 m estimates. So, just as I suggested in my PP column, the scheme reverts to being a Trojan horse to get Thames rate-payers into the District wide Essential Services policy. French demonstrated total ignorance of the facts during the debate, and I suspect the whole thing went over the head of Connors and Hoadley, though Connors gave every indication of knowing that something of disadvantage to Thames had taken place - she was just not sure what it was. Thames is literaly seen purely as a cash cow by Eastern Seaboard as they cry 'poor', and use their numbers, and ignorance on the part of Thames councillors to get what they want.

Whitianga Town Upgrade - This $13.1m project went through without a single question being asked. Because of the Essential Services policy, all rate-payers in the District will now pay an extra $50 on their rate bills each year just to cover depreciation and interest. That is because the entire $13m will have to be borrowed and relates to the three waters, which we now all share. Now you may understand why I called the Matatoki scheme a Trojan horse. It is 'heads I win - tails you lose' all over again.

Whangamata Building - Not a biggie, but still $300,000 in 2015/16 to pay for extensions to the Whangamata building to accommodate up to ten new staff, and no doubt nice suites for Chair Johnston and District Manager Sam Marshall. This surely has the potential to grow into the greatest little Boondoggle since the Little House on the Prairie. Both Johnston and Marshall appear to be power freaks, and little Whangamata their stage. Will no one reign in this bloody 'empowerment model'  nonsense before it gets completely out of control? Wait for a similar requisition from Whitianga before the year is out. I think they are probably just waiting to get rid of their existing Manager, who incidentally failed to front at any stage. But Gordon Reynolds did front to back up Chair Alison Henry on the  town upgrade - wasted trip - no questions!

That's it - these and all the all the other matters will be dealt with in subsequent posts.




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