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Saturday
May192012

Nitty Gritty

I do not intend to comment on all the submissions and deliberations – only those that I consider important, and again, that is a highly subjective choice. Some of those that I considered most important, are already covered under Stop Press below, and I will simply note that under the heading.

Each item is dealt with in the order that it appeared on the Order Paper. I have abbreviations for brevity – complain through ’comments’ if you wish anything expanded.

Opening Comments (Baker)

– Rates are to be held at no more than 80% of total income.

– this is an increased percentage because of the recent attempt to use more realistic growth rates, as many have been asking for years to no avail. Maybe we will now achieve more realistic DC levels.

- Each ratepayer will be paying $220 interest on current projects – almost all of which are on the Eastern Seaboard – go figure! As Baker says, “the new efficiencies cannot deliver the quantum of savings sought”, and “equity is not only generational”. He must be kidding!

- His predicts a rates increase of 1.9% in 20013/14, achieved only by exceeding the newly established 150% of rate income borrowing limit in 14/15. Interesting to note that the CEO specifically commented that he “preferred 110%, but accepted 150% - he is clearly not comfortable with the new limit, and neither a lot of people who understand the propensity of councils to hit their limit as of right.  

- 2.4% average rate increase over the 10 years, but crunch time in 3-4 years.

- Projects must be delayed, or rates put up – no further borrowing capacity.

- All this of a -.5% base in the current year (achieved through postponing over $10m in capex – stormwater and IT, raising the borrowing limit by $20m).

At this point Leach told the meeting (with meaningful looks at the media table) “I don't want to see any bullshit in the papers”. We hear you Mr Mayor, but I could suggest that you do your job, while we do ours – it will be a sad day if we get to the stage that Mr Leach determines what appears in the media.   

6.         Moanataiari - A further $86g was allocated in addition tio the $250g already allocated. This is simply for the first four investigation stages, and partial remediation at the school. The biggie will come later in Stage 5 with total remediation. Big question – will the DOE Fund stretch to assisting – by no means assured, despite the confidence of Mr Ben Day who appears to to running this show.

7.         Blueprint – Retained, but with the LAB’s removed and sent back to the CBs for further work. Probably the best that could have been expected. All the anti-planning prejudices were out on the table on this one.

9 & 68  Freedom Camping – $20g allocated in order to achieve harmony with the MCA – courtesy of Mr Ben Day, who has conducted negotiations that appear to have produced results contrary to the by-law passed earlier this year. This will give the MCA a privileged position on the Peninsula with TCDC sites leased to them to establish effluent dump sites and other infrastructure in a ‘joint venture’ arrangement. Mr Day seems again to be saying “Trust me – I know what is best”, and the vote counters around the table appear content to let this happen.

14.       New Chums Beach – Those concerned after the last item will be pleased that the attempt to extract $30g for the purpose of compiling a management plan was knocked back. This bottomless pit of emotional involvement in what is a straight out business proposition will hopefully wither before Mr Darby gets his hands on any of our money.  

19.       Rate ceiling - The maximum of CPI plus 2% was changed to CPI plus cumulative rate growth. This is designed to forestall the Government's intention to establish the former - a rate that would severely restrict this Council with over 53% absentee rate-payers, in the view of Mr Baker.

21.       District Essential Services – This is the doozie that has been introduced to spread the cost of capital works - almost all on the Eastern Seaboard across the whole district (except when it doesn’t suit, as in the case of stormwater!) This fudged, and faulty policy, with huge implications for Thames, was passed with hardly a negative voice, for which you can thank Cr Peter French, who appeared to have bought it ‘hook line and sinker’.  Cr Connors and Hoadley just appeared ‘confused’.

26.       Fuel Supply Cost  – 66%  increase over 10 years was adopted - lip service paid to strong evidence presented by Dennis Tegg to the contrary.  

27.       Growth Forecasting – Leach appears to had concerns about Berl’s performance as the Council consultants in this area. Recognition at least given to past over-estimates, and promise made to do better in the future. Hammond not so enamoured with Berl, and it is time that Mr Gupta was given the heave-ho.

39.       Aquaculture – Capital budget reduced from $6m to $2.9m to reflect the Sugar Loaf ‘preferred’ site, but is of course by no means a ‘done deal’. Industry is looking for a Council the ‘underwriting’ option at the next decision stage (after business case presented). $850g allocated this year for the Resource Consent – the industry want this extended to 5 years from 3. It appeared that $5m is back in the budget for year 3 / 4, but Mr Day (who carries this one too!) was unsure of the figures at this stage. It is the problem year for the budget and would push over the borrowing limit, so needs revision.  

42        Commercial B & B Operators – This is really touchy – the moteliers have been pushing for years for a fairer regime with B & B having to meet the same conditions, and pay the same pan charge. Final decision was to line up everyone connected from 2013/14 for the charge. Those unconnected will have to meet the same fire and other conditions. This will be too onerous for many of the 500 or so in the industry, and will cause a major outcry once it becomes know. It will also constitute a major logistical exercise locating them all. Better get the signs down from the front gate , and get off the ‘Book-a-Batch’ site if you wish to avoid this one.

60.       Tourism (Destination) Coromandel  - It appears that investigations following advent of the new regime have revealed a $160g shortfall in finances – this has been kept well hidden from sight, and apparentlly mostly results from the disasterous Whangamata kids festival foer which TC must have gone guarantor. Talk about ‘re-building, ‘shoring-up’ etc. was heard during this item. Considerable embarrassment all round on this one. It is interesting to note that there was a substnatial 'sundry debtors' showing in gthe annual accounts last year that related to some dpt that Jim Archibald claimed was owed by HDC, and that I commented on in an earlier post.  Now Mr Osborne is seeking to “cut operations’ to meet the demands of HDC and TCDC funders. All very interesting in view of the recent move to get change the need for it to report its results 3 mongthly – a little premature it seems! Note that 'event' funding has been withdrawn, and they are expectd to repay the TCDC share of the "re-financing' of $75m over three years.

61        Economic Development Agency -  All tied up in a confusing manner with substantially increased funding for ‘I’ Sites. Mr Ben Day controls this one. I will leave comment until the full report on this comes to Council on 23 May, but it appears the Cr Connors has had a big win on this one, and is asking for even more. FYI she has an exemption from the AG in case you thought that she may have a conflict of interest (perish the thought!).

62.       Event Funding -  Now this is something that Mr Day is handling! It involves the return of event responsibility to the Council from Destination Coromandel – and not before time with all the emphasis on the Scallop Festival in the past. There is an obscure new strategy that seems to have been worked on by Mr Day with certain individuals. –“Trust me – I know what I am doing”. This will need close watching as certain groups appear likely to miss out while others get a boost. It is another boondoggle in the making I suspect.   

67.       Kopu to Kaiaua Cycleway - $300g over two years to the Trust together with Govt. funding. Mr Day is handling this one! He reported that he had decided along with the Trust that the terminus for Thames should be Rhodes park – not the Fisherman’s Wharf as stipulated in the MOU with Hauraki and Matamata Piako. It seems that he now has the authority to override legal agreements entered into by the Council. This Council needs to get on top of this boy before he gets on top of them!  He blamed a “local rag” for purveying incorrect information, but admitted that there had been an “information void”. I hate to be a smart-ass regarding this, but you may recall that I said that Kaueranga Bridge would be the ‘stopper’ to access to Thames for the cycleway when I was on Council, but Mr Ruru rubbished the idea – “no problem” he said!

70.       ED Performance Measures – These are the measures by which Mr Day’s performance is to be measured. He does not like the increase in District GDP – prefers a business satisfaction survey, with a 33% base + 5% a year increase, and an increase in tourism revenue rather than numbers.  What a koke - even the CEO was surprized at this blatant piece of self-interest, and suggested that 75% would be more appropriate – Mr Day was sent away to sort out a better suggestion, (possibly with Mr Hammond's help!).

71.       Rate Remissions for Developers  - see Stop Press below.

73.       ED Rate Remissions – Withdrawn on recommendation of CEO to develop a better targeted policy. Someone will need to answer to Leach for this and 71 – a fairly blatant piece of ‘pay-off’’ (on the face of it at least!) He strongly denies it of course - as you would.

80.       Kopu Bridge -  No decision on this, and no money allocated other the 12 ½ % of the upkeep cost while TNZ makes up its mind.

91.       District Leadership – This is the one where they asked for another $10g a year for training the elected reps. In particular to cover the cost of sending Keith Johnston (ex Deloittes partner) to a Institute oif Directors training course to learn all about auditing - Boondoggle!

28.       One District Water – See Stop Press below (District Waters)

30.       District 10% UAGC on Water and Wastewater – See Stop Press below

105.     Coromandel Heritage Trust – This was an attempt to recover $80g that the Trust believes was wrongly retained by the previous Council.  It was in fact subject of drawn-out negotiation at the time, and the $80g was the residual amount that the CHT never accepted - they wanted it back. Council correctly rejected this latest attempt at re-litigation even though Morrie Dunwoodie probably felt he was owed greater consideration having served as Leach’s chairman during the election. No deal either on an attempt to secure $70g for a janitor for the Treasury. It is remarkable that these people who have done such so well to date still imagine that the Council owes them a life (or a janitor). They need to get real.

118.     Dog Fees -  Well we all know just how emotional this can become. The intention increase fees from $60 to $95 was thrown out in the face of submitter reaction, and at a cost of $6 per ratepayer. And by the way, dog control is being brought back in house, and the Judicial Committee is to examine another boondoggle – a 60 % differential for farmers working dogs  - all down to Jack Wells. 

174.     Thames ‘I’ Site – In addition to a vastly increased budget (for decision on 24th May), $10g was allocated to assist with the removal to a new site in the centre of town. There seems to be confusion as to whether this is to be on the Placemaker site or not – Bruce Oliver seems to think it is, but chair John Isdale seems to think otherwise.

175.     Placemakers – Bruce Oliver asked for $100g to use a ‘holding fee’ for the site while arrangements were made for the Council to purchase the freehold and lease it back to various organisations (see above!). All a bit of a dream really, and without any real support from the Community Board, it did nor appear likely to fly anywhere except out the window. This site is fraught, and I can’t see any way out for the present owners other than to sell it for the best price to whoever may be able to use it. It is highly unlikely that this or any future council will stump up.  

176,     Thames Strategic Plan - $90g for the Thames Focus Group to get their act together. It seems that they have had ”discussions” to clear the deck with the District Plan Review Committee, so good luck to them. This will cost Thames rate-payers $18 each, and “no Charettes” (Hoadley, partly in jest!). There was not a lot of unity shown by Thames members on this, but Strat has a great deal invested in it. Other Thames projects include $55g to bring the Cycleway into town (unlikely, unless someone can come up with funding for a bridge ‘clip-on’), $20g for first stage of the Bowling Club carpark, and $75g for the CB’s share of the Skate park. Altogether, about $50 on each rate bill. .

183.     Thames Airfield – Request to add a sewer connection, though there is little appetite in the town for additional commitment for what many consider a ‘private’ undertaking. Leach is strongly in favour on the grounds that he has a mandate for economic development. Staff to investigate costs. Goudie came in hot and strong on this one. My view is that if commercial operators see a future there, they should be prepared to make the necessary infrastructure investment. The sewer is the opening shot – corrections to the runway to overcome flooding wil be next. Make no mistake, we could all end up carrying a substantial bill – these are skilled operatives, and geting Goudie to do ytheir dirty work is just the start. !

185.     Wintec Building – Decision made to put it on the market – “as is – where is”, with a bill of $600g in the wings for repairs. But in their ignorance the Thames councillors failed to ask that the proceeds return to the TUGPRA fund from whence they came. They would probably give them away to Zoom Zone if that was the case, so what the hell!

188      Thames Library – About $507g required to repair – again leaks etc. – what is it about leaks in this town? I guess we are all getting older. Peter Wood suggested that the Wintec proceeds should go straight into this project and save the ratepayer, while keeping Zoom Zone’s sticky fingers off it.

189.     Thames Sports Facility – see Stop Press below.

190.     Skate Park – This is Diane Connors contribution, and not a bad idea – it will get a few kids off the streets, and keep them under the eye of the Police Station opposite – can’t think of a better position actually. The totalk is $150g, with the Board’s contribution $75 dollar for dollar with the promoters. It all seems kosher, but time will tell. 

191.     Swimming Pool – With a wave of the wand the $12m in the draft for 20/21 was reduced to $5m. This $7m is very important in creating the impression that rates have been kept down to the 2.5% average, but everyone knows that the replacement will cost more than $12m – just look at the current debacle in Cambridge where they have had to take it off the TYP because of inability to raise the necessary local contribution. The Swimming Club people are less than vocal – they are totally without voice it seems as Zoom Zone got in and confused the whole issue by claiming that they were going to build an aquatic centre to go with their dry court – all totally ficticious of course, but it has muddied the waters sufficiently to the point where the date for the structural demise of the current pool will come and go, with nothing to replace it.

192.     Fluoridation – Be aware that the ‘nutters’ have persuaded Diane Connors and Wyn Hoadley of the ‘rightness’ of their cause to get fluoride out of Thames water. Cr Connors attempted a preemptive strike at the meeting to have it removed by 1 July, without any further consultation with the community, and they were supported by Jack Wells and Tony Brljevitch when it came to the vote despite Leach’s valiant attempt to get it back to the CB for determination after appropriate consultation. The motion was only lost 5 : 4, which is very close indeed. Give French his credit – he strongly advocated for further consultation, and pointed out that the arguments were evenly balanced in his view. It will no doubt be back on the next CB agenda, and unless there is a counter move by those in favour of keeping it, it will probably be removed without further ado, or delayed for consultation through the Annual Plan early next year. I have given up on it in the face of this determined pseudo-science onslaught – those who want to keep it should organise themselves without delay – the end is nigh!

196.     Parawai Stormwater – Now this is a real doozie for Thames. There are eight houses and a couple of other facilities including the gym that are vulnerable in a major flood as a result of delays in completing the excellent defences that already exist at the bottom end of the river. It will cost $1.14m and is in for 15/17 (just pray we don’t get the ‘big one’ in the meantime). But listen to this – because storm-water has been temporarily left out of the Essential; Services Policy in the meantime, we in Thames will up for the complete bill – don’t tell that theywere not aware of this anomaly when this policy was drafted – I know they were aware – it was left out because of the effect on rates elsewhere of having to share Thames’s high storm-water bill.  This project will add $35 to Thames rates “forever” (Baker). This more than anything else demonstartes the inequity of the new policy, and our councillors have allowed it to run right over their heads.

200.     Matatoki & Thames Valley Water -  And this confirms what I have just said – for years Eastern councillors have claimed that the Thames Wastewater renewal, and M & TV water would “balance the books” on the District wide argument –

(I had this argument repeatedly with Barriball who had a rather simplistic view of economics, and it ended with the five councillors ‘walking’ – the reasons were never properly explained, but were to do with Barriball (and Ruru) joining a Waste-water review with the Tradewaste proposal specifically to have Adrian Catran in a conflict of interest situation, and eliminate him form the final vote).  

Well here is the truth of it – the Thames waste-water plant was last year given a 40 year life by Beca Consultants, and suddenly yesterday the estimate for the M & TV water was reduced from $11.1m to $3.1m, just as we predicted it would. Retired Engineer Peter Feran said this forcefully during the hearings – he calls a spade a spade, and dismissed the $11.1m figure as “fanciful”.  So here we again in Thames – totally held out to dry, and without a leg to stand on with these dummies that represent us. French thinks that “it is a fair solution”.

We were screwed on waste-water, and now we are about to be screwed yet again. I know that you are supposed to just lie back and enjoy it , but I don’t, and forget all the other issues – this is the big one, and it must get sorted. The Mayor knows it (at last), and we know it. Someone just needs to articulate it in one syllable words that these people can understand.  Clearly my efforts over five years have failed to get through where it counts. I became tired of being referred as a one issue councillor – one term yes, but one issue – no!

48.       Whitianga Town Upgrade – If you still remain unconvinced, just contemplate this situation for a moment – because this is a new project, the entire $13.1m cost has become a ‘District’ responsibility – the cost is almost all related to ‘waters’, and therefore falls under the new Essential Services Policy. This will cost every ratepayer in the District $50 (interest and depreciation) a year until it is paid off. When this was item was raised on Thursday, there was not one question raised as to the fairness of this situation, let alone any other concerns regarding the appropriateness of the project. It just went through without a whimper. What Thames people don’t realise is that the direction of this Council is determined by extremely clever people who have retired to the East Coast environment – they are far removed from the realities of living in Thames, and have no regard for the situation that we have been placed in through these policies. If we allow it to happen, it will happen. I can sound off about it endlessly, but that is all it is – sound.

268.     Water Meters -   Yes, here we go again – Board Chair Johnston said that regardless of the policy to eventually meter the entire District – Whangamata would not accept this, and presumably the same applies to Tairua, and the vast majority of Whitianga that remains unmetered. Only Pauanui, Coromandel and Thames are wholly metered, and we pay accordingly. We will pay $262.85 in 2013/14 plus metered water charges which average about $200. Unmetered Whitianga, Whangamata and Tairua will pay $433.36 - $30 less overall, but they consume on avaerage 33% more water - this is the long accepted effect of metering. So, the uniformity that was the basis of the new Essential Services Policy only applies where it is of advantage to those who promoted it. It was agreed to put in some experimental ‘smart’ meters in the meantime in Tairua for ‘research’ purposes.

273.     Tsunami – So far the Eastern Communities have paid for their own systems, but now they want the District to pay not only for installation, but maintenance. Evceryone around the table seemed to think this was fair and equitable, though no one has suggested a similar system for Thames to date. I don’t even know whether we need it, but surely the logic of user pays should apply to this of all things. It is likely to end up costing an arm and a leg – only $5g maintenance per system was mentioned on Thursday. They have to be built to marine specs of course, and that is expensive - just how expensive we don't know.

274.     Whangamata Council Building – Finally, $300g set aside for extensions to the Whangamata building to accommodate the ten new staff they anticipate to carry out the new “empowerment” functions. See Stop Press below. I have run out of steam, and am speechless on this one.

That's it - all this goes for confirmation final adoption on 27 June. If you feel strongly enough about anything, you need to be in Public Forum at 9am on 23 May to have any last minute changes made. Otherwise, it will return for final adoption on 27 June. Hopefully, the finasl 'wash-up' effect on rates etc. will be reported back at that meeting.

Have a happy evening!

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

Good on Diane Conners for putting up the motion to throw out the two year rates remission for developers. The proposed policy was unethical and immoral insofar as it would have allowed developers to 'sit on' their developments and wait for the right time to maximise profits at ratepayers expense - as they would have had to fund subsequent rating shortfalls.

Also with regard to making One-District accounts apply to reticulated water and storm-water as well as waste-water - the decision making process on this can only be regarded as a joke. it would seem that the Councillors and mayor are being led around by the nose by Steve Baker who is an expert at obscuration when he does want to do something. I guess naivety would be one explanation - but the word 'non-functional' (as opposed to 'dys-functional') is becoming the operative label for our new Council !!

The most worrying thing about the spread of One-District funding is that no-one can accurately say what the real rating impacts will be on the different Community Board wards or different schemes until projects are physically undertaken (aka waste-water). As big variations become apparent, Councillors will seek to provide these services in ways that create a semblance of financial neutrality between the wards and individual schemes, rather than on the basis of actual need. That situation would be far from satisfactory and be non-compliant with the local Government Act stipulations for rating.

What a circus.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDal Minogue

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