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Whitianga Waterways and MBSC - the saga continues!

The week's Peninsula Press contains two quite important stories on this saga - it won't go away for some considerable time, and one can detect an element of panic around the Castle as ways and means of deflecting blame are developed. The full resources of the augmented PR machine appear to have been brought to bear. 

Dal Minogue has been an interested observer of the shenanigans surrounding the WWSC issues, and had drawn together some context by releasing correspondence that he had with Steve Ruru from 2006 through to 2008. It would appear that Ruru did his level best obfuscate and indeed 'bury' some of the these documents in the interests of avoiding almost inevitable litigation with WW.  I believe Dal is correct in his belief that Ruru was not a party to the infamous Lux/Waterway's Deed, and may have even been unaware himself of its content. He gave every appearance of being  intimidated by Hoppers and their advisors - particularly their advisor - Evan Young.

If I recall correctly, it was Council's then legal advisor - Brookfields who indicated the necessity to retain confidentiality when their verbal opinion was provided to Council on 29 September 2010 - we were not allowed to see it because of 'legal privaledge'. Further, that the document was perfectly legal and enforceable even although it had not been seen or ratified by Council. Opinions will no doubt vary as to the efficacy of this advice.

The situation only became a major issue with the 2007-2010 Council when the content of the 'secret' deed became known at the end of their term, and only then because Hoppers wanted to get on with the sports-ground project - their staff and machinery were idle at the time, so it was necessary to put pressure on the Council to sign a deal to enable them to proceed. Willing Whitianga surrogates were manipulated to apply pressure on Council, but proceeding required the content of the deed to be revealed, which Ruru did with extreme reluctance - threats of legal action were thrown around with gay abandon in the event that any of the contents were revealed to the public - this apparently being a specific clause within the deed,

As Dal has repeated over and over, the devil is in the detail of the deed - this is where the whole thing begins, and was the result of an attempt by Hoppers to achieve entirely their own ends while giving the appearance of being public spirited benefactors. Never forget that the disposal of vast quantities of sand based fill in accordance with their resource consent was a major factor in pushing for their 8/10h block of land, ceded to the Council in exchange for Reserve Contribution concessions to be used for the sports complex, and they were smart enough to have provided for this in drawing up the deed. 

The net result is the outrageously impractical raised land which experienced sports ground operators are now saying will never survive as a sports field - the drainage is just too great, and the water required for the fancy turf too great for the meagre Whitianga water supplies. Oh dear, what a mess, and one that our friends on Council appear ready to blame on previous council(s). Please don't imagine that I have anything but admiration for Hopper's business acumen - they have played their hand to perfection, but one can legitimately question whether on this occasion they may have over-played it. Certainly it is perhaps unfortunate for them that this has all come out into the open as a result of the incompetence that has led to the gross over-spend on the facilities.

I intend to insert Dal's time-line right here so that you can see for yourself what he is on about, and why his relationship with McLean fell apart in a grand fashion:

  • Ruru was not party to the Lux / Whitianga Waterways Deed. In fact he was quite shocked by it. The Deed however had no compulsion and/or time-frame for building sports facilities. So Ruru's intent was to sit on it until Development Contributions had paid off, or mostly paid off, the value of the land as the Council were in effect in mortgage to Whitianga Watwerways for the balance owing while initially having only a small proportion of equity.
  • However, when Mclean was elected to the MBCB in 2004, when made Chairman he quickly became very dominant (the majority of the Boards membership simply proved out of their depth in the complexity of the issues), isolating the two Councillors (myself and Hewlett) who were explicitly told by him that they were only there to carry out the wishes  expressed by "his Board". 
  • By 2005 Mclean decided to make the development of the sports-complex the Boards first major priority and he asked Ruru to progress it, which he did by asking the Council to agree to delegate responsibility to develop a business case for it to the MBCB. Ruru then left the matter with Mclean, washing his hands of the thing insofar as he could.
  • McLean and McCormick then proceeded to develop a business case for the Waterways site by hiring and instructing Opus Architecture as consultants. At this point McLean already wanted 10 hectares of Waterways land not 8 and was demanding this from Ruru. 
  • Ruru then informed McLean of the Whitianga Waterways Deed signed by Lux as it allowed only 8 hectares, not 10.
  • Notice of this Deed quickly raised a whole raft of other issues, so a workshop meeting of the MBCB was set up at Thames where the deed was explained to the Board by Ruru. I was at that meeting as an appointed member of the Board.
  • Mclean was talking even then of the Moewai site as an alternative and asked Ruru for agreement to scope this site and ensure that a net present value (NPV) analysis was undertaken over a thirty year time frame for both options.
  • Soon after this, during the course of a Community Board meeting, Mclean got the Board aside privately and spoke about his desire to switch the site location that would be recommended by the Board to the Council in the business case to Moewai Rd. This, he explained would force Hoppers to the negotiating table to re-write the Lux /Whitianga Waterways Deed and fix up its defects. 
  • One of these defects was, he claimed, the possibility of a $14 million unbudgeted debt against the Council due to the wash-up clause that the Deed contained. This  was a completely wrong interpretation by him, something eventually confirmed in writing by Ruru in correspondence to me after Mclean began using it in later years to justify his decision to change the sports-complex location to Moewai Rd.  
  • It was McLeans $14 million nonsense claim; his desire to expand the project to 10 hectares to provide a centralised faciltiy that wrote off Lyon Park as a sports-ground  that was worth $2 million to use as boat trailer parking for a new $1.5 million boat-ramp he wanted built immediately south of the marina; his complete failure to recognise the legal obligation of the Deed; his nonsense belief that Whitianga Waterways Ltd would submit to his ill-conceived threat; and the overall impact of rising sports-complex costs on the viability of other Mercury Bay projects that caused me to reject Mcleans approach sometime in 2006.
  • Hence my correspondence with Ruru in 2008 that was unsuccessfully tabled before the Audit Committee in an attempt to address the issue before the coming 3 yearly review of the LTCCP. Hence also my notice of motion in 2010 that eventually did unwind Mcleans actions to the extent of site location.  
  • Opus Architecture, who drafted all the Sports-complex business cases for the MBCB, was, it must be noted, inexperienced in this type of thing. Their staff could be described as young, naive and completely out of their depth in the political environment created by McLean. In my opinion, they very soon lost their ability to professionally advise the MBCB and ended up writing business cases to give the result desired of them. Hence the lack of any costing by them on the original 8 hectare option and the lack of 'apples with apples' comparisons with the 8 and 10 hectare Waterways options as detailed in my notice of motion.

I will include some of Dal's following analysis as to who is to blame for this mess, along with the relevant correspondence in a later post.




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Reader Comments (4)

To add insult to injury the latest news to our sports group is that the turf on the fields has turned to custard & won't be ready this year. It looks though this lemon tree is really bearing fruit. It might be time to take up golf or bowls.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteroffside

And it doesnt end there. Now how do you get the Mercury Bay Rugby Club to vacate Lyon Park in a couple of years when their lease expires? How can you turn Lyon Park into a boat parking facility (or anything else for that matter) when it was gifted to Council all those years ago for a specific purpose, and has a deed of gift attached to the title? What now happens to the Moewai Road land which was originally purchased for the specific purpose of building a sportsfield, a sewerage plant (completed) and for airfield extension (watch carefully where this ends up!!)? Can Mr Sherriff now sue Council for not using this land for its intended purpose when he sold it cheap on the understanding it would be used for a sportsfield? Has the new sportsfield land been gazetted a reserve under the Reserves Act and classified appropriately? Who is going to pay to now put an appropriate turf on the new sportsfield? I would suggest the poor old ratepayer has a lot more expense to look forward to yet!

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSailing Away

Sailing Away raised an interesting point about the Sherriff land - if the TCDC do not use it they cannot sell it on the open market as I understand it - they must offer it back to the Sherriff family first. Also I am told some of the Moewai land has been used already for an extension to a runway - but the saving grace [maybe] is that the land is also tagged for waste water disposal -.
No matter which way you throw the cat up in the air this one may not land on its feet as it comes down -

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCorner post

Forget about 'throwing a blanket over Thames and choking it" - this albatross called MBSC will hang around Leach's neck forever and may eventually politically choke him [unless of course he plays the blame game yet again!]. OMG and all in his 'home' town of Whitianga - remember what goes round comes round

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCyclops

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