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Thursday
Oct032013

Final Council Meeting

The final meeting went with a great deal of bonhomie, back-slapping and general trumpeting of the wonderful achievements since coming into office. With an audience of one and a half (Robert Jaffares and myself!), it hardly seems worth the effort, but having observed this performance on so many occasions, I have come to the conclusion that the participants have a great need for self-promotion, and appear to suffer from a distinct lack of confidence. That this performance is so often repeated for such a small audience is almost pathetic.

Cr Bartley capped it all off with an eye-bulging renunciation of his role in the previous Council, and a demand during what one can only hope was his valedictory that the PR people ensure that the successes revealed in the Annual Report are widely disseminated – presumably before the end of next week. The PR people would of course be running substantial risk were they to do so given the provisions of the Act relating to information provided before an election. Never mind – Jan can live in hope. All this followed the usual litany of lies from the top table blaming every failing of the current Council on what had gone on before the last election.

And the joke is that they have no need to go through this exercise – if it aimed at me it is like water off a ducks back.  The one truth that did emerge was the fact that there are still a great number of ‘knock-ons’ from the Whitianga sports-complex debacle that will not become clear until well after the election. I trust that no staff have been prevailed on to keep embarrassing matters secret – there are quite enough ‘Chinese Walls’ surrounding the place at this time.  

And equally, it is clear that this Council has achieved a great deal – it has been united almost to a fault – debate is entirely absent from the Chamber, and it appears that every milestone that they set themselves has been achieved. Certainly, the staff changes at the top have been remarkably close to what Glenn promised during the campaign – the place is barely recognisable, but of course there is a cost with the loss of institutional memory that leaves new staff exposed to having to re-invent the wheel, and appear naïve on some matters.

The major achievement relates to the devolution of powers to the boards, which for better or worse will have a substantial financial cost. In fact staffing appears to be undergone an almost complete upheaval – the complete absence of information in the Annual Report concerning staffing numbers and salary bands is interesting – something that other councils appear to have been provided without the need to be prompted through OFA – all matters that will need to be followed up in due course  

Coromandel Harbour Facilities

The meeting was preceeded by a presentation by Cranleigh Consultants (the same outfit who did the Thames Development Strategy), and who won the tender for the Coromandel Harbour Facilities first stage – “Situation and Needs Analysis”. I would have to say that it is a ‘once over lightly’ document considering its cost of some $45,000 out of the total $240,500 that has been approved for the entire task. It appears to be nothing more than a desk-top exercise outining the information about alternative sites for harbour facilities than is already known.

Nevertheless, approval was given to allocate the balance of the funding to enable the second stage of a focused feasibility study to proceed with Cranleigh at the helm – to be completed by February 2014 for inclusion in the 2014/15 Annual Plan.

Everyone seems very satisfied that this project is a ‘goer’ one way or another, and the development of the Furey’s Creek Jetty where Council owns a large area on land appears to be the favoured site at this point – large dredging and reclamation requirements are implicit in this, and there will some major hurdles to overcome in that regard.  Implicit in this proposal is the moving of all recreational use from Sugar Loaf – leaving that site for commercial development in line with needs to meet expanded mussel production, and possible use as a fish-farming terminal, though little mention is made of this anywhere in the document that went to Council. This is interesting because this development was previously right at the top of the Mayor’s economic development grand plan.

Local Government Re-organisation

Sam Napia has control of the feasibility study being undertaken by Morrison Law. It appears that the all-important financials are still not available for dissemination – they will be available along with the remainder of the research for the first meeting of the new Council on 30 October.

Sam was able to demonstrate that the figures relative to TCDC were not ‘out of kilter’ with those where other councils had been permitted to evolve into Area Authorities – in fact, we are quite close to Wairarapa, Marlborough and Gisborne on everything excepting population, and that figure is distorted because we are only able to count those who live here – 27,000.

More importantly, Sam demolished the business case prepared for the Mayoral Forum by WRC for One Waikato Authority. The potential 10-year cost savings of $48.4m, and supposed “unlocking” of central Government investment were shown fairly convincingly to be based on totally fallacious assumptions.

The Morrison Law Report will make interesting reading when it finally becomes available.   

Annual Report

The most important change that was revealed was the new determination to reduce the annual ‘carry-over’ resulting from uncompleted capital works projects – this was clearly something that irked David Hammond since his arrival. It appears that the project management software, along with regular progess reviews through a newly established project team will accomplish this change.  

Carry-over into the current year has been reduced dramatically through these new procedures $750,000 as against several million previously. Capital expenditure for the current year has reduced to$22.7m from $29.7m reflecting this more rigorous approach. This has been classed as $16.5m ‘firm’, $4.9m ‘doubtful’, and $1.3 ‘high-risk’.

Hauraki Rail Trail

Glenn Leach’s good mate Warren Mayle was appointed to the vacant seat on the Trail Trust replacing Chris Adams. Warren appears to have all the necessary qualifications, but when Diane Connors asked if their was any other nomination, she was told in no uncertain manner that there was not – Glenn L. was having none of that!

It appears that there will little change out of a million for TCDC in regard to the Kopu to Kaiaua section – this was always a totally HDC responsibility in the original hurried Agreement, but is clear that this is unsustainable  - we will have to pay our share even if only to Waitakaruru in order to benefit from the increased patronage.  

The 1877 Ngati Maru Road Agreement

The incredible Agreement that rate-exempted all Maori land adjacent to the Paeroa Road that was negotiated with Chief Taipari in 1877 is likely to be a hindrance to the finalising of the Treaty negotiations unless the Government can be persuaded to accept its share of the liability arising from its final acceptance by TCDC – something that has been sitting on the side of the stage for far too long. The Agreement is unique in many ways, and a litigants wet-dream. There is no way round it - that is clear.

Draft District Plan

The completion and adoption of the three volume document for consultation is a triumph for both staff (Leigh Robcke in particular) and members of the Committee – it will be controversial in a number of areas, but on first examination appears to be a vast improvement on the previous Plan, and should be well accepted in most sections of the community.

It is ironic that it appears that the one issue that is likely to cause the most controversy is the reduction from 12 to 6 of the number of paying guests that can be accommodated in a private home – it was sixreviously, but raised to twelve during the development of the Plan. There will be plenty of submissions on this relatively unimportant issue.

 

 

 

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