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Sunday
Dec082013

TUGPRA A/c - 'Pork-Barrel' Politics

 

The Community Board will consider a paper on Monday that appears in conflict with the Draft Annual Plan, and indicates the determination of the Zoom Zone Dry Court / Grandstand supporters to get their hands on as much of that fund as they possibly can. Note also that the $4m project has gone from a 50/50 supported project to a 66/33 project with Council providing the two thirds share - presumably mostly from the TUGPRA Account that the Zoom Zone Dry Court / Grandstand supporters have coveted from day one.

Just to recap, here is a summary (from the Paper) of what the fund is all about:

"The TUGPRA is a source of funding available to the Thames Community Board only. It was
created prior to 1989 from the funds from the sale of the Abattoir, Electricity Company and
Milk Treatment Plant".

The summary is totally defective inasmuch as it fails to acknowledge that the major income of the fund is accrued from ground rents on endowment farm land in the Te Aroha area that was revalued for rental purposes (every 21 years!) only about three years ago, and the consequent income is now a substantial $235,000 annually. This is how the account now exceeds $2m. The farm land was an endowment from central government in the late 1800s. to asist with the funding of councils - most exist to this day, and the land cannot be sold without an Act of Parliament - extremely difficult to obtain.

Here is the reconciliation of the TUGPRA Account to 30 June 2013.

The criteria for distribution from the fund was altered in 2009, and confirmed as set out in the Paper in 2011.

In drafting the 2014/15 TCB Annual Plan the following projects were earmarked as meeting the criteria as priorities for the distribution of funds:

1. Community Sports Facility Project (Rhodes Grandstand and Zoom Zone Dry Court Facility)

2. Thames Skate Park Project

Note that despite lip service being paid in the Draft Annual Plan for the need for funds to be preserved and available for the Aquatic Park (swimming pool) renewal from 2020, it does not get a mention as a priority. My fear has always been that by the time the renewal of the pool becomes an urgent necessity - probably well before 2020 to keep faith with Ngati Maru commitments, and engineering requirements, that the TUGPRA would have been well and truly dissipated. And this by the clamouring groups who are so keen to have the Council fund  their facilities, but who have failed miserably to mount any credible fund-raising since first coming on the scene, or recognising their needs for over a decade.

The Board is being asked on Monday to confirm the two priorities, and agree to workshop the policy and criteria for the use of the funds in January. This new Board will almost certainly make commitments that will close off other uses of the now $2m fund in their efforts to meet the loud and urgent demands of the Dry Court and Grandstand proponents. This is now even more likely as the result of the financial crisis that will prevent any Council funding of these projects being made available. But it allows certain members of the Board to furfil their election promises so willingly made to the Zoom Zone Dry Court / Grandstand people in the past. I include Chair Strat in this group, though he is probably the only one that fully understands that the commitment to the Aquatic Centre is one that simply cannot be ignored.

I would hope that the new members have sufficient balls to demand a halt, and more consideration of the long term effect on the Aquatic Centre of rushing in to meet the demands of the Zoom Zone Dry Court / Grandstand crowd. But this is unlikely, even allowing for the apparent anomaly as between this Paper and the Annual Plan proposals.  

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Bill, you touch on a very pertinent subject, and that is community groups that seek funding from rate-payers without any significant effort at fund-raising; especially at a time when our Council is short of funds. I have no idea who the individuals are that are proposing the dry-court facility, and that ought to be a concern, as it is reasonable to suppose that the fund-raising efforts too date by this group of people, for such a 'high profile' facility, would have made them house-hold names. But their proposal, moves stealthily about below the radar, while they nurture political support. It seems to me that the town is reasonably well endowed with sports facilities, so that with liaison and co-ordination between groups, they ought to service such need as exists, pretty well. Are we due to have our own version of the Whitianga debacle? It seems to me that it is high time that such decisions as these were validated by some form of rate-payer feedback (survey, referendum, whatever) rather than through the political machinations of the election promise mechanism. Rate-payer money is increasingly difficult to find, and, with an impending (large) increase due to hit rate-payers fairly soon (to extricate our elected officials from their profligate spending habits) now is not a great time to indulge a small section of the community at the expense of the long-suffering majority.

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"The summary is totally defective inasmuch as it fails to acknowledge that the major income of the fund is accrued from ground rents on endowment farm land..."......see what happens when you pay all the institutional knowledge to walk out the door!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterInsider

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