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Council 15 May 

Deliberations over - on with normal busines. Here are the highlights:

District Plan - Well on course, but finalising will be delayed until the new Council. One major conflict on the horizon concerns what is referred to as Low Density Unserviced sub-divisions - you know the score - coastal farms in particular being broken up into 2 to 10h building blocks, often because the farms are no longer economic, but providing a huge strain on council resources down-steam through demands for infrastructure and services. We have resisted this form of development in the past because of the inevitable demand on the three waters. Strenuous efforts have been made to restrict development to town margins where adequate DCs can be extracted to cover the AC component.

The problem is that pressure is building up in remoter areas to allow development to take place, and even though the District Plan review Committee has proposed relaxing some of the restrictions, it does not go far enough to satisfy the Mayor, who clearly is of a mind to allow far greater LDU development, particularly where it is not adding immediate pressure to the infrastructure. The problem is that inevitably that pressure emerges as people move toward permanent occupation, or septic systems become overloaded, and piped water becomes important. Then, stormwater becomes an issue and so it goes.

The end result could well be an element of conflict with the DPRC over the content of its final report which mentions only Coromandel and Hahei as suitable for the LDU sections referred to above.  I see Leach really getting stuck to a position on this, perhaps with Peter French (Chair - DPRC) digging in - Hoadley is as useless as a two bob watch (absent again today), and Brljevich appears uncertain of anything other than his opposition to 1080 (and fluoride!), and of course getting himself on to the Hearings Panel which he openly lobbied for today. But only if he is paid at least the $60 and hour that he gets on the Judiciary Committee.

It was decided to have two commissioners (one iwi or iwi approved) and two councillors (but only if they can be remunerated - difficult under the new Determination that they need to work within) on the Review Panel. This will probably take four months work full-time, give and take.

Development Contributions -  Leach is putting together an ad hoc sub-committee to look into changes to the DC's with a view to reducing the current burden on developers, primarily I suspect by removing or reducing the interest/depreciation component of the AC charge. this could have a major effect on development, but someone has to pay the bill, and if not the developer then it becomes a straight out subsidy by existing ratepayers. He seems to think that this is a reasonable price to pay to achieve the growth rates that appears to be the Holy Grail - the Leach/Hammond/Day triumvirate appears committed to this, and those around the table willing participants. Development at all costs, even though there is s substantial proportion of ratepayers who I suspect would find these changes to the DCs too high a price. It also ticks the boxes with the Governments LG reforms which are aimed primarily at removing development blockages, even if it falls to existing ratepayers to carry the can. 

It is interesting to note a sentence in the paper that came to Council on DC policy that pointed out  that "reducing DCs to improve housing affordability is not an appropriate mechanism, nor is it clear that it is an effective one." I suspect that the Mayor takes a different view, but he needs to remember another quote in the Report that states that "any shift of costs from developers to ratepayers must be transparent."

That said, the issue needs to be debated, and Council's position made perfectly clear. The reasons for any changes must stand up to scrutiny, and must be logical, rational and most of all equitable.

Thames Airport - After years of stand-off with the airport users who are heavily subsidized by Thames ratepayers, Leach has obviously been converted to their point of view that the Council should be providing sewerage services to all the facilities. He claims that a connection to facilities at the old footy clubrooms and a riser pump should be adequate to get into the main. Area Manager Greg Hampton indicated that a business plan is in preparation - that is news - it was not mentioned at the last Board meeting. Strat was however still pushing for his mate Geoff Furkett to be brought into the equation, even though he has previously rejected any scheme where he would have to put up any money. All very mysterious, but clearly there is movement at the station - some of the users are movers and shakers in small town Thames, so I guess there lies the rub!

Here is an interesting stick in the ground - Brljevich opted out of the vote on Skywork's expansion application on the grounds that he could not support a 1080 applicator. A principled stand of course, but not terribly conducive to the conduct of Council affairs.

CE's Report - Major points included:

Aquaculture Prospectus for the Fish Farming tender has been sent to the WRC for inclusion in their 'tender pack' for a July launch.

Sugarloaf - clearly the price indications on the original design were far higher than had been expected, and that was totally predictable. The new design is being developed involving a new reclamation to the West of the existing facility (presumably Jack's Point) for a boat ramp and parking facility separated  from the commercial interests at Sugarloaf.  Full costings will then go to the interested parties. Leach is still determined that the industry will pay for the Sugarloaf development, but I suspect that it will be over a very long period. As for Jack's Point - I can see that coming on to ratepayers. The full business plan is to come back at the end of June, and Day claims that it will be within existing budgets - the business case presumably. He gets a little cute and hard to tie down when questions of this nature are asked. In fact, my impression is that he finds having to work with elected members a bore mostly.

At last the 1877 Road Rates Agreement has come to the for in the Treaty Settlements, and the considerable risk in which this places Council has suddenly come to the fore. Leach claims that this matter should have been settled 20 years ago, but I would be interested to know just how he imagines that could have happened in the face of intransigence on both sides. Leach simply rejects the notion that previous councils operated in good faith and integrity Now with the Settlement it has to be sorted, and that will not be comfortable. Waikawau Boat Ramp is also on the agenda, and that also has 'potential', but at least the Treaty Settlement Office has experienced people to deal with it.

The Mercury Bay Sports Complex debacle wends its merry way towards conclusion some time next year, and the latest budget of $8.07m will be fully expended with the chance for overruns on that "very real". What a disaster - three fields remain ungrassed and the the cost of rehabilitation heading for court - wait till those  come to account! Lathams have withdrawn their fixed price construction contact, so it all on again at Whitianga. Area Manager Sam Marshall had a Public Excluded item on this subject on the agenda this afternoon, and I suspect that it was in order to deliver a whole bunch of bad news on the grassing situation.  It just goes on, and on and Fox was yesterday trying again to blame the lack of a business case at the cause of all the problems. He is a proper little ex army officer when it comes to shifting blame.

The CE wants to set up an Economic Development Standing Committee to exercise governance over some of the many projects that are now under way, and on which the staff are clearly feeling unprotected - not surprising considering the range of activities and potential risks involved.

Major changes to move further currently outsourced activities in-house are underway, and a report will be goinf to the Service Delivery Committee shortly. One major change that is being driven by Day is a change from blue bags to wheely bins, but they don't wish to make any announcement about this until afetr the election because of the anticipated initial community reaction. This is being done as part and parcel of the Solid Waste project with Hauraki and Matamata Piako - I guess that it is hard to 'rubbish' the proposal until we can see the economic justification. I hope that it is not simply a matter of pandering to holiday home owners who are too bloody lazy to carry their bags to the moloks when they depart.

Destination Coromandel - Presented their report for the month to 30 April that shows quite remarkable progress since the advent of the new structure. John Sandford's oversight has strategic direction has been a revelation, and the the Year to Date profit of $212k is 181% ahead of budget - one good news story for Council. More important, visitor numbers a way ahead of anything we have sen previously- helped of course by the weather, but the actual marketing program has no doubt been the major contributor. Its takeover of Whitianga and Thames visitor centres from 1 July 2015 is a brilliant move - hopefully something will in place at Kopu by then.




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