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Deliberations - Day Two

Here are the highlights:

Leach lightened the atmosphere by referring to Wells and Bartley as Brutus and Judas, following their tumble on fluoridation - there was laughter, but serious intent! I don't tghink he will quickly forgive them for that little piece of egotistical theatre.

Great Walks - As laudable as this entire process of developing walkways may appear on paper, and the fact that that Leach has thrown his entire reputation on the line in order to achieve a result, it has major question marks surroundiing it. To be honest, I don't think that the Project Manager Gary Towler has a clue as to what he let himself for - the entire project has now reduced to the simple(?) task of achieving a walk from Cathedral Cove over to Purangi, and is entirely dependent on obtaining the co-operation of landowners. Somehow, I don't think that likely.

The alternative of walking along Lees Road doesn't seem to cut the mustard, but there is no way short of resuming land under the Public Works Act that they are going to get it through the way they are imagining. So much political capital, and so little to show. I have said before, and I will say it again, I think that Towler is a lightweight - too bloody smooth for his own good, and he sure as hell has worked out that humouring Leach and cosying up to Hammond is the way to go. I may be wrong - I hope so. $20k carry-over, and $50k new won't get to first base, and I suspect that DoC are wondering what the hell these guys are up to. Leach is relying on getting a heap of brass out of Welington.

Whangamata Landfill Capping - Another little sink-hole that we have not heard the last of. They want $463k fromn District Retained Earnings to make up a total (not firm!) of $640k to do the job in one hit. They want to avoid rating it, for obvious reasons.

Separation of Pauanui/Taitrua budgets - This has been hanging around since Adam was a boy, and reflects the general unhappiness of the wealthy denizens of Pauanui at what they percieve as their subsidising of Tairua. It is probably true, and no love is lost either way - funny thing is that the same people were quite happy to accept what amounted to a substantial 'District' subsidy on their benighted wastewater scheme, but now the boot is on the other foot. It looks like they will get their way as staff were told to work it out.

Coastal Erosion - I will making a separate blog on this issue  in due course as I believe that with inevitable ocean rises that the entire District is facing a major hit on rates as those effected set out with a vengence to spread their misfortune. It is only minor right now at Whitianga, Cook's Beach and Whangamata, but wait a year or two and it will be all on.

Coromandel Harbour Facilities - This project has real economic merit, and huge local support, but as is so often the case, the potential environmental effects may be a stopper - dredging the harbour to provide the facilities may be a step too far by the time it gets to the Environment Court as is inevitable. $25k has been carried over to undertake the feasibility study - it will cost more, of that you can be sure.

Boat Launching Fees - There was a strange movement in the direction of uniform fees throughout the Peninsula - starting with, wait for it - Cr Fox, who fought the election on the one issue - No fees!  By the time I had recovered from that, they had reversed themselves and normal service resumed - back to individual fees, but it seems that a fee has been accepted for Whitianga.

After lunch, just when Whitianga items were to be discussed, guess who absented himself - none other than Cr McLean. I wondered why, and then it all became clear as Alison Henry was required to take the heat for all the stuff-ups in Whitianga over the last few years - more about that later.

Airport Runway - Leach displayed another of his brilliant ideas - this time the sealing of the runway - said by Hammond to be on the "strategic horizon". Before too long there were howls of anguish from Henry and Fox as they pointed out that the Aero Club owned the airport, and its facilities, and were indeed extremely sensitive about plans for its use for commercial operations. Hammond seemed to have in mind that it would go hand in hand with the Coromandel harbour development. There is some idea that this may well open up Whitianga for the developers. Watch this space. Talk is cheap, but in this case, may sink ships!

Town Centre - This indeed was the highlight of the day, and gave Leach an opportunity to vent his undoubtedly distended spleen on Alison Henry in particular, who was in receipt of all the pent up fury regarding the activities of the Whitianga Board and its independent minded staff who have caused so much financial mayhem through their open cheque-book policy.

$280k have been spent so far to achieve something called the '3D plan' which apparently shows where all the underground services are located. Steve Bremner was in the hot seat in lieu of Gordon Reynolds who is not seen around the Castle these days - not that he was much in evidence in the past given his jaundiced view of Head Office, and all its inhabitants. But Gordon's hands were all over the plans to date, and another $197k they wanted carried over to bring the project up to the design stage - "Half a million dollars , an what have we got" - boy, Leach was in full flight, and the consequences of the Sports-Complex debacle were there for all to see. He is really hurting, and walks to the top of the Grand Stand every so often just to re-ignite the fury.

The project started off at around $14m a few years ago, but it looks like it may be down to about $8m now, but that is $8m we don't have, and if staff did not get the message before they got it today. It works out at about $90 per ratepayer for four years.  The $197k was summarily dumped, and I don't see the project getting up until another (Have I got a deal for you!) Hopper comes along with another Grand Plan involving real, rather than imaginary DC's. Fox made it plain that he wanted nothing to do with it, and more or less indicated that McLean was "in his camp on this". Mmmmm.

There is apparently a big strategic meeting planned in Whitianga with all interested parties on 31 May to discuss where to now? I don't think that in the circumstances that will be necessary.

To be quite honest, I was somewhat disgusted at Leach's treatment of Henry - it was apparently a repeat of what happened at the Community Board last week. Alison is not the primary suspect in all this - it is the previous Chair - McLean, but he seems inviolable. The staff at Whitianga have operated more or less as an independent unit of Council under his control for a very long time, and if Leach cannot see that the template he setting up with his Board Empowerment model is an invitation for a repeat on a very much larger scale then he simply lacks management savvy.

And on top of it all we had Keith Johnson yesterday demanding even greater financial autonomy for  boards - his in particular. Johnston may be one hell of a good accountant, but he knows stuff all about elected organisations and leaves me gasping at his ignorance on occasions.

Sports Ground Rates - This was the big one, and Steve Baker made an excellent presentation, correcting an earlier assumption regarding depreciation/interest. Whatever, the bottom line is that Whitianga is looking at a $74 flat special sports complex UAGC rate for ever and a day, to which maintenance of about $20 must be added. They shied away from land value based charge in favour of the uniform charge. But the rest of the District will cop a $10average charge on land value under Parks and Reserves, the rationale for which is that we have had the use of the Whitianga reserves for several years at no charge. Fair enough, but what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and that rationale may come back to bite in the future.

Coastal Erosion - $600k is required to combat erosion at Buffolo Beach and Fox wanted it to go on District Roading because it is to protect what is an arterial road since we took it over from NZTA. I won't go into all the argument on this one - it was too late in the day. All I will say is that we are facing major erosion/storm damage problems in the future up and down the East Coast, and every ratepayer had better prepare themselves for the inevitable claims that repairs and maintenance will need to paid for by everyone, because it will be 'too costly for the victims' - remember, the same rationale as for wastewater. 

We have resisted the Cooks Beach claims up until now, but I believe that a precedent was established today that will be difficult to resist in the future. Before long, erosion will effect every low lying beach and associated roads and infrastructure. Don't say you have not been warned.




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Reader Comments (3)

Bill - I fail to understand how the previous Area Manager still has her Council 4x4, a good job & all the perks but her name never arises with the sports field discussion. Gordon Rynolds is long gone.

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOutsider

The Fox now wants to introduce boat ramp fees???? WTF??? Well, there goes his credibility out with the tide. Alison Henry - well, nice lady, but she has been around for a very long time, so has known about the problems with the sportsfield for years and was totally in favour of board empowerment when it was introduced. McClean seriously, the guile of this guy, he has almost single handedly cost the ratepayer millions and this will continue for years to come, long after he has departed. Hopefully the ratepayers can see what is going on here, and make their views felt at election time and when they see him in the street. Incidentally "Outsider", the ex area manager is shortly finishing her short term contract and is departing these waters for Aussie. Don't be fooled, there is much more to that story which will never come out. Lets just say that first impressions aren't everything. In the current regime TCDC staff have learnt very quickly to just do as they are told and don't dare have an opinion. The three area managers in now are classic examples of this, with a complimentary skill of being able to kiss serious arse.

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSailing Away

seriously if that is correct and Fox has agreed to 'boat launching fees' then a huge apology is owed to the previous Council. He had plenty to say then about launching charges - including sending out threatening letters to the then elected members telling them of 2000 plus members at the Sports Fishing Club he had in the palm of his hand and how the voters backlash was about to fall on council. Fox along with Carl Muir lead the drive agianist the last Council with Muir running a web page berating certian councillors - whilst he as a commercial operator [ex Tourism Coromandel employee] useing existing launching sites around Tairua free and gave nothing back in the way of a payment to Council -- leaving long suffering ratepayers to pay to dredge the channels.
As Sailing Away notes - Fox's credability has gone out the door - had Council stuck to it's guns instead of being vindicative about the previous council a tidy sum would have been in place to initiate a new ramp at the north end- Stormont Road - the ONLY place for a boat ramp -- oh that is right Cr. McLean threatened to go to the Enviroment Court if that proposal came to fruition.
this lot of councillors are unbelievable----------------- and to make it even more galling I am a ratepayer in the town - guess who is paying their wages

May 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPipi

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