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Council Meeting 26 June 2013 

The following were the major items dealt with at yesterday’s Council meeting:

Whitianga Sports-complex – It was agreed to share the additional costs involved in the cost over-run amongst all ratepayers in the area – about $180 each with an additional $20 over the planned increase. Everyone was busy congratulating each other for the ‘successful’ outcome, to such an extent that the whole development is beginning to take on the appearance of being major triumph. Such is the power of the pen, but if reports coming out of Whitianga are to be believed, there is still a way to go with this debacle.

Social Services – An interesting move has taken place to make Life Education Trust and Waikato Social Services who have previously been in receipt of annual grants to go through an application/allocation process. This will subject them to a far more rigorous examination, and is long overdue. A good move that will cause a few palpitations amongst the social welfare sector. This is all part of the new grants policy that has emerged and was approved as part of this process.

Pre-election Report – See separate post.                

Unitary Authority – another 500 signatures were accepted, and the whole issue has been moved into a work program under the management of Sam Napia. It was agreed to bring in consultants Morrison Low who appear to have had wide experience in the area – it is Brisbane based according to its website, but now becoming well established here as more councils follow the lead of Wairarapa and Northland. Government could well decide to knock it on the head before small entities get up a head of steam by setting minimum population/ geographic/revenue barriers that are more in accord with what has already been indicated as ‘desirable’.

Clearly Glenn is determined to get the show on the road ASAP in order to forestall any move by the Regional Council, or other entity that may put a spoke in his wheel – “pull the trigger” was the inexplicable expression used over, and over! Sam Napia emphasized to me that my earlier post on the subject was inaccurate to the extent that they had an open approach that would incorporate all the options including joining with the neighbours. Can’t see that getting far, but there you are – I have corrected the inaccuracy.   

Interestingly, Johnston indicated that he thought it was a “goer” if it was regarded as a business proposition, but less likely if regarded as a Government thing. Hardly momentous, and as on so many occasions, Keith gave an indication of having a less than full grasp of Local Government accounting. Yesterday’s blooper was a request to Steve Baker as to why we were still holding Power NZ shares – he needed to have the status of these sold shares ($24m) explained to him. I observed Strat Peters with a pained look on his face.

Peter French needed confirming that other entities in the Waikato were ‘interested parties’ – fairly self-evident I would have thought – Leach is meeting with JT and Hugh here next week for further discussions, and it may be interesting to see what emerges. They appear adamant that they want nothing to do with us, but who knows. Hugh standing for the RC is a fair indication of where he is coming from.  

Tairua Water – There appears to be a heap of re-thinking going on in an attempt to cover the New Year spike in consumption without going to major capital works as has been on the books for some years. This is all good, and indicates a change of thinking within Water Services that is to be encouraged.

Finance – Non-cash revenue items are down by $7m at this point – possibly more after 30 June. Development Contributions are down from $2.484m to $662k – another ignominious display of enthusiastic optimism on the part of whoever set the budget. The net effect on rates overall is about $4.4m.  

Expenditure is way down on budget as the result of what appears to have been contrived in order to keep the books in as good a shape as possible at 30 June – some $9m capex at this point will be ‘carried over’ into 2013/14 – spending 25% of the budget in one month is a joke.  that will probably be replicated again at the end of that year. Meanwhile, we can see all the great plans that are unlikely to be fulfilled. Opex is down by $5m – mainly as the result slippage in normal maintenance activities – not good management by any standard.   

Remuneration – Boy, this is always a doozy – they spent over an hour thrashing out their complaints, and hatred for the Remuneration Authority. Mind you, it is not the money – always the principle. Yeah right!  I would have to say that Glenn keeps his patience, but must be sorely tried every time this comes up. Johnston even went to Wellington himself, apparently to argue for greater recognition of his qualifications and need for additional (presumably professional) fees while on the Audit Committee. Fat chance!

But that had nothing of the impassioned plea from Wyn Hoadley to be professionally paid for “writing decisions” for the Judicial Committee which she chairs. I bet the Remuneration people laughed when they heard that one. Then there was (another) outburst from Tony Fox who has some gripe or other about the communication fee (about $1,000) that they don’t get  if they are allocated a I-pad – he very nearly was apoplectic on the issue. McLean goes through a set of tyres every 20,000km, and complained bitterly about the limits on travel allowance. It appears that they have now resolved to stay in town at Council expense when they have multiple meetings.

We had the usual gripe from Diane Connors about non-permanents not being counted in our population in the determination process. (“It”s not the money – just the principle!”)  

Oh dear – it is a tough life on Council. No matter how many times Governance Manager Lynlee Baily goes back to plead their case, it is never enough, and by implication she was severely criticised, but I don’t imagine she cares one whit – she is off to Wellington Council at the end of the month having been head-hunted.

Lynlee is one of the best around, and she will be sadly missed by everyone when she departs.  Her job has been thankless, and the way she has been treated shameful. This is one that Hammond will regret.  

There was other stuff, but nothing I wish to report – I am getting heartily sick of the place – Hammond’s Manifesto was just about the last straw.




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