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Final Community Board Meeting

Yesterday's meeting was notable for not much, but some interesting vignettes emerged during the course of the discussion.

Peter Wood gave his final homilies and brickbats - all good and to the point, including his final shot that any proceeds from the sale of the Wintec Building should be returned to the TUGPRA Account from whence they came in the first place. I don't think that will sit well with Strat's plans. 

Vic McWatt came in with about ten complaints about the way the Board was going, but primarily to put some shots across the bow of the Good Ship TUDS (Strategy). He berated the Board for even considering closing Pollen St for the Market, and gave some well measured lower calibre shots at the traffic light proposal. Strat attempted to deflect, and later indicated that his spirits were high as the result of universal approval for the Strategy from all he had talked to. He re-emphasized that it was "only the broad picture" - the common response to any criticism.

In fact, Page 6 (Item 3.3) of the minutes of the previous meeting on 30 July 2013 show clearly that it is more than a "broad picture" - it was in fact endorsed for immediate implementation in the following terms:

Resolved: "That the Thames Community Board endorses the Thames Urban Development Strategy for future consideration" 

It then proceeeded to the following: 

Resolved: "That the Thames Community Board identifies the folowing work stream to be included in the current 2013/14 Community Board work programme:

- Consider establishment of a Project Delivery Unit

- Engage with Iwi to to identify Iwi cultural values in the proposed project areas.

- Move market into street, and remove tension between retailers and the market

- Liaise with museums to create inter-museum resource.

- Develop visitor information hub and move i-site and bus terminal to Grahamstown.

- Amalgamation of Civic Centre and Wintec sites. Redevelop existing buildings to create a Regional  service centre / Business hub / Knowledge Centre.

- Develop walkway / look-out on reserve behind Bella St pumphouse and up to monument.       

All of this without the slightest hint of consultation with rate-payers. The audacity of the promoters of this amazing concept leaves one gasping. The total amount of funding required to accomplish the above is said to be $100,000. $20,000 has been allocated from the 'discretionary fund' for the "spatial concept design options and feasibility assessment to test the Regional Cultural and Commercial Hub concept". All this can therefore be achieved (theoretically) without recourse to an Annual Plan revision.

It was interesting that despite the adoption of these minutes, the words "consultation" suddenly appeared in the language being used by members around the table. I think it is clear that they now realise that they (and staff) have over-stepped the mark in the interests of "getting runs on the board", but in the rush to now implement the Strategy (after two years of fluffing around), the Board has in my view lost touch, and Strat is kidding himself if he thinks he has widespread support on this.

They all need to come down to earth before committing every rate-payer in this town to this Grand Plan. The first meeting of the new Board should be a classic as they try to hold this all together. Glenn Leach's claim during another valedictory that "Council's direction has been set, and no-one coming on to the Board or Council need think that they can change that direction while I remain Mayor" contained a not so veiled threat to democratic process - and not for the first time!

Area Manager Greg Hampon is wasting no time - I see that he has advertised for a Project Manager who clearly will have responsibility for the Strategy implementation as part of his portfolio. Last week, Francois Pienaar was in the office when I called in, and told me that he had been re-employed on contract, and would stay "for as long as he was required".

Very interesting. First you dump him from the permanent staff (punishment?), then you re-hire him as a "contractor" (presumably of substantially higher remuneration). I wonder if the project manager costs were included in the Strategy budgets provided to the Board at the last meeting.

Before anyone rushes to the conclusion that I am being 'negative' on this whole proposal, I repeat what I have said on many occasions in the past - I believe that it is like the Curates Egg - good in parts!. Some of the proposals are ridiculous in my view, and about which I would certainly be seeking considerably greater justification if elected.

What I will say is that this is a major proposal, and despite the need to "get runs on the board", there is no justification for immediate implementation before rate-payers of this town have been given the opportunity to consider the implications of what is being proposed, and given a more honest appraisal of the likely costs instead of the demonstrably defective "cost neutral" description that has been used to date. No one can possibly accept that at face value. 

And I repeat what I have also said on several occasions - that Strat is to be congratulated for having master-minded the proposal, and doggedly brought it to fruition. That does not gainsay my reservations about content, and process. 




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