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Combined Meeting at GBH

Sunny weather brought out a representative and cheerful crowd of over a hundred to the GBH last evening for the combined TTT and TT meeting. The general theme was to get people to suggest possible events, and seek supporters for the two major events that will brighten the place up in 2017 and 2019 – the town 150th and the 250th celebration of Cook’s Transit of Mercury voyage. Many other suggestions came forward that should certainly reward Mark  Skelding’s and Karl Edmond’s initiative in calling this meeting.

My previous post ‘“Co-ordinate,” or Die!’ gave prominence to Mark’s statement “We’re concerned and disappointed at the significant sums of public money being directed at private events on private property” that was reported on the front page of the HH. And sure enough, Mark initially referred to this as “The Elephant in the Room,” and the need to get it "out in the open".

Clearly there is real disquiet in the community over the infamous $40,000 grant to multi-millionaire Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Festival on his property at Hahei, but Mark was not in the mood to buy a fight with Mayor Leach who as I predicted was present and prominent. After Mark made his fossil fuel objection (to car racing!) clear, he immediately handed the microphone over to Leach who silenced dissent with his usual bombast about the value of the Leadfoot Festival to the Hahei  community – a view that does not appear to be widely shared in that community going by letters in the HH, and the Informer.

He then ranged widely over his Council’s magnificent achievements, and strangely, the alleged interest of the Auckland Council in a Miranda Cycleway, even though the Kopu to Kaiaua section seems to be in grave trouble.

Leach had plenty of supporters including senior Council staff in the room, but interestingly, when he indicated that staff members would explain the entire process of grant funding, and the rationale for the Leadfoot grant in particular, there were not many takers. Only Greg Hampton stepped forward, and he pointedly refused to discuss the Leadfoot grant – he was only prepared to lay out a spirited defence of the progress that has been made in Thames during the current Council, and point to substantial grants that had been made to local organisations, including Totally Thames, and the Thames Arts Society.

Incidentally, Mark made good use of the microphone to deliver a brick-bat directly at my post on the event -  “I don’t agree with what you said about me,” – I had thought that I was helping to promote the event, while pointing out that some of the previous promotions initiated by the TTT group under Mark’s aegis had been less than successful in any sustained manner. I am not about to apologise for speaking the blindingly obvious, but that in no way gainsays my support for this current initiative. I am just sorry that Mark did not avail himself of the opportunity to more closely acquaint himself with the detail of the Millen Leadfoot grant – he apparently rang the Mayor for an explanation, but rebuffed my offer, though I was the only observer present at the meeting when the grant was made.   

What was perfectly clear last evening was that anger generated by the actions of the Unelected Economic Development Committee in regard to the Millen Leadfoot grant was not able to be sustained on the night with a large number of Leach’s business supporters and Council staff present. Leach may have been totally un-convincing with his spirited defence of the grant, but are few prepared to stand up to him in a confined space.

Mark determinedly stuck to his guns in keeping the meeting to one and a quarter hours, and made sure that certain people with particular agendas were kept in check. He was however unnecessarily patronising with Gary Blake whose will undoubtedly play a prominent role in the Captain Cook celebrations, having worked tirelessly in the restoration of the Cook Memorial on the Waihou, and thoroughly researched Cook’s connection with the District. While on the subject, the utter ambivalence of Ngati Maru to the advent of Cook will need to be kept in mind in planning the celebrations.

All that aside, the success of the evening arose from the recognition by everyone present – even those with agendas, of the need to co-ordinate and plan alongside other groups who have been separately developing events plans for the immediate future, and the long term. In that regard, the efforts of Totally Thames in creating a diary for events in the immediate future handed out on the night is to be applauded. Mark Suggested a long term widely accessible and inter-active net-based agenda and that appeared to get wide acceptance   

The range of organisations present, and ideas for events large and small was amazing, and it shows a real energy present in the town. Mark and Karl are to be applauded for bringing it all together, and their efforts to determine the level of interest in volunteering and possible sources of funding. Undoubtedly Greg Hampton and his staff (yes – he has about five working in his Area office now – do you remember when the town was run, rather badly, by one part-timer?)  Marlene Perry – Community Development Officer should have her work cut out, and last evening should give everyone a pointer to the future.

It was concerning however to note the apparent reluctance of the business sector – other the Grahamstown people to put their hands up. They appear to be waiting for someone to take a lead, but without a business association of any kind in in the town other that Totally Thames that appears to have only limited support in business circles, it seems difficult get momentum amongst businessmen. The danger lays in future organisation falling to the Council by default, and that is simply not fair, nor sustainable. There needs to be some leadership shown – not immediately obvious.  

What a great venue provided by Karl and his GBH – a remarkably revived watering-hole if ever there was one, accommodating and attractive to large groups as were present last evening.  




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Reader Comments (2)

The answer to the lack of business support is very simple Bill--- if the Thames Comm. board had some direction and a good chair they would have brought in a 'targeted rate' for commercial operators, as have Paeroa town-- all businesses pay such a rate and the Council employs a town facilitator--such a person would organise all activities/projects in this town. The Grahamstown community , I believe, do just that -- to wit the Brits at the Beach endeavours of a week ago which bought much needed cash into our town.
When the business community dumped the Chamber of Commerce organisation in the middle 90's, it was sadly, all downhill from there.

The rate in Paeroa is a flat rate and is across ALL businesses within a 'area of benefit'-- and this brings in cash from those 'new' ventures were the owners may not realise the importance in supporting the town. The 'new' shop owners appear to struggle with the concept of all for one and one for all.
The Thames Board is reluctant to bring in such a rate- though District Council has a ''economic developement levy' which sucks vast amounts out of businesses [and the unsuspecting ratepayer who pay $49.95 per rateable property, hidden in the UAGC] and a business pays that as well--talk about Council double dipping!
The amount of money raised is then spent by Council ,and the unelected Economic Develoement committee-- such as almost 2mill. on the great Leach coastal walkway!!
You cannot help admire the way this Council bulldozers things through -- to Hell with the consequences-- another DAY tomorrow!!!

October 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPigeon Toed

Well spoken Pigeon Toed (was that Toad, or Toed?)
You are spot-on in every respect.
But I just wish someone would put their head above the parapet (not you, I suspect!), and show some leadership!
(I would get those feet attended to if I was you)

October 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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