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Wednesday
Nov122014

Unelected Economic Development Committee

This is rapidly becoming the 'go-to' Committee -public forum had no less that seven deeply committed female presenters talking about youth employment and Coromandel events in the main - an hour and a half of pretty well wasted time, and the members clearly were of the same view. I had thought that these were matters that were supposed to be dealt with by our newly "empowered" community boards. Chair Brent Page was patient - probably to a fault. 

By the way, Goudie appears to have obtained a permanent place on the Committee - I cannot recall when that happened - I thought she had simply been appointed as Council Rep. on the HRT. She certainly was vocal and as adamant as ever. But although she is rude, crude and unattractive at times, she does make good points when others seem almost mesmerised. And she does get up Leach's nose, which is no bad thing.

Because it is quite important, I will jump to the penultimate matter that arose in 'member's reports' - Graham Christian expressed frustration that the unelected members ("entrepreneurs") were not able to contribute as much as they may like because of the "formality of the meeting" - he wants more wide-ranging workshops where members can give expression to their vast knowledge and thereby come up with "great ideas," no doubt without having to worry about nuisances like me reporting on proceedings.

This always seems to be the way these days - hide behind closed doors and spend rate-payer's money without recourse to review or question. He was backed up by Leigh Hopper, which is no surprise. And Leach thought it a great idea, while Brent Page, for whom I am developing considerable respect, reminded those at the table that it is after all a Council Committee, and that it was responsible for rate-payer money. Good on him, but he did agree to sit down and nut something out with Gary Towler.

Hauraki Rail Trail

Greg Hampton has been told by Hammond to get a grip on this embarrassment, and he made all the running at the table. It is he who claimed to have been "satisfied" that they had received "enough" information from Wayne Henderson to be able to recommend the release of the OPEX funding. But it was very clear that Brent Page was far from happy at this result, and somewhat concerned at the failure of anyone at the table to raise issues arising from the Report. And he pointed as an example to the decrease in booking commissions as totally unexpected (and unacceptable!) at this stage of the operation. But nothing happened, and Greg mumbled his way through a totally inadequate explanation. 

Goudie, now on the Trust, showed huge irritation that anyone should even question the operation (presumably now that she was on the Trust!) and told anyone with questions to email her for an explanation - she clearly did not want any enquiry to take place in a public meeting! She did say that HRT was seeking a full independent audit because it was not satisfied with explanations that had been provided. Interestingly, Greg indicated that he had been told not to attend meetings of the Trust - presumably by Goudie, but that was quickly rescinded after some frothing by Leach today!

Leach repeated ad nauseum that he was dissatisfied with communication ("just call me!" says Goudie), particularly in regard to the fact that the Council had only ever 'stopped' the OPEX payment, and had not even threatened the CAPEX million for the Kaiaua section which appears stalled - dead in the water, though Greg claimed that 'research' was continuing. Goudie assured Brent Page that all was well and that she had no concerns regarding the OPEX, so moved accordingly. All sweet!

Greg fudged a question from Goudie on the content of the MOU and contract regarding the Kaiaua section - he better get that sorted out because she is on the warpath over the legal aspects of the HDC commitment. He will provide monthly updates to members regarding progress, but there was not a word said about the "Eleven 'Disputes" (go to the end of the document for the letter to Barnett for detail) that Henderson was to have sorted out with Barnett by the end of October. It was claimed that dissolving the contract is still 'on the table' but Henderson's warning of consequences went unheeded.

You have to wonder about the alleged business acumen of these people - Graham Christian may be bored, but he and the others have been at this for nearly a year now, and they should be following these issues like a cat with a mouse if they are to perform the task for which they have been roped in. 

Coromandel Harbour

Francois Pienaar appears to have become the full time consultant to Greg on this and other issues - I will follow up with a OIR in due course on the current costs of hiring all these people that seem to emerging around the Castle.

The most interesting part of the presentation related to the negotiations with the Coromandel Marine Farmers Association in order to establish the exact level of their contribution - remember that the Mayor and staff have in the past stated categorically that the Sugar-loaf business case depended on the costs of the renovation of that facility being entirely met by the members of the Association - in other words, zero effect on rates. 

Well surprise, surprise - the Association claims "un-affordability," and suddenly Leach is backing a different horse - he now sees another of his grand projects dissipating of course, and that must be prevented at all costs - even if that means that the Association is to be let off the hook. The rationale that will be used to sell this new arrangement where they will be lucky to extract even a modest contribution from the Association members is all related to the Council's 'health & safety' obligations in regard to recreational users, who in  any case are destined to be pushed over to the new facility planned for Furey's Creek.

The logic behind all this escapes me - it means that as much as possible of the facility renovation will fall back on rate-payers, and Leach kept a totally straight face (though he had his back to me!) as he argued this completely contrary position. Greg & Francois also referred to the "mechanics" of the funding arrangement - whatever it is, as the Association is totally unable legally, to commit its members to anything.

It is what I have been saying from the outset - getting these guys to front up will prove to be like getting blood from a stone, no matter what grand assurances are provided at the negotiating table. Paul - the TCDC in-house lawyer is deeply involved in the negotiations which were supposed at the outset to be conducted by Hammond and Leach (see earlier reports) He must be wondering how on earth he is going to tie this one down!

When discussion ensued, Goudie made her opposition to any 'back-down' with the CMFA very clear. She was toe to toe with Leach for a time, but backed down, a little - though she will need some convincing - that is for sure. Greg & Francois were told to prepare a business based on meeting the needs of each party preparatory to further negotiations. I sense that in the end they will have to carry out the renovations with minimal assurance of CMFA member contribution - another blank check in other words.

Then the discussion moved on to the Furey's Creek marina where the dozen or so berths have been costed out at $150k each - no problem claimed Ms Goudie - they will sell overnight! No they won't said Leigh Hopper, who knows a thing or two about selling berths. She later backed down, but Greg is going off to a stakeholder meeting to determine initial interest at this price. Leach said it won't happen unless they"pitch-up" - exactly what he said at the outset of the Sugar-loaf negotiations, so don't hold your breath.

The business case is nearly finished, and will be "work-shopped' with the Committee in February. As an aside, Leach revealed that he has given $10k from his Mayoral Fund to enable the Barry Brickell supporters to carry through with working up their alternative Plan. Oh dear!

ED Program Manager 

The new EWD Program Manager - Ben Dunbar-Smith gave an interesting report that included his negotiations with Chorus for an upgrade of the broadband service at Kopu that is not due to happen until 2016. For the modest price of $5520, Chorus will bring the upgrade forward to early 2015 - agreed!

He also reported the new and important reationship with the Auckland Events crew - exchanges of information and mutual support for events is on the cards, including staff exchanges.

Leach indicated that the Millen's Leadfoot Festival wanted another $10k to secure coverage by TV3, but he was not prepared to push it in view of criticism directed at him over the $40k already granted. I did not notice anyone from around the table rushing in to substitute!

And finally we had an interesting appeal from Leigh Hopper for efforts to be made to attract retirees to the Peninsula to live, thus freeing up housing in Auckland.  If I am not mistaken, this must surely constitute a 'conflict' situation for Mr Hopper. Perhaps he is not quite aware of the rules surrounding the operation of Council and its Committee's - he certainly made no decalaration at the outset of the meeting as he is required to do when raising any matter in which he has a personal interest - just something that the Chair, and Governance staff may see fit to further examine. 

 

 

 

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