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Sunday
Mar232014

But Questions Remain

Ben Day's "Economic Development Action Plan" remains to be examined in all its glory, together with the motivations and rationale that lie behind its flash facade.

Having dealt with all the other proposals that appear to be faltering in the light of day, it remains to examine just what is proposed in the vexed area surrounding the IT Hub that he is busy promoting for Thames (and elsewhere apparently!), and which simply (in his view) requires TCDC input in order to become a commercial reality. Integral to this aspect of the Plan is the controversial tie-up with Track24, and more recently Guru Digital.

This is what appears in the Plan:

Establish an IT Hub in Thames, Whitianga and Whangamata.

We have a growing software industry cluster on the Coromandel which we want to continue to foster and nurture with a purpose-built or retro-activated facilities with access to ‘dark fibre’ and clever people sharing resources and ideas.   The Government’s Business Growth Agenda has a focus on building innovation infrastructure and encouraging business innovation, we think the Thames IT cluster will deliver even more jobs for the district as entrepreneurs and business owners look to service clients “in the cloud” from lifestyle-positive locations.

We are not permitted to know the exact nature of the relationship that has been built up with these two private companies - in fact it remains shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that the genesis of the problem that has recently arisen with the IT Manager clearly lies in the blurred nature of this relationship. What appears on the surface to have been some extraordinarily naive personnel 'crossovers' that may well have escaped the normal auditing process. This may have occured because of the blurred lines that also exist between what constitutes 'internal', and 'external' audit responsibilities - a blurring that many councils, including our own, have taken advantage of over the years. 

The current imbroglio should provide a strong warning to the Mayor and councillors of what can happen when you rush headlong into backing the ambitions of  young, inexperienced and ambitious staff, spending our money on projects in an entrepreneurial manner without their own 'skin in the game'. The principal entrepreneur in this case appears to be operating outside of normal controls, using our skin, and that is simply unacceptable. 

It is all very well for our busy, busy Mayor to be running round giving support to projects, apparently without a clear understanding of the ramifications should any fall over - it is only what we have come to expect from Nick Smiths LG reforms that have concentrated so much power in the hands of mayors who have a wide variety of talents, and often limited business nous. 

Ben Day has had what amounts to a free hand to develop secret strategies in the IT area, quite separate from the questionable strategies surrounding Walks, Tracks and Harbours (fishing and tourism) What he is now seeking in the Annual Plan is another $50,000 to spend on the IT Hub Project, and $100,000 on Property Investment Project & Marketing Programme, that I believe is a cover for grants or investment in a company that will ultimately seek to purchase the Placemaker's site. This will then become the vehicle for all manner of commercial development, and incorporate the 'I' Site, and bus terminal along with other ventures. 

I believe that a great deal of this has been hatched behind the scenes with the principals' of firms, including the surrent lessee of the site, and the blurring of lines is becoming manifest and dangerous. We have all had the opportunity to observe over the last week of the "unfortunate" investments in Queenstown real estate by a Dunedin City Controlled Company - one Director simply, and lamely excused the decision saying - "it just did not work out' - and $6m of rate-payers funds went down the drain. Believe you me, whatever is planned to be invested this year in our entrepreneurial exercise will be succeeded by vastly greater sums in the years ahead as our entrepreneurial Deputy Chief Executive gets into his stride.

Investment in IT, or any other form of commercial venture is not an appropriate activity for any local government council, let alone ours, which is totally dependent on borrowing for its very existence. Every ratepayer needs to view this matter very seriously, and respond accordingly by making appropriate submissions to the Annual Plan process.

Don’t say that you have not been warned!

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

Oh-o someone has leaked the truth! Watch out Ben Day your sneaky backroom deals will get found out. Placemakers Hmmm wonder how Guru fits into all this? The truth always comes out - remember that!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTheTruthAlwaysComesOut

Leach Hammond and Day are all INCOMPETENT and they want us to trust them with investing our money into this IT Hub. I will definitely be making a submission to the Annual Plan and indeed encouraging others to do the same. What a joke....

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdisgustedratepayer

An IT hub sounds like another Mercury Bay Sports project 'an elephant in the room'. This is not a good use of our money. Maybe if Day is so keen to do it, he should invest his own money! From what I hear through the castle grapevine - he knows nothing about IT.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralarmed

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