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Thursday
May222014

Council Meeting 21 May 2014

It was interesting Meeting to say the least.

Observations are as follows:

Public Forum 

During a public forum presentation by a large group of Thames dog-owners requesting the designation of the Burke St. Dump (now park-land) as an ‘off-lead’ area, Leach made the observation that this was another local activity and decision that should not be interfered with at Council. He referred back in a highly disparaging way to interference by the Whangamata councillors in the Thames fluoride decision.

Crs Jack and Jan will not be easily let off the hook on this one – they had better keep their heads down the next time this issue comes to the fore.  I happen to agree with Glenn on this one – he was badly let down by their ‘switch’ on that occasion, and they looked quite uncomfortable today.

Triennial Agreement 

There was universal praise for Sam Napia’s paper, and re-draft of the Agreement. Cr Goudie was able to imply that the others on the Committee were ignorant of requirements of S.15 of the LGA, particularly in regard to protocols for communication and co-ordination, and the process for consultation on proposals for new regional council activities. The section on resolving disagreements is also a concern, and agreement on who will mediate required. A new draft Agreement was appended and agreed to. It just remains to convince the other signatories of the virtuous nature of the re-write.

Both Sam and Hammond displayed disdain for the need for either the Agreement, or the Spatial Plan, citing our own $2m Blueprint as serving our needs quite adequately without further contributing to the Plan. Hammond further questioned the ‘legal framework.’ Quotes - Goudie – “It is a ‘Black Hole’”. Leach –  “We are not going to “die in the ditch!’”, “We have flexibility!”, “We are trying to ‘stay in the tent’!”  

Finance Strategy 

Discussion was shut down rapidly just as it was starting to get interesting, and referred to a later Finance and Revenue Workshop.

Activity Groups 

Goudie began an attack on the need for any change – “What is the benefit?”, but appeared not to have read the Paper. Her objection sank. Keith Johnson made a valiant attempt to revert to total local funding of projects. McLean in his inimitable fashion pushed for “locally managed/District funded” projects. Again, Leach deferred to a F & R W/S.

By the way, McLean is hanging out to dry on District funding of cemeteries – he was solely responsible for the decision to proceed with the dubious Mercury Bay Cemetery which we are now all paying for. Dubious both in regard to need, and funding. Cremation was, and remains the death knell (please forgive!) for this project – it will be lucky to attract more than a few burials a year, but has proceeded at huge cost on a totally unsuitable site while vast numbers of sites remain unused down the road at Tairua - all down to McLean.

Growth Projections 

Goudie mounted a move to adopt ‘static’ growth figures. I presume that means zero. Fox on the other hand wanted 5,000 rating units for Whitianga, and is not happy with either ‘medium” or “low” growth. Wells wanted “better than medium” – semantics won, and Katina agreed to “rename the scenarios.” So all good!

Leach was unkind enough to point out that with the slow-down in Whitianga, it would require Waterway’s to sell another 700 units before any more DC’s became available, and they would likely be at the newly mandated rates leading to a substantial loss of revenue in the future. The famous secret Lux/Waterways Agreement has again come home to bite us.

Rail Trail 

This was fascinating discussion with Ben Day being brought to book for probably the first time to my knowledge. Cr Goudie indicated (correctly!) that she was most unhappy at the lack of 6 month revenue and cost information for the Trail. Mr Day was unwise enough (and definitely not reading the tea-leaves!) to indicate that he had the figures on his computer, but that they really belonged to the Economic Development Committee. Goudie in effect complained that they were not much use on his computer.

I think Goudie for one is not happy at the sublimation of responsibility for these projects from Council to the the EDC. Expect more confrontations in the future with Mr Day – he looked quite put out, having had a dream run to date, and Cr Goudie may be just the person to put him in his place.  

The role of the EDC has not been properly defined, nor its responsibility to the council. Even Leach expressed concern that his appointee to the Trust – Warren Male, was unable to provide him with information – simply that it was going ”great guns!” Well that is okay then!

The future of the K2K section, or at least TCDC’s role in it will remain in doubt until HDC or the Trust come up with all the information that has apparently been requested.

Finance 

I am not about to labour the Internal Borrowing thing – Steve knows how I feel (& Strat I suspect), but he has strong support for his view – so be it – eventually the chickens will come home! Enough to point out that the $40m of ‘reserves’ that have been fully borrowed comprise – Special (Power Company shares) $32.7m, plus Depreciation of $7.6m.

There is likely to be substantial fury amongst past councillors when they realise that the Power Company shares have been ‘cashed up’, without consultation, to provide instant funding for the waste-water schemes. Several have assured me that they were under the impression that the shares were not to be touched without full public consultation - and that certainly never took place. Interest at current rates, less 1% is paid back to the fund, but regardless of the rationale used to deny it, the money is borrowed, needs eventually to be paid back when required for asset renewal, or new substantial projects. There is no justification for landing future generations with the total cost of these projects.    

I make no bones about laying responsibility for this on previous councils – they were sucked in by the need to find the resources to meet the escalating costs on the Eastern Seaboard. But that does not gainsay the need to treat the source of the funding appropriately as ‘borrowing’ plain and simple.

It is interesting to see that staff costs are up by $676K over the original budget for the full year. And incidentally, staff numbers are up from 185 in 2010 to 193! - claimed to have resulted from bringing contracted services 'in-house' - but no mention of the substantial number of other 'professional contractors' now working in the Castle, and beyond!

At the same time, operating expenditure is down by $1.06m for the full year (estimated). But the big one is Capital Expenditure – down by $4.3m for the full year - $1.4m of which is moved forward to 2014/15. But note that the $445k budgeted for the Zoom Zone facility has been re-defined as a grant, or operating expenditure – not sure why!   

The alteration to DC revenue brought about by removing community infrastructure will have an immediate effect when signed into law at the end of the month – it will cost Council $679k in the first year, and substantially more in the years ahead as we work through transitional provisions.  The contra-deal sections at Whitianga are a case in point.

Average rate increases are running at 2.44% at present but likely to reduce to $2.2%. Mercury Bay will cop the highest at 3.33%, and Tairua/Pauanui the lowest at 1.24%. Note that the reduction in capital expenditure is totally artificial – just as it has been for the last three years, and that as with every other Council that adopts this form of reduction in order to artificially reduce rates, it will eventually catch up with succeeding councils as expenditure becomes inevitable rather than optional.  

Steve Baker produced a chart prepared by Fairfax Media and Stuff that purports to show how well we have done in comparison to other councils. It is embargoed until next week, so there is little to be said about it at the present time, except that there are some questionable assumptions made even though it was produced from a standardised questionnaire.

 

 


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Reader Comments (3)

Bill, don't put Sam and Hammond in the same camp. At the staff meeting this week Sam said your tough criticism of his reporting style was fair enough and he'll take the feedback on board. On the other hand Hammond referred to your work as a "hate blog".

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoss

No more than I would expect!

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Hi Bill,

After recently reading through the comments on your previous post which you (quite correctly) had to shut down when the topic matter started to stray, I do feel that nevertheless some very pertinent, if painful home truths were expressed about local politics and why it is such a state of appalling malaise.

If I understand things correctly from what was said (and my own experience would verify the truth of it), local political representation, when it comes to the crunch, is decided at a level not only hidden from general awareness, but which is self serving, utterly selfish and without real consideration of 'public good'.

I guess recent changes to the Councils Development Contributions policy linked to the decimation of their capital works programme is a good example of where this self interest lies, as does equally the quite blatant deception about 'internal borrowing' which tries to make the Councils financial position better than it is, probably to justify the Development Contributions adjustments.

What strikes me most of all however, is the 'hick-town' nature of the dominant, leading group within the Coromandel branch of the National Party and their desperation to seek some kind of status in the larger political environment. Unfortunately, I doubt they will ever succeed as their true nature is continually being revealed in the Mayoral contests in this District.

As a participant in the 2010 Mayoral elections (and this is not sour grapes I assure you), I have experienced the nastiness, the personally denigrating, humourless nature of it - it is not nice. I even had follow-ups to it when standing for the Regional Council at the last election, where at a meeting at Tairua of all places, I had Peter French turning up and asking why anyone would want to support me at a local election when I was the author of so much dysfunction within the previous District Council.

I think a fair comment would be that the appalling nature of Ms Barriball as a political leader or as a proficient manager of anything, pretty well account for the Councils dysfunction - and I am sure you would agree, having being a victim of it as much as I was.

Nevertheless, I hope Peter is happy with the outcome he so obviously wanted as a member of the 'backroom boys', the authors of so many of our political stuff-ups'... including the election of Barriball herself.

I am not sure that I would bother standing again for election within Thames Coromandel District Council boundaries - it is just not worth it. The political process is just too far corrupted beyond repair and trying to break through that just takes too much of a personal toll.

Dal Minogue.

May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeader than a Dodo

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