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Capital Works Chicanery

Another $4.3m cut from capital works from the 2013/14 Annual Plan came forward in a late paper to the 21 May Council meeting. $1.4m was carried forward into the 20214/15 AP. This cancelation/ postponement  of TYP capital works has been the pattern from 2011 forward.

The first effort was to wreck the $10m storm-water spend in the first year, and it has never been restored. Certain staff in the relevant waters sections were made redundant, or left of their own accord - their work was not certainly not valued. Our Mayor, like so many other mayors before him has had a 'window' where maintenance and replacement could be allowed to 'slip' - ostensibly for one year, but then two, then three years or more.

Francois Pienaar was one such victim – he oversaw the storm-water budget, until it was virtually cut to zero in Leach’s first budget revision. He was subsequently quite unfairly linked into the Mercury Bay Sports-complex fiasco, and made redundant. Lo and behold, he was then re-employed as a contractor working in the Thames-Coromandel Area Office as Project Officer.

Inestimable damage is done to renewal programs in particular when this type of chicanery is undertaken by mayors, generally with the connivance of senior staff who calculate that they will be long gone by the time the chickens come home to roost, and the Council gets caught out with storms, calcification and break-down of water systems, or deterioration of wastewater plants and roads. Staff who object are side-lined, or ignored. Of course, when defects become apparent, excuses are able to be used that deflect any criticism from those who made the deferment decisions in the first place.

How often have we seen this scenario play out? Top executives use jargon like "dynamic" or "just in time" management, and thus fulfil the political ambitions of their masters - i.e. the mayors up and down the country who have learnt these little tricks, often after they enter office. The most recent example is currently being played out in Auckland where Len Brown is in the process of robbing every possible program in the Auckland budget to pay for his pet project - the rail link.

Bernard Orsman's story in yesterday's Herald describes the process in detail, and it should give pause to everyone in this District to consider the long term effects of the cuts that have been made here since Leach came to office. All this was required to offset his rate reductions, and pay for his pet economic development projects in which he has invested so much of his political capital. And in addition, from next year we will be paying a not insignificant additional $50 on every rating unit in the District to cover his LLP's. But the huge shortfalls on the Whitianga Sports-complex, and the potential future demands related to sea-walls and other works have to be met from rates and loans.

Just watch the roading and waters projects that have been put on the 'back-burner' to see how Leach has magically managed to achieve his political objectives. All this has occurred with  assistance from the top echelon at Council who appear to have colluded without enthusiasm, and probably with professional misgivings, but colluded nevertheless.

Brown will not be thwarted from achieving his legacy project, and neither will Leach from achieving his LLP's. But in the end, the utterly crazy rate reductions were and remain the real cause of the damage that will become his real legacy, both in regard to increased debt, and degraded infrastructure. 



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Reader Comments (1)

Sadly, the maintenance and replacement of utility infrastructure is just not 'sexy,' so that it can be easily side-lined by more attractive 'vote-winning' projects; or, more cynically, campaign promise items. Thames particularly suffers from such infrastructure issues; there are streets without kerb and channelling or footpaths, old choked water delivery mains and inadequate storm water systems. Residents are notorious for complaining about the poor state of footpaths - maybe there is a good reason for this? It would appear however that the need for a 'zoom zone,' or cycle way, or walkway, or IT hub, or whatever, is so much more pressing; nay, urgent - that it would be a monumental calamity to the citizens if these desirable assets are not installed with the utmost urgency, so that the 27 interest people who want them can have them. Has anyone tried to park in Thames on a busy day? What about a parking building - no, I am serious - think about the much touted growth projections and the consequent implications for infrastructure requirements. And don't even consider the unthinkable consequences of global warming and tidal rise for all of our coastal settlements. Those living on the various water-way estates on the Peninsula will be able to moor their vessels even closer to the front door of their palatial residences - how that will please them. Think of the convenience.
No, no, let us not have pragmatic common sense crowd in on the decision making process. We ought to remember that the system, currently, does not work, so it would appear, for the good of all.

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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