Economic Development Committee (EDC)
Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 5:18PM
Bill Barclay

We are yet to see any minutes from this Committee - Ben Day put this down to 'computer problems,' but I was far more concerned with the content of the Paper he presented today to amend its delegations to "empower the Committee to effectively and efficiently implement the Council's Events and Economic Development Strategies and associated activity work programmes." Go to Page 175 on the Agenda.

I always become anxious when Leach goes into overdrive, and he certainly did so on this occasion (as he did on 'district' charging of erosion control yesterday!) It generally follows a pattern - rising voice, berating previous councils, berating "critics" (whoever had a shot at Hopper's appointment to the Committee on this occasion - I think that was me!)

What Day explained in regard to the Paper was that the current delegations were not sufficiently specific. Well, they are certainly explicit with the adoption of this Paper. Most importantly, it empowers the Committee to deliver Council approved Economic Development and Events, and pre-existing Economic Development Activities (as approved in the Council's Long term Plans), and raises its CAPEX limit to $100,000. It will provide a Report to the each Council meeting.

Well, I am sorry Glenn to rain on your parade, but I do not believe that the democratic rights of our ratepayers are preserved by handing this level of delegation to an unelected Committee, granted that its Terms of Reference were changed today to ensure that there would always be a requirement for elected representatives to be equal or greater in number at any meeting in order to constitute a quorum.

I have no gripe with the quality of the outside appointees - Page, Hopper and Christian - all top people in their fields, but they are not directors of a Council Controlled Company with all the attendant legal responsibilities of directors - they are simply appointees to a Committee to which our elected Council have delegated virtually total control of our Council's economic development role. I am sorry if I appear a doubting Thomas on this issue, but that is not how councils are meant to operate, even if our gung-ho Mayor considers that bringing in his mates to takeover this role is just fine. I just disagree!

That one of those appointees has the role of Chair, with a casting vote, then the entire process can be seen as having been 'high-jacked.' And all this at the behest of Ben Day, supported one hundred percent by the Mayor, who made a pathetic attempt to compare this Committee with the previous joint Economic Committee that we shared with Hauraki DC. Pathetic, because the comparison is risible.

The final insult to our intelligence is contained in the reference to remuneration:

"Elected members will be reimbursed in accordance with the current Local Government Elected Mmebers Determination. 

External members and advisors to the Committee will be reimbursed in accordance with their standard busines rates including disbursements." 

I would have to say that this is the first time to my knowledge that this Council has paid members of a committee in this manner. I don't believe that it is actually legal to pay elected members any fees additional to the determination of the Higher Salaries Commission for work of this nature. Fees are paid for membership of the Judicial Committee that are debited to the applicants whose applications are being heard by the Committee - that is the only exception. 

For Leach to claim as he did today that external members were being paid "a pittance" would be laughable if it was not so serious. Quite apart from anything alse, he has in the past claimed that their participation was based on altruism. Well now we know the extent of that altruism - "in accordance with their standard business rates." - Goodness gracious - how long is a piece of string? It would be unacceptable in any other organisation for such open ended terms to be put in place, but totally consistent with Leach's other actions in regard to this Committee that appears more of an ego trip than anything else.

The Auditor General should take an immediate interest, but won't because she appears uninterested in anything to do with this Council. Rate-payers should be concerned - very concerned at this turn of events. The Leach- Hammond-Day Triumvirate continues unabated, and meanwhile we have a bunch of unelected people given the ability to dream up more unaffordable schemes like the "Great Walks," on which they can spend up to $100,000 at any one time, and for which they take no responsibility. Anywhere else, responsiuble media would have latched on this by now, but not here, where all media remains under Leach's sway. 

The final nail was driven in by Day when he advised Council that without these new Terms of Reference, it was unlikely that external members would attend meetings - they needed to believe that they were "in control and making meaningful decisions" - otherwise they were unlikely to attend.

I have no idea why this Council has decided to contract out its role in this manner - a total abrogation of its responsibilities in my opinion, but fully in accordance with its demonstrated inability to withstand the overpowering domination of Leach. They are simply overawed, and the statements of support for these Terms of Reference from around the table were faintly nauseous. The understanding of their governance role is clearly minimal. 



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