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Old Kopu Bridge

I have stated in the past that laudable as the intentions and motives of the proponents for retention may be, what they were proposing was simply impractical. To have the liability for the demolition of the bridge passed over irrevocably to the Council while Gary Blake and his group, or rather a succeeding 'trust', did their best to make the bridge work as a tourist attraction could not possibly comply with our Council's responsibility to rate-payers. For the Council, to take on this liability, no matter how the future success of the 'trust' arrangement may be painted in any report was simply a step too far.

But I failed to recognise the determination of this group of enthusiasts, and more particularly, the support that  were able to glean from our new Area Manager and his team - and what a team. Suddenly we have project managers, and consultants clogging up the place, and looking for projects to keep them busy into the future.

Yesterday, the Council was presented with a wonderful vision for that future, backed up by most amazing spreadsheets of figures relating to maintenance costs and revenue projections enough to impress any anxious councilor - particularly those looking for a way, any way to appease Gary Blake et al. The report was prepared by Francois Pienaar - now apparently consultant engineer in residence at the Area Office - this follows his departure from the Council as one of the scapegoats for the Whitianga Sport Complex debacle. Just what the cost of all the consultants and preparation of reports to date has not been revealed - it must be considerable, because Francois will not be cheap, nor any of the others who opinions have been sought - BECA, BDO, TMH and OPUS. And Francois's various scenarios stretch out for 50 years. 

Figures such $10m for the town from the Railtrail were thrown around with gay abandon, without a great deal to back them up. And the figures provided by peer review consultants appeared to support the view of costs held by Transport NZ rather than some of the more fanciful figures produced by Gary and his team of what appeared to be qualified IPENZ engineers who have come aboard. But none of whom have 'skin in the game' - that remains solely TCDC rate-payers.

The costs of getting the bridge 'sea-worthy' are substantial - in the millions (I won't detail them here - they should be available on the Website, but aren't), and quite apart from anything there is an inevitable requirement to upgrade railings before pedestrians would be permitted access. Leach raised this as a major and costly ($770k) H & S improvement would be additional to $2m of other R & M items on the list.

Quite apart from anything else TNZ are now only offering $2.3m (their latest cost of demolition, and reducing!) as their contribution to the Council in return for taking over legal liability for demolition in the event of a business failure by the proposed Trust. This was instead of the $4m they suggested earlier. It seems that Leach and others thought that this was the 'game-breaker' if TNZ could not be persuaded to lift it back to the $4m, as the figures just don't add up based on investment income from $2.3m. Most would need to be retained in any case to counter inflation. And the $2.3 estimate looks shonky in any case.

It is not useful to detail further here what was indicated to the meeting yesterday - simply that when faced with a decision as to whether to proceed to support retention - yes or no, the answer was to seek further information and to provide a questionnaire to rate-payers to go out with the 1 August rate demand. It was clear that Leach really would have preferred a NO at yesterday's meeting, and he moved accordingly, but received support only from Jack Wells. He tried to characterize it as a 'pro forma' after the event, but it appeared to follow his inclination.

So the brave decision was to ask rate-payers what they think - mind you, the questionnaire will be fairly written to avoid any accusation of bias! Yeah right! - Hammond assured the meeting that his staff were quite capable of drawing it up in such a manner. I wonder if all the relevant figures will be made available to enable rate-payers to make a really considered decision.

The whole issue is moot as TNZ have well and truly commenced the demolition option through the resource consent process. Time is of the essence, so Council will have to make a decision pretty quickly if they are not to witness the arrival of the demolition barge.

I really think that they should have made the decision themselves yesterday - they had all the information they needed in front of them, but somehow, Gary's imposing presence in the Public Gallery seemed to bring about cold feet. For once, I am entirely in the camp of Glenn Leach, but he was deserted yesterday by those who have expressed utter scepticism in the past for retention.  This could be another costly exercise before it is finished.

And it will be one that we will be unable to share - Hauraki have indicated that they will not countenance participation under any circumstances. - if TCDC go ahead they simply want $1 for their half share of the bridge! No amount of tut-tutting by councillors will alter this position, and Bartley's suggestion yesterday of seeking a independent review of Hauraki ratepayer support falls right into the naive, if not laughable category.




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Reader Comments (1)

The Shortland wharf at Thames is defunct with the Thames Sailing Club wanting the TCDC to dredge out the sedimented channel with ratepayer funds. If Gary and his supporters don't have their way why not keep two ends (20/30metres) as all-tide wharves with the ability to refuel large vessels. The adjacent area is big enough to have repair facilities, a hardstand, and trailer parking. This area already has an all-tide boat ramp.

July 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H Wood.

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