Un-elected Economic Development Committee
Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 10:47AM
Bill Barclay

This Committee (whose members are paid according to their own professional charge-out rates!)  meets on Tuesday to discuss some "quite important matters", and "consider reports."

But sneaking into the agenda is a particular item that should be of major concern to every  rate-payer in this District. I draw your attention to page 82 of the Agenda - "Funding Economic Development Activity for the 2015 Long Term Plan," by CFO - Steve Baker.

In this paper, options are put forward for this un-elected committee to consider regarding a substantial increase in rates over the entire district (every separately rated unit in other words) to cover the costs of our Mayor's tedious new projects - cycle-ways, walkways and harbours - not aquaculture note, as it seems that   WRC have "dropped plans for aqua-farming in the Gulf "in the meantime." (See yesterday's HH for the statement on this matter).  Wow, that should just about put all the rest of his puny plans to sleep, but it won't - he has too much invested in the outcome not to take that in his stride.

What Baker proposes is that the increasing cost of these projects should be met through an increase in the UAGC rather than through the current levies on business that have apparently become intolerable.

Here is the projected cost:

Economic Development Operational Spend
2012/13 $1.3 million
2013/14 $1.58 million
2014/15 $2.2 million

And I quote:

"Council has raised these and other concerns regarding the current funding contribution
towards this activity from various sectors of the community during workshops on the Long
term Plan. Staff will table Councils concerns to the Committee."

The long and short of it is that Baker suggests that these costs be met by decreasing the commercial rate to 10%, and an increase in the UAGC by $44.90 per rating unit, thus raising $1.267m, supplemented by Commercial & Industrial levy $665k (incorporating a 10% reduction on current). The total rates to cover economic development activity is therefore $1.932m in the first instance and rising (see above!)

This is all well and good - most of us appear to have given up on imposing any level of rationality on the Leach/Day combination that has evolved these plans over the last four years. But what gets right up my nose is that it now appears that decisions on this matter - i.e. the raising of rates, is to be left to the tender clutches of the un-elected grouping of Messrs Hopper, Paige and Christian. (note: Leach took the Chair in the absence of Brent Paige at the last meeting, and presumably this next one) This is a step too far in my books, and I suspect (though I have not checked) breaches the Local Government Act, but certainly every tenet of good governance that has evolved over the centuries.

There is no justification whatsoever why an un-elected committee of Council should have responsibility in in any regard for the setting of rates, whether at second level or otherwise. But with the level of understanding we currently have of these matters on our Council, it is not at all surprising that they should have arrived at this position. It should provide good grounds in due course for a judicial review that may reflect very badly on the level of competence to which we are being constantly subjected.

How on earth can Hammond have allowed this to happen - let alone the elected councillors who now have every right to feel redundant. Why doesn't Leach simply hand the entire business of Council over to un-elected committees - they would probably do a better job, though Socrates, and John Stuart Mill may provide a murmur of dissent as they rattle their bones in protest.

So Much for "No Taxation Without Representation" - these un-elected members are responsible to no one, carry no liability, and can cheerfully make up their minds to give our rate money to anyone, or any thing - witness Mr Rod Millen's little hill-climb escapade ($40,000 - thank-you!).

If councillors do not start to take a grip, they will soon find a rising crescendo of protest in the community I venture, were its members to become more widely aware of what is going on.




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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