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Tuesday
Feb242015

The Unelected Economic Development Committee Report

Tony Brljevich was inducted on to the Committee today – I do not recall any action by Council to appoint him, so I left wondering what this is all about. I know that they are very sensitive about numbers of Councillor members as opposed to outsiders having had the matter brought to their attention in my 10 December post. Bob Renton (non-Councillor) was replaced today by Cr Connors, whether permanent or otherwise was not made clear. I will query this tomorrow, together with the costs associated with the ‘outsider’ members.

Coromandel Harbour

Arising from the Minutes of the 12 November meeting, Peter French queried the statement that the Sugar Loaf Upgrade would not proceed “unless there was no impact on the ratepayer.” This is quite important because at all stages the deal has been that the Coromandel Marine Farmers Association would have to meet the cost of the Resource Consent before anything would proceed.

Greg Hampton confirmed that they were still awaiting this undertaking, and there was definite move around the table to soften the wording of the Minutes. It has been clear all along the the CFMA could never get their act together on this -  Chair Gilbert James speaks for no-one but himself, and the Association has no legal way of committing its members. Council will end up paying this – that is almost a given I suspect despite all the past assurances to the contrary from Leach down.

The Harbour Facilities Project Update was discussed – not yet a ‘Business Case,' despite assurances at the last meeting that it would be discussed today. It seems that they want more 'economic impact' information, and ‘Peer Review,” before proceeding. Suddenly the Furey’s Creek option is looking unsustainable, and they are opting for the much larger and more expensive Basin option. This is a worry – I heard Francois Pienaar come close to mentioning the dreaded “economies of scale” mantra so relished by engineers. It seems that they just cannot get enough users for the Fury’s Creek option.

I shuddered today – not for the first time in these meetings when I heard these guys going on about the Harbour project as if their very lives, certainly their livelihoods depended on it. But fortunately, and to my eternal relief, Brent Page (in the Chair) suddenly came to life, and began to question some of the financial assumptions – not many, but enough for me to realise that he is on to it. Perhaps we do need these guys sitting at the table after all, though neither Hopper of Christian contributed much, other than warnings from Hopper about “elevated risk”! – presumably about dredging, about which everyone had an opinion.

For instance, there are no funds for a ‘peer review,’ and it will be costly, but Pienaar indicated that there may be “enough fat for it” in the existing funding. I beg your pardon – where have we heard that before? It looks like it will have to come from the bottomless Economic Development Fund that seems to be presided over by Day - he sat at the top table by the way – no sign of Economic Development Tsar – Gary Towler.

I continue to have grave concerns about this project – it is clearly too big to be left to Greg Hampton and Francois Pienaar, and the raft of consultants who continue to tell everyone what they want to hear – everyone seems to have a vested interest in this project, and now the rubber hits the tarmac as discussions are taking place regarding the Council (rate-payer) contribution – large, open-ended, and up-front – get it!

Hauraki Rail Trail

Greg Hampton again, and this time spreading the good news about all the achievements since the last meeting – it all sounds good, but I remain a sceptic – I wonder why?  After all – a new Joint Council Project Team now meets monthly and sort out the issues. And all the issues from the Audit Report have been resolved (says Greg!). And the Principal Rail Contractor is in mediation over KPI’s with Rail Trail Ltd. Oh well, that’s all good then, I think! No talk about the costs or results of the mediation, but Maynard, who appears to have been more than a fly in the ointment has apparently been bought out, so perhaps everything is looking up.

Then Greg reported that the Kopu-Kaiaua route is all but finalised and the Lottery Application should be known by May. It seems that Transport NZ will fund the Piako Clip-on after all, so that is all good.

But the big sticking point relating to post-build maintenance remains to be negotiated. This will be considerable because of the need for continuous renewal of the track surface on the stop-bank upgrades that proceed relentlessly due the peat-swamp base. I have pointed this out several times in the past as a major concern, but it has never been fully explored in any reports that I have seen. It will be a headache forever, and TCDC will be lucky if they manage to persuade HDC to take the major responsibility for it.

Brent was clearly relieved to be able to congratulate someone, anyone for a good job done.  

WW1 Memorial Forests

Ben Dunbar-Smith gave a very interesting update on this rapidly growing project – it is getting bigger than Ben-Hur, with a budget of $450,000, with $250,000 coming from the Lotteries WW1 Fund. The remainder will be funded from WRC, the Community Boards and $25,000 from the ubiquitous Economic Development Fund. 

Because of the lack of space for the 2,779 trees representing Gallipoli dead, they are now going to Cathedral Cove instead of Thames, while 1,300 representing Messines Ridge will go on the Thames site. Someone apparently did the sums belatedly. Whitianga gets another 2,000 (Paschendaele) for their Cemetery. Ben is still trying to site another 10,000 – Heaven only knows where he is going to place them. 

Ben is beginning to look a little harrassed by the need to get everything sorted by 25 April. He complained in his report about staff time being spent on the project, and is obviously angling to get rid of it to Parks and Reserves – can’t imagine they will be too thrilled – just something else that Hammond has failed to think through. Actually, the whole thing looks a shambles form the outside looking in – another case of the Mayor opening his big mouth at our expense, and counting on the emotional draw-card that the whole project represents.

Well as one whose uncle actually died on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, I am not impressed. It appears that no matter what, resources will be found to complete this project in which I imagine very few rate-payers have the slightest interest; – economic development? – B/S!

Broadband

Ben Dunbar-Smith appears to located a mother-lode with a Hamilton outfit called Lightwire that is prepared to install a newish dish system – firstly between Council and the Civic Centre as a trial, but eventually at Kopu to overcome all the access problems they are having there. That will be great, but let us see if it works first – it if does, it could be installed all over the Peninsula, and wipe a few smiles off faces at the major providers.

Conferences

This was about the most ridiculous presentation I have heard in a long while – Lisa DeSouza – the CEO’s PA has been doing an investigation (at the CEO's instigation!) on conferences, Incentives and  Business Events, and came up some fanciful ideas about how we can turn the Peninsula into unsurpassed small conference venue. She suggested all manner of surveys, data-bases, bureaus, convention centres et al. I can’t imagine why she does not just get on with her job, and leave this stuff to Destination Coromandel which is funded by Council for this and similar services.   

I think Brent Page (Chair of DC) was shocked and taken aback by the presentation, and Peter French was incredulous – asking why those in the industry were not out there promoting themselves. Why the poor bloody rate-payers need to be saddled with another Council initiative in this direction, I have no idea. As I say – ridiculous, but pretty indicative of the way the mind of the CEO works. He will dream up any number of these diversionary projects if given the opportunity- it would be good if he just stuck to running the Council, something he is yet to demonstrate he has a handle on.

I think they accepted her report. Thank you Lisa.

 

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