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Wednesday
Mar252015

Council Highlights

Economic Development Committee

Brent Page was appointed today to Council with "full-speaking rights," along with confirmation of the two new council appointees - Connors and Brljevich to the Committee as foreshadowed earlier. 

But not without some blood on the floor. Cr Goudie was distinctly unhappy at this course of events, spoke and voted against Brent's new status. This did not make our Mayor happy at all - quite bad-tempered really, and possibly by mistake noted that she "had voted against economic development"- I bet that does not get recorded in the minutes.

Sandra's arguments were exactly the same as I put forward in my earlier post related to the the ability of councillor members to report back of what went on in that Committee. This was rejected out of hand by Leach who suggested that the cost was substantially less than that of councillor, who generally had less to offer - or words to that effect.

Brent was invited to attend today's meeting, and sat in the public gallery. He appeared somewhat bemused by the whole process and even gave an indication of being in agreement with Sandra on the issue. My concerns about this new appointment should not be interpreted in any way as criticism of Brent who has demonstrated business acumen, and given signs of being able to bring an independent viewpoint to the EDC table. My concerns as always are grounded on principle, and the democratic process. I don't believe that either is served by using him in this manner.

What really offends the democratic process is that it turns out that he has not just been invited to attend to deal with economic development issues, but to sit through entire meetings in order to "contribute a business view on whatever arises." Frankly I cannot imagine that he will be the slightest bit interested in such a role, but he can thank Day for that. 

As I have already stated, this is a unique appointment and a debasement of the democratic process by which our Council is meant to operate. Democracy is a pig - we all know that, but we are supposed to learn to live with its deficiencies - not ride roughshod over them as has happened right here today with our Council attempting to create a purse from the pigs ear.

A bewildering response came when Cr Brljevich claimed as a new member of the ED Committee, that he would gain great value from just listening to his business colleagues. What a pathetic and embarrassing bunch - they are elected members who simply lack the confidence, direction or ability to stand up to Leach.

Say what you like about Goudie - she stands out as a shining light in that regard amongst this bunch. I expect a great deal more fireworks as a result before too long on issues that lurk in the background. If she intends to stand against Leach, she will need to make her mark before too long. Not that I am encouraging her - just sayin'!

Representation

There is fight brewing up on representation, although the status quo was accepted today for another three years at least. The issue arises from the fact that for one reason or another, a large number of East Coast absentee owners fail to register and vote here in the LG elections. This results in over-representation for Thames in particular when it relates to rating units (+47.7%) compared to -43.9% for Whangamata etc, and -30.6% for Whitinaga etc. 

This compares with almost even representation when worked on the current resident population criteria, apart from Coromandel which has a +14.1% deviation - outside the +/- 10% limit set by the Commission. Well you can imagine the angst that this causes our Eastern Seaboard colleagues when they workshopped the representation issue. They obviously decided to accept the current system in the meantime, but Angela Jane (Governance Manager) has been told to give further thought to how this anomaly can be overcome before 2018 - the next time it will come up.

Thames has a fair number of absentees too (23%), but nothing like the numbers on the East Coast, and its representatives "are not going to take it anymore," or words to that effect. The clear if unstated aim to increase Esat Coast representation by moving away from a resident population basis to a mixture of rating unit/resident system. This may be quite difficult to get past the Commission, but the clear intent is to raise East Coast representation vis-a-vis West Coast.

Expect a far more rigorous review in 2018.

New Chum

As expected, three outside commissioners are to be appointed. 14 are apparently available for the early May period selected for the Hearing. They will be selected internally - McLean and Hammond to approve.

Mercury Bay Sport Ground Valuation

An intriguing item appears in the Public Excluded section of the Agenda:

"Elected Member request to peer review Mercury Bay Sport Ground Valuation determining purchase price."

I wonder if anyone can throw any light on that particular matter. Could it be that a councillor is raising issues surrounding the secret Whitianga Waterways (Hoppers) Deed? The "Elected Member" is almost certainly McLean - he having had his finger in this pie from the start, and I suspect that it is the issue of credit to be applied to Hopper's in the transaction based either on the sub-division, or greenfield value of the land.

This was never revealed at the time, and was always likely to end in litigation if the Council did not accept Hopper's sub-division value. It is nonsense of course as Hoppers were required to provide 'recreational' land as part of their development consent, and to have that land valued at its sub-divisional value for the purposes of 'credit' is frankly outrageous, but quite in keeping with the whole tenor of the deal. But speculation is pointless as we have never been permitted to know the full details of the deal. 

Why else would the item be placed in the "Public Excluded" section of the agenda? - it is normal practice on this Council to keep anything controversial of this nature behind closed doors. Leach hates dissent of any kind (witness his treatment of Goudie, above!), and would if he could keep anything nasty like this well out of sight - even out of Public Excluded! 

The item is suppressed under Section 48(7)(2)(c)(i) of the LG Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 - a rarely used section:

"To protect information which is subject to an obligation of confidence or which any person has been or could be compelled to provide under the authority of any enactment, where the making available of the information would be likely to prejudice the suply of similar information, or information from the same source, and it is in the public interest that such information should continue to be supplied."

The Mercury Bay Sports Ground has been shrouded in mystery for far too long, and vested interests have been protected from the cleansing light of day. It appears that this Council is determined to continue this process, and it may be necessary to seek the outside intervention of the Ombudsman to determine the appropriateness of the continued suppression of information, even at the risk of again being balled out in Council for "wasting the Council's time."   

 

 

 

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