Economic Development Committee
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 8:10PM
Bill Barclay

The date and venue for this meeting was changed from the advertised date and venue of 21 April and Thames, to 24 April and Whitianga at 3.30pm on Monday 20th. No reason was provided as required in Standing Orders 2.13.3, and none forthcoming when requested.

Standing Orders require two full business days for notice of changes of this nature. It is simply another example of the contempt displayed by all concerned for ratepayers and dare I say, media. Since I am the only one who attends, I suppose that this observation affects only myself, but that does not gainsay the need for staff and elected members to respect the rules set out in standing orders – most Councils pride themselves on ensuring that they are complied with implicitly – but not here where Rafferty rules!  

The major items on the Committee’s Agenda are dealt with under the headings below:

“Anchor Projects”

This is the new term by which Leach’s Legacy Projects are to be known – take note everyone!

Major Events is the first of these – now to be funded at three year 2015-18 program and it is no longer peanuts – starting with $128k in 2015/16, then rising by 20% a year to $186k in 2017/18. It includes the production of a really glossy brochure aimed at justifying the program, and advertising what we are prepared to give away to likely causes.

At least the strategy contemplates co-ordination with the local community board grants program in order to avoid ‘double-dipping,’ and that is certainly not before time, but the major question that remains unanswered in the Strategy relates to the appropriateness of large scale promotions being supported in this manner.

This is entirely a Ben Day driven strategy that appears very ambitious for a District of this size, and in its financial state. The benefits appear directed a few promoters who should be standing on their own feet and not relying on rate-payers to subsidise their operations. It is all very well for a city the size of Auckland to be undertaking these promotions, but for the life of me, I cannot understand the sudden desire to commit increasing amounts of hard earned rates in this direction, and in this manner here.

It would be helpful if Mr Day could produce some comparisons with similar sized councils elsewhere. This is the kind of question our ‘outside’ directors/members should be asking, and all members should be extremely conscious of their ‘conflict of interest’ responsibilities – something that was demonstrably absent when this Committee gave $40,000 away to the infamous and private Millen Hill-Climb at Hahei. I could mention in passing and in that regard the total absence of the “international TV coverage” that was supposed to emanate from that flash little boondoggle.

And incidentally, the proposed criteria for the major grants virtually excludes anything other than already well established East Coast events – mainly involving cars, food or music. There is nothing even remotely of a cultural nature – simply sun, sand and good times (“spice!” is the catch-phrase) How on earth this benefits the majority of rate-payers is absent.

Great Walks -  For the first time, failure in the fund-raising stakes is contemplated, and plans laid for a “fall-back position. For the first time, the local Hahei opposition to the project is given credence. This is a major turnaround from the previous ‘gung-ho’ attitude prevalent at all levels within the organisation. An additional 155,000 visitors is projected with the project – in addition to the current 120,000 by year three

The paper outlines an interesting situation with regard to the participation of Ngati Hei –

“The Blowhole to Hot Water Beach must remain as a priority. Ngati Hei will continue to support the Great Walks, but only if this section is completed within reasonable time.”

That appears on the surface a substantial risk when combined with the Hahei opposition – factors that the Department of Internal Affairs (Lottery Board) will take into account. Certainly, the funding application narrative that is on the Order Paper is a remarkable document that details significant history, and progress to date with the actual project, together with a staggering array of detail and attachments. Whoever put it together needs to be congratulated, but whether it impresses the Lottery Board remains to be seen.

There are heaps of other “ifs” and “buts” in the paper that goes to the Committee of Friday, and many delays contemplated that supersede the original plans. The Governance Committee that includes local residents appears to have a strong say over what happens, and what choices are made regarding routes and facilities. I sense that this project is in trouble, but that is from the outside looking in, and may be far too pessimistic. Time will tell!

Coromandel Harbour Project – The long awaited Business Case has again failed to materialise, but the Committee has instead been given a detailed “Project Status Report Update.” The formatted document is a masterpiece of boxes – ticked and otherwise, “milestones” and “deliverables” and unintelligible jargon, but I guess that is par for the course these days.  At least it tells us what has been spent, but what remains unspoken is the undoubtedly frightening amounts that remain to be spent.

The Business Case is back with the Business case Review Team whatever that is, and there is no time line for it to be submitted to the Committee and Council, other than “next period.” That comprises the entire “Status Report.” And before anyone accuses me of negativity, consider for a moment just how this project has bounced around over the last four years.

Hauraki Rail Trail – Another “Project Status Report” – and the risks again remain with Lottery funding and in this case, the NZTA contribution to the Piako bridge clip-on. They are big risks of course – the project depends on favourable results in both cases. Resource consents for the Kopu/Kaiaua section have been obtained together with all landowner permissions, so that is good.  

It is great to note that a “Cross-Council Team” has been formed to “improve co-operation, co-ordination and communications” (The 3 C’s!) Probably long overdue, and perhaps it will overcome some of the outrageously complicated structural problems that beset the project from the outset as various parties, private and public, protected their interests.

WW1 Memorial Forest – Ben Dunbar-Smith appears to worked his butt off to get all the sites ready and ANZAC Day planting ceremonies organised.

The exception is the Thames where he appears to have run into a number of difficulties starting with the decision to move the Gallipoli Memorial to Cathedral Cove through lack of space for the 2779 trees representing the Gallipoli deceased.

The Thames plantings are set Rhodes Park starting 7 June (216), and later, much later at the site behind the Thames War Memorial where 1300 trees are planned after all the weed/ scrub clearance and track work has been completed – all these are to commemorate the Battle of Messines Ridge.

There is a splendid map in the Order Paper showing all the planting around the District.

Broadband Upgrade – There s some interesting information in a separate paper regarding the upgrade at Kopu and the following is relevant for all users who are contemplating an upgrade by whatever means, provided by Gerald Lindstrom – Chorus Manager of Government and Industry Relations:

There was a further paper on the Government’s new $152-210m Broadband upgrade aimed to extend coverage of fibre-to-the-premises to 80% of the population with a 100Mbps service. That speed seems extremely unlikely given the scale of work needed to achieve that target.

Towns throughout the country are being invited to make bids for this funding and the Government will allocate funding according to range of criteria. But what is most concerning is that the Minister has made it clear that the amount of dosh each district or town is prepared to contribute will be a major factor in awarding the Government funding. That will of course turn into a bidding war between the various towns and the last towns standing will be those with the greatest reserves, and we don't have any for reasons of which you will all be aware. 

We are in the bidding war along with 30 others, including Whitianga. Expect business and industry to apply major pressure on Councils to offer financial incentives along with eased regulatory control, and proof of demand – that will be important, and I possibly difficult to quantify in this town. But we have to be in to win, and the Government will play a very political game I suspect. We better get Scott working on our behalf without delay.

There is an additional $100m Rural Upgrade in the works as well utilising a variety of techniques. It is so frustrating knowing that the fibre goes right past the front gate, and we cannot even access ADSL2, let alone VDSL in the area where we live. The copper pipe is under more and more pressure in the late afternoon, and I am heartily sick of third World style buffering that we are likely to suffer for years to come. Unless……..!

Our indicative bid has to be in by 3 July, and our Digital Enablement Plan by 18 September after the Chorus (in our case) has indicated its capability.   

Automobile Association Agency – With the closedown of the existing “I” Site on 30 June and move to the Civic Centre, there will no room at the Inn for the AA and the services previously performed on their behalf. The re-tendering of registration services by Transport NZ in twelve months means that there is no other sucker prepared to take on the role – worth about $10k net a year.

So our Council has offered to house it in the bottom floor of the Castle and run it alongside all our services functions. Good luck to them – I can imagine that staff in that area are thrilled to boots to be taking on this role, but I guess someone has to do it. Whether the intention is to continue it beyond the tender period when AA will need to compete for the agency business nationally is moot, and should they lose it, then other arrangements will be put in train. Can’t imagine anyone else wanting the task, but one never knows.   

Ben Day has come up with a basically neutral budget, and I guess that there will not be much harm done, but I am basically opposed as I am sure most readers will be to Council taking on any additional role through its office – at least they will be forced to get their credit card and eftpost arrangement sorted, and driver testing is after all contracted out.

Business Friendly Initiative – Ben Day is full of them, and on this occasion it is one designed to present a smiley face to all the businesses that are just waiting to set up here, but who find the Council’s procedures a pain in the neck, and ‘putting off.’

Here is what his new initiative is designed to do:

And:

“For some time TCDC has struggled dealing with large property and business development enquiry and projects that require multiple departments within Council to contribute to the overall objectives of the customer.

Large subdivision projects and business development initiatives often require staff in planning, legal/property, licenses and concessions, building consents, development contributions and infrastructure services to work together in a coordinated and seamless way.”

And:

“We plan to create a new ‘account and project management role’ at TCDC on a 6 month trial to solve the issues outlined in the previous section.”

The projects that are suggested as initial targets are:

The cost:

Time period: 6 month trial                                                                                                                         Activity Budget: Economic Development                                                                                                  Cost: $1650 per week excl. GST ($39,600 for 6 months)

There you have it – another economic development position to add to all the others that have been created at the Castle and in the Area Offices. Mr Day may only be a small scale empire builder, but empire builder nevertheless - when will it ever end? And as one commenter puts it, this is the upshot of having removed every level of competence in the place through the deliberate actions of the Leach/Hammond/Day triumverate over the last four years.

 

 

 

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