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Friday
Jun122015

Economic Development Committee

This powerful group of private entrepreneurs (3), and councillors (4) met again in Whitianga this week to again consider deeply important economic issues facing our Council - just cast your eye over the Agenda. And item 2.1 was withdrawn at the last moment!

 2          Anchor Projects

2.1       Coromandel Great Walks Project Definition (pdf, 24KB)

2.2       Update on WWI Memorial Forest (pdf, 217KB)

            Attachment A - Cathedral Cove Memorial Trees (pdf, 1.94MB)

2.2.1    Late item - WWI Memorial Forests (pdf, 54KB)

3          Economic Development Strategy and Work Programme

3.1       Whitianga iSite Service Level Agreement Report  (pdf, 41KB)

            Attachment A - January 2015 SLA report Whitianga i-SITE (pdf, 596.95KB)

3.2       Destination Coromandel and Thames Visitor Information Centre (pdf, 73.05KB)

Attachment A - Destination Coromandel 2015 -18 Funding Agreement (pdf, 464.43KB)

Attachment B - Thames Visitor Information Centre 2015 - 18 Funding Agreement

3.3       Co-funding broadband developments (pdf, 86KB)

            Attachment A - Vodafone Letter re Kaueranga Valley tower co-investment proposal (pdf, 1.01MB)

            Attachment B - St John's letter re co-investment proposal (pdf, 1.97MB)

Late item - Bid for Government funding of broadband (pdf, 24KB)

3.4       Coromandel Food Trail (pdf, 32KB)

3.5       Waikato Regional 2014 Economic Activity (pdf, 40KB)

3.6       LGNZ Tourism Forum (pdf, 35KB)

3.7       Members reports

3.8       Mercury 250th Anniversary Trust (pdf, 457KB)

3.9       Late item - EDC Performance Measures (pdf, 44KB)

The only other 'development' matter - consigned to the 'Public Excluded' section of the agenda relates to a Sugarloaf status update. Why this, and a Thames ISite Update need to be be treated as 'Public Excluded' is simply nonsense. These matters cannot possibly be 'commercially sensitive', and their presence in the 'Public Excluded' section indicates a new and disturbing tendency towards unwarranted secrecy where private entrepreneurs are being asked to decide matters concerning the disposition of our rates. Outrageous really!

Then, at the last moment, the Coromandel Great Walks Project (Item 2.1) was removed from the Agenda

"Please note that item 2.1  - Coromandel Great Walks project initiation document report has been withdrawn from the Economic Development Committee agenda for our meeting tomorrow. This is to allow for changes that will be made to the PID following the decision that will be made regarding the funding application this week. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause." (email dated 9 June)

The only possible reason for this change is that there is a knowledge, or suspision of an adverse decision on the excellent Lottery Board $1.8m funding application on which the entire project depends. What an embarrassment that would be. In the meantime, staff are twiddling their fingers waiting desperately for a successful outcome so that they can get started on the actual project.

I did not attend the meeting in Whitianga because of the lightweight nature of the original Agenda, so I am unable to report on whatever verbal reports that may have been provided to the meeting, presumably by Benjamin Day. This is all pretty grim, and may well result from the last minute demurring of the Hahei Residents & Rate-payers Association who appear to have only recently managed to get their act together, and actually articulate their concerns that have until now been very much in the background. It appears that decisions may have been bulldozed through a range of local consulting groups, and it may be that that representation on those committees has not truly reflected the local view - particularly in regard to parking.

It is not my intention to attempt to analyse this situation further as I am certainly not in possession of all the facts, and it may be quite difficult to accurately establish the situation at this stage.

What concerns me is the the level of responsibility of this Committee as represented in this agenda - it appears that the committee is taking on responsibilities well beyond those contemplated at the outset - just examine for a moment the items listed under 3 above. Then examine the items under "Anchor Projects" (2) with the Great Walks item removed. It appears that the only matters of any importance dealt with at this meeting related to the Mayor's latest 'Legacy' - the WW1 Memorial Forest that has taken on an importance far beyond 'economic development.' Indeed, just what it is has to do with economic development is moot. 

Putting all that argument aside, one is left to wonder what on earth our Council is doing running this Committee with its massive budget and apparently, nothing happening. Each meeting costs over $3,000 in meeting fees alone - never mind all the other costs associated with its administration. It may have been a worthy concept at the outset, but let us quite clear - it has achieved precisely nothing discernable in the 18 months of its existence. How these highly paid executives can justify the time spent on these piddling matters completely escapes me. I get the impression that it survives solely as a Mayoral ego trip, and that the people appointed are 'hanging in there' simply to avoid embarrassment all round. 

The Mayor and Benjamin Day may consider it important to continue its activities for this reason alone, but rate-payers are entitled to question the entire process, and in particular the relegation of important, and extremely costly proposals to a 'public excluded' status must be highlighted, and questioned.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (5)

Bill
I note your use of the word powerdul(l) - bit Freudian.

June 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Recently, I read in a farming magazine;

"If farmers are not at the table for regional water quality discussions, then they will be "on the menu".

The Thames Coromandel community is basically divided into two groups constituting ratepayer and developer interests.

In recent years, ratepayers interests have lacked cohesion whilst developer interests have surged, beginning with the election of Leach. It is not surprising then, that that developers have been included within the ranks of the Council while ratepayer interests have not.

By not being 'at the table', ratepayers are now 'on the menu' just like the farmers mentioned above.

Sad times really.

I am not saying that either group does not have legitimate concerns, but that there needs to be and effective balance between the two.

How that is now achieved, I am not quite sure. But the issue is something that should concern anyone who thinks at all about local politics.

June 14, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdal

Nothing to do with Freud Russell - just a recalcitrant keyboard!!

And Dal, - you are so right. It would be a joke if it were not so serious. We are being dumped on from a great height, but eventually Leach must be held responsible for this total shemozzle. Even the staff who we believed were committed to his vision are beginning to lose faith, and that may become clearer before too long. Watch this space!

June 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

When Councils digress from their core business and take on projects outside their expertise for egotistical kudos, throwing caution of Public monies to the wind the results are what we now have. Irrigation Project, Great walk, Sport park, Composting machine etc all the legacy of our leaders who have inflated ideas of their importance and expertise.
How about sticking with Rock walls, Street upgrades and general services...the ratepayer is certainly first course on the menu.

June 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDigger

Recalcitrant - of course.
Several good points have been raised in the foregoing responses.
Dal's comment about vested interest groups is especially pertinent.
Rate-payers probably expected their elected representatives to, you guessed, represent their interests around the table Dal talks of. What is outstandingly clear to interested bystanders is that our representatives appear to focus less on rate-payers, other than expecting them to pay, than on those with a profit motive front and centre. If our elected representatives put rate-payer interests first, then we might see more emphasis on the utility services that Digger mentions. I would have thought that elected council was more about the provision of basic services and the development thereof than assisting business to develop new commercial profit orientated opportunities.
Don't misunderstand me here; I am all for council making it easier for existing business to stay in business through reduced rating burden, better utility infrastructure, effective lobbying to central Government, appropriate policy backdrop for better and more consistent (council) decision making, red-tape cutting, et. al.
Rate-payers are not in the business of facilitating and funding commercial opportunities for savvy businessmen to exploit; nor should elected representative presume to do so on our behalf.
Drains, roads, water, waste and such like might not be as sexy as great walks and rail trails, but it is what council does, or ought to do. And do it well.
The E.D.C. ought to be more about building a sound platform of utility infrastructure, cohesive and sensible compliance regulation, and appropriate and sustainable policy.
For the members of the E.D.C. to be worrying about i-sites, memorial forests and food trails seems, to me at least, to be a little silly. They ought to be out there asking industry how council can help them to continue operating in our area, how they can lobby Government to help small business, what we need to do to keep young people in the area.
But then I am not a wealthy and successful business-person offering advise to Council.

June 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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