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Tuesday
Sep152015

Geoff Robinson States His Case Opposing CHR

The following submission was made by Geoffrey Robinson to the Mayor & councillors yesterday as a reflection of the feeling in certain sections of the community regarding the Coromandel Heritage Region proposal submitted to the 17 August meeting of the Economic Development Committee, and 'workshopped' behind closed doors to a range of community representatives by its author - Chris Adams. 

The reaction in the community has to date been restricted to comments on the pages of the Hauraki Herald and Waikato Times, but it is clear that there are a range of views, many of which would be supportive of the position laid out by Geoff, particularly in the absence of detailed information in the public arena regarding the proposal.

The suspicion is that the adoption of the recommendations contained in the Adams Report was intended  to take place with a minimum of public input, particularly when it has been suggested in the Paper accompanying the Report that an immediate visit be made to Wellington by the Mayor and staff with the intention of securing Government support. 

It is interesting to note Geoffrey's argument that this whole proposal should have been "on the table" before the 2015/25 Long Term Plan was adopted, and that Council has no mandate to proceed with adoption pf the Plan in full or in part without that level of public scrutiny and input. 

Here is Geoffrey's submission:

"On August 18, Council publicly revealed a proposal that would fundamentally and permanently alter the political/administrative structure, management regime, and regulatory framework of the Thames-Coromandel District.

The Miles proposal outlines in detail what TCDC immediately announced as its “Coromandel Heritage Region Project” and is currently promoting on its web site, despite Council itself never having met to formally consider, or even discuss, the sweeping changes proposed therein.

The report recommends seeking a “new national designation” for the Coromandel Peninsula (Thames-Coromandel District).  Although not specifically stated, this could be a special administrative entity such as a national park or other functionally similar unit.  The proposal could also entail special amendment of the LGA2000 with reference to the district. 

The proposal further recommends entering into an international “environmental protection” scheme that can be used in “branding” and marketing the Coromandel to visitors.  To qualify for the scheme (International Union for Conservation of Nature Category V or similar), the district would enter into an overarching interagency/intergovernmental agreement with private industry and iwi to determine “values” and “goals” for the Coromandel, set out specific conservation and monitoring projects to be carried out, and establish a public-private development fund.

Council is today being asked to endorse the “Project” or otherwise indicate its support for immediate further discussions with Government, DOC, WRC, and the tourism industry to advance its implementation.

The “Project” represents far and away the most far-reaching, long-lived, and broad changes to local representative democracy in our district ever proposed.  There is considerable opposition in the community to the proposed changes.

Council has no mandate from the public to investigate or enter into any form of agreement with other government entities, departments, or industry sector representatives regarding the future management of the district’s built or natural environments.  There is no mandate for any form of co-management of the district with WRC/DOC/Industry (such as the proposed “Coromandel Accord”) and no mandate to adopt any overseas-managed environmental protection scheme or standards (such as the IUCN Category V).

IMPROPER PROCESS:

Contrary to contentions from Council, the nature and scope of the “Project” were never substantively or adequately signaled or “sign-posted” to residents.  The one-paragraph reference to an undefined “heritage region” on Page 15 of the 2015-25 Long-Term Plan is totally vague, general, and provides no hint whatsoever of Council intentions or the substance of the “Project”.  The changes proposed are of major significance and should have been, at the very least, the subject of broad consultation through the Long-Term Plan process.

SPECIFIC DEFICIENCIES OF THE MILES REPORT:

  •  Fails to explain how or why the interagency/intergovernmental/private sector accord and IUCN designation are necessary to achieving positive environmental management outcomes.
  • Purely promotional in nature and advocates for one option only.  Fails to discuss any alternatives to achieve same or similar outcomes.
  • Fails to discuss necessary legislative changes and consequent impacts on, and implications for, local democracy and control. 
  • Fails to present any cost analysis or discuss how costs would be borne.
  • Fails to discuss any disadvantages, adverse consequences or impacts on individual property owners and businesses. Reflects perspective of one industry sector (tourism) only.
  • Purported economic benefits are vague and speculative, with little or no substance or facts to support projections.
  • Fails to discuss management guidelines/requirements of IUCN Category V areas, including among others the IUCN Environmental and Social Management System, IUCN Project Management System, IUCN Standards on the Protection of Natural Habitats, IUCN Project Grievance Mechanism, IUCN Project Complaints Management System.
  • Presents two main examples of IUCN Category V, neither of which is comparable to the Thames-Coromandel District.

WHY THE HERITAGE PROJECT/MILES PROPOSAL SHOULD BE REJECTED 

  • Wholly undemocratic – A range of future planning, policies, and regulations affecting Coromandel communities would be bound by, and subordinated to, agreements drawn up by unelected individuals and “stakeholder” groups, starting with a new, overarching “Coromandel Accord”.  Community goals and values, as well as specific conservation and development priorities and spending, would not be the sole purview of our elected local boards and district council as at present, but would be subject to conditions agreed to by WRC, DOC, and select industry representatives, as well as IUCN rules.
  • Completely unnecessary – Protection and enhancement of Coromandel landscapes is already well assured through provisions of the Resource Management Act, National Policy Statements, District Plan, Waikato Regional Coastal Plan, Regional Policy Statement, and Regional Pest Strategy.  Tourism “branding” and promotion can be achieved without entering into any overseas marketing scheme. 
  • Totally inappropriate – The vast majority of IUCN Category V protected landscapes are national parks, state parks, military parks, national seashores, national monuments, public recreation areas, wildlife refuges, conservation reserves, historic sites, memorial parks and other public spaces that otherwise lack coherent local government regulation.  The Coromandel is not a national park (nor should it be), unlike the UK’s Lake District that is offered as an IUCN example.
  • Potentially burdensome and restrictive – Management guidelines and policies for IUCN Category V Protected Landscapes run more than 108 pages (plus annexes) covering everything from use of private transportation to selection of building materials. Other relevant IUCN systems, guidelines, and procedures are much more extensive.
  • Costly – Expenses for required monitoring, management, and projects are completely unaccounted for in the proposal.  Actual costs are unknowable, likely to be high and I the many millions, certain to increase over time, and will fall squarely on local TCDC ratepayers.
  • Not reflective of community views – Among the first “significant conservation projects” specifically suggested are new marine reserves in each community that may not allow recreational fishing (as generations of Kiwi families have known and enjoyed). The plan also suggests fencing off the peninsula at Colville, an idea soundly rejected by affected residents only a few years back.

CONCLUSION: LOCAL COMMUNITIES, LOCAL CONTROL

Residents, conservationists, iwi, farmers, business owners, seasonal visitors, youth, outdoorsmen, bach owners, ratepayers, council staff, and so many others across the Coromandel agree that the natural landscapes and traditional way of life on the peninsula represent a rich and varied shared heritage that should be protected and enhanced. They also agree that a healthy environment can benefit tourism, promote general economic development, and support healthy communities.

Accomplishing these goals does not require agreements with outside private and government interests from across the Waikato and across New Zealand.  Nor does it require an overseas NGO “stamp of environmental approval” or handcuffing our communities to a questionable overseas land management regime.

The framework for meeting our environmental and social goals already exists.

It is called Thames-Coromandel District Council. 

Thames-Coromandel District Council should not subordinate or compromise its authority over district planning, regulation and rules in any way whatsoever –– certainly not as recommended by Miles Media

RECOMMENDATIONS AND REQUESTED ACTIONS 

  1. That Council INDICATE through affirmative resolution its OBJECTION to the recommendations of the Miles Media Feasibility Report and its intention to SUSPEND INDEFINITELY Council’s “Heritage Region Project” work stream;
  2. That Council formally INDICATE through affirmative resolution its OBJECTION to further exploratory discussions between the mayor or staff with Government, DOC, or WRC toward implementation of the Feasibility Report Recommendations, specifically in relation to any “Coromandel Accord” or in relation to any potential new “national designation” for the Coromandel Peninsula as described in the report;
  3. That Council RESOLVE that any further developmental work in relation to the Miles Media proposal be at the sole expense of the tourism industry and with no Council staff involvement;
  4. That Council RESOLVE that any proposed comprehensive district-wide “branding” or marketing scheme for the Coromandel, or any proposed district-wide environmental protection initiative be referred for consideration during the upcoming 2018-28 Long-Term Plan process;
  5. That Council NOT ENDORSE or otherwise give its formal or informal indicative support for the “Heritage Region Project” or the Miles Media Feasibility Report and Recommendations."

With the likelihood of heated debate on this issue tomorrow, there are already indications that the Mayor will seek to deal with the matter 'behind closed doors' by calling for the matter to be 'work-shopped.' 

It is quite possible that Goudie, for her own reasons, will resist any attempt to remove the matter from public view. Further, I believe that there may well be strong resistance to any precipitate action to adopt Day's recommendations, regardless of what may take place 'behind closed doors.'

As I previously indicated, the outcome of tomorrow's meeting could well become a defining moment in determining the likely success of French's mayoral ambitions. He has remained tentative, and demonstrated weakness by walking in Leach's footsteps to date, and this issue gives Goudie real leverage. 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

Geoff and Reihana Robinson are two very intelligent people. However, in my observation, those sorts of people often have huge 'blind-spots', equally as large or even larger than the average JOE-BLOW, but rationalised successfully by piecing together an apparently cogent, but ultimately flawed argument. For example, I know a professor of water hydraulic engineering who runs a highly successful multi-million dollar business who is brilliant in his field but absolutely hopeless at many things outside of it - although he doesn't know that and will never know that as his perception of himself as a Professor (who naturally should know more than you or me about just about anything) won't allow for it.

Rock on Geoff and Reihana.

How about a fact? The Northern Coromandel Land-care group which G an R are part, although maybe genuinely thinking themselves' protectors of the environment', are far from it. Their goals are selfish although they appear to genuinely not see it. The only environmental control they will accept is what they as locals want because they know better and how could anyone outside of themselves know better?

Want an example? One of the first major environmental objectives to be achieved if the fence across from Colville were to be built, would be the extermination of every wild pig within that area. Wild pigs are of course among the worst environmental pests - they rank right up there alongside possums and rats. Any genuine environmentally minded person would want their extermination in this area. However, the G and R see them as a local food resource that they are entitled to! And at that point their environmental claims and intellectual honesty about the environment go up in a puff of smoke.

It really is that simple.

And their understanding of local government operations is somewhat lacking too.

Yes there is a need, under the LGA, to consult before making significant decisions. However, that consultation is required to be done via a 'special consultative procedure' as defined by that Act - and that should only be undertaken after full investigations about an issue an not before. There is nothing that I have seen in what the Council is doing about the issue in question that goes beyond that.

So it is not possible to have that procedure yet. And neither is it possible to conduct a 'cost benefit' analysis until that process is complete.

And for Geoff's benefit, including this consultation within a Long Term Plan consultation process instead of a stand-alone consultation process in its own right, represents a completely useless, watered down demand that will get lost in $200 bach taxes and a $10 increases in dog fees. The LGA allows the compulsory 3 yearly review of Council budgets as a 'catch-all' for special consultative procedures, which Councils very effectively use to bury controversial issues.

So why would you want that?

What is wrong with thoroughly investigating the concept that has been put forward, then instigating a full consultation process about it so that we can all make informed submissions and the Council can eventually make an informed decision?

The whole tenor of Geoff's "recommendations and requested actions" is to kill that process off as soon as possible and deny the idea any political traction.

God help the environment and genuine 'land-care' in this District if that attitude is allowed to prevail.

Dal Minogue.

September 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDal Minogue

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