Council Today
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 5:20PM
Bill Barclay

Today’s meeting was just as fiery as I had anticipated:

Public Forum

John North came to make sure no one was in any doubt regarding the problems with the Whitianga to Hot Water Beach Great Walk. He pointed as someone with a knowledge of the corporate world to just how “bizarre” it was that the Traffic Study had been left so late in the piece, and that his constituents  were unconvinced that those problems could be overcome quite as easily as Mr Towler opined.  

He explained that the inadequacy of the finances as set out in various reports and the dangers inherent in the indication of cost increases in the Lees Road seal, amongst other things. He was extremely concerned that their Hahei Residents and Stakeholders letter with 23 questions of concern remained unanswered. He warned that the meeting on 26 October (Labour Weekend) with the Directors would demand straight answers.

Reihana Robinson made an articulate and well-presented case opposing the adoption of Coromandel Heritage Region report, and the initiation of “high-level discussion with central and regional government” as proposed by Benjamin Day. Reihana made an impassioned plea for the council to have confidence in its own ability to set the ‘blueprint’ in place for this District without the need for outside intervention, and in particular, resist this attempt by a tourism promoter to ‘set the agenda.’

Brent Page asked a ‘gimme’ question about what she considered her vision for the District – that led to some irrelevancies, and a discussion with Goudie over whether the document was ‘scoping’, or ‘feasibility?’ Spare me!

Theodora Ward made the usual plea ‘from the top’ for more "process and and better infrastructure."

John Sanford – the Mayor’s erstwhile appointee on Destination Coromandel came in to condemn the proposal as ‘premature.’ (Apologies, not so - it has been pointed out to me that this is another John Sanford!)

Great Walks

The general assurance was that the Traffic Study – to be presented later this week after changes had been proposed, would overcome all objections – not convincing! - see my most recent posts on the issue. Towler looked under pressure and ‘all-business.’ He told Jack Wells that the projected visitor numbers are 35,000 over and above the existing 200,000. That clears that up, I guess!  

What emerged that must have come as a shock to everyone based on the comments from around the table was that the Governance Directors would remain in place for all proposed and current walks. Some slimy back-tracking then took place regarding tangata whenua representatives – Ngati Hei hardly cover the District.

Another thing – I obtained the distinct impression that Leach sees himself in this role long after the end of his Mayoralty, and talked about co-opting members – yeah right! He clearly sees himself as 'Mr Walks' in every sense, and the Governance Directors (he and Brent Page) as long term (paid?) appointees to govern the whole expansion plan, along with the essential DoC representative, and for the GD’s to have a “District-wide mandate.”

Leach must have said half a dozen times – “Parking is the key, and nothing will happen at the end of the day unless this problem is solved.” He also suggested that revenue from parking would virtually cover the entire track operational costs. That is the first time I have heard that proposal.

Leach indicated that land access problems would hinder the Cathedral Cove to Hot Water Beach section for some time to come. It is just not clear how this will sit with Ngati Hei who have already made early completion of that section a condition of their continued involvement.

Coromandel Heritage Region

Day indicated that he wanted the proposal adopted simply to allow “discussions to proceed with stakeholders” – whoever they are?

That was the signal for Goudie to let fly, and  she let Day know in no uncertain terms what she thought of his competence in presenting this proposal, basically as a fait accompli. The proposal was quite different to that which was indicated back in February, and far further “forward” than had been earlier proposed – "it is not a ‘scoping’ document!"

She questioned why it was proposed to now talk to outside agencies before talking to the Boards or rate-payers, and wants it returned to the EDC for further study – it should bring in someone independent to review the entire proposal.

She would not support the recommendation.

Leach’s temperature was rising rapidly at this point and he let fly obliquely at everything Goudie had said. The ICUN label was purely a ‘brand.’ That we needed in order to deal with all the additional tourist numbers that we could expect in the future, which sounded like so much else as contradictory.

And Maggie Barry had indicated that she thought it should be elevated to ‘consultation.’ Leach said that it would take years, but that we need to "first get industry on side, ” and then “get the branding right.”

The discussion reverted at one stage to a great deal of unhelpful vituperation, with Leach becoming louder and louder as he attempted to deal with Goudie’s sniping from the side-lines. Some may call it a debate, but frankly neither has a clue as to what constitutes debate. More posturing and position taking.

This is the outcome:

  1. French gave an ‘election speech’ full of homilies and rhetoric that it “is only a proposal,” making grand assertions, saying nothing, but backing Leach.
  2. Goudie gave a serve at French from the end of the table about "the election is not till next year.” Leach tried vainly to shut her up at that point!
  3. McLean, Wells, Brljevich and Connors all spoke ‘strongly’ against the motion. It looked 5:4 at that point,together with Goudie.
  4. Then Leach gave a rip-roaring defences of himself, Day, Adams, and the Report, then himself again, suggesting that anyone who opposed it simply did not understand. I think they did!
  5. He suggested that it be re-written to take out some of the more egregious and inflammatory comments.
  6. Hammond smoothly, too smoothly for my books, suggested that all was well and that he “had the resources to sort out all the problems.” - “Trust me!” in other words. Day said nothing!
  7. Leach called for the vote and it went through with only Goudie opposed - a complete rout in other words, showing exactly the level of courage around the table.  
  8. It did not help having ‘non-members’ around the table – Peters, Johnston and Page speaking in favour of adoption as if they were decision makers – what a joke! But as I have said on so many occasions, when it comes to the crunch, few have the guts to stand up to Leach on this Council.
  9. Weasel-words were ‘par for the course’ throughout – ‘stakeholder,’ ‘concept,’ ‘flesh around the bones!,’ ‘scoping,’ and 'branding' featured heavily.

The resolution that was finally adopted was:

“Council supports investigations into the possible establishment of a “Coromandel Heritage Region” (working title) which will involve initial high level discussions with all stakeholders” (there is that word again!)  

More tomorrow! 



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