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Thames Promotions Workshop!

The redoubtable Larry Mitchell - an experienced and knowledgeable accountant who I have quoted on several occasions in the past, has analysed the accounts of every council in the country (including ours!) in order to establish just where rates are being spent.

This is privately funded attempt (through he does sell his detailed research) to encourage the Government to become more active in trying to limit expenditure. He has just nailed Len Brown's Auckland City in identifying 42% of its total expenditure as being on discretionary activities. 

Drill down further and one finds that an astounding 26% ofr its rates, or $910m, is currently spent on Leisure and Culture alone. He is encouraging the so-called Centre-Right Alliance to target this in offering major cost-cutting as part of its platform in taking on Labour's already over-confident Phil Goff.

But what is interesting from our standpoint is today's TCDC presser extolling the "Fabulous Turnout for the Thames Promotions workshop" (100 people!) held last Friday and Saturday. This appeared to be a replica of the famous talk-fest that they had at the same venue three years ago that resulted in recommendations for traffic lights in Queen Street, along with a heap of other crazy projects that do not bear repeating. 

But from the rate-payers point of view, this one is even worse because they have brought in another bunch of consultants this time called "Visitor Solutions" whose main claim to fame appears to be the promotion of major ratepayer funded leisure parks and facilities around the Country, the principle one being the giant water sports park that has sprung up on the side of the Motorway at Manukau City. This hundred million dollar facility is apparently one of Len Brown great legacies designed to bring international recognition, and give the kids somewhere to practice canoeing. 

Here are the "Priorities" laid out by new Thames Marketing Consultant - Rick Brown:

1 - Develop and promote a visitor attraction strategy and “brand” that reflects Thames’ unique character and optimises visitor attraction.

2 - Provide promotional and coordination support to the Thames events community.

3 - Develop promotional tools and products including a renewed Thames-focused destination website.

That sounds pretty innocuous, but wait, there's more - here is the wisdom of "Vistor Solutions" Craig Jones:

"The tourism industry is ever-changing," says Visitor Solutions Managing Director Craig Jones, "but one thing always remains true: you have to stand out to succeed. Providing that unique point of difference and continually monitoring and optimising the offer are some of the keys to ongoing success."

Sounds like the same words we heard in relation to the Hauraki Rail Trail just a few short years ago. I tell you one thing - we are suckers for hucksters of all stripes in this neck of the woods!

And it represents one giant departure from the core activities that are the prime responsibility of councils - we have seen it over and over in the past, and we are seeing it happen here again in this District with tourist and leisure activities that should be funded by those who stand to benefit - not the poor bloody rate-payers.

All this stuff is being proposed, and heavily promoted by several current councillors and board  members and falls precisely into the 'discretionary spending' category so well described by Larry Mitchell.

My understanding is that those who attended the Promotions gathering at the Civic Centre were heavily weighted towards the left-leaning Transition Town Thames mob, and the usual 'busy-bodies' desperate to encourage any Council spending that may benefit their particular needs.

It is high time that these people were called on any proposals that they are preparing to put forward in this election year. If it is not in the Annual, or Ten-year Plans completed last year, then forget it. If any of these people plan to stand for either the Council or the Board, let them produce the plans and budgets that involve Council spending now, or at least in time for them to be given adequate examination before the Election in October.

I am heartily sick of Strat and his spendthrift cohort who have used so much of our rates on these futile planning exercises, clearly with the intention of providing an impression of great activity - any activity! Just who amongst our group of Thames councillors and board members supports this? - perhaps they could provide their own press releases to justify their activity - it is a bloody long time since we have heard from any of them.

The little (but no doubt very expensive) team from 'Visitor Solutions' returns here in Heritage Week for a more "in-depth" study of the opportunities available to extract even greater dollops of rate-payer funding, and cause even more window-dressing mayhem in this community. It will be interesting to see if they can attract the same interest the second time around. 




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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Bill,

You might recall that there was an occasion where a considerable chunk of ratepayer change was allocated to a petrol related event held on private land on the east coast. As a result, a bunch of left-leaners gathered in the GBD. From that came a resolution to have the many events in Thames blessed by similar munificence to enable them to work together better, rather than i the familiar isolation, overwhelm and division that often happens with volunteer groups in this town. You were there.

That meeting led to the council asking ratepayers with their rates bills if they wanted some sort of promotional function for the town and the community answered in the affirmative. I understand that this was achieved within the existing rates envelope.

T3 was part of the GBD event, and championed the support being made primarily available to community groups, on the premise that the more we can make Thames the sort of place we want to live in, the more likely people are to come here from elsewhere. However, as you have mentioned from time to time, community aspiration can be suborned to other objectives. This is true here to the extent that the final job description for this function was in danger of losing sight of this community organisation strengthening objective, and this is why T3 turned up and will continue to do so.

Of course, you may not like the ideas - such as suggesting that if prominence is to be given to developing cycling and walking tracks in the hills, this should be done with a long term aim of making an infrastructure suitable for developing into a non-coastal communications/trasnport network in the event that sealevel rise makes maintenance of the coastal road unaffordable or impractical - but its a good idea that if money is to be raised and spent, then it should be spent in ways that can be multi-useful. The thinking behind the Visitor Solutions interest in the cycleways was that unless Thames finds a reason to link the town to the cycle trail, then the money already invested by TCDC had simply been sent south to benefit Hauraki/Paeroa and beyond.

If you think that trying to shape expenditure in order to achieve long term and multiple outcomes, or ensuring that community groups get better traction, better profile and better funding for their activities is a good idea, I hope you'll encourage your readers to get involved too.

I agree with your implication that outside expertise is often unnecessary, and if such a view is to gain traction then whatever local expertise there is should be identified and included. Who do you think should be in the room? Where are they? How do we get them there? Your thoughts?


April 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark skelding

One could be forgiven in thinking that Mark is firing a salvo or two as a warning shot to let others know he is about to put his name up for a position on Council. Sincerely hope I am wrong.

April 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYeah-Nah

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