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Is This An Opening Salvo?

Readers may (or may not) recall a post back in January relating to Thames Promotions Workshop. Simply enter it into the Search engine to access it. 

Mark Skelding has emerged as a rather belated commenter on this post with the following: (I have brought it forward for convenient reading)

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?


 I enjoy a debate with Mark - so here is my reply to the various points he has made: 

Thanks for that Mark – a few months after the event, but welcome nevertheless, ands thank you for bringing attention to some of more outrageous decisions of the present Council.

You ask for my thoughts in relation to the issues you have raised– these are they!

The meeting that T3 called was really unrepresentative in my view and any decision to ask for promotional activities neither practical, nor beneficial to Thames. It fitted precisely into the ‘pie in the sky’ description that I have applied to a great deal of this Council’s activities.

As for the ‘rating envelope’ – that is a joke as there is no such thing. Under Leach’s watch, the ‘fiscal envelope’ has been used in a totally inappropriate manner involving postponed works and manipulated borrowing to enable ‘feel-good’ and legacy projects to be fitted in to the budget.

I am not sure what or who T3 represents – as far as I can see, it is one of those amorphous organisations that emerge from time to time under the particular patronage of one driven individual – in this case that appears to be you. In these circumstances, you need to be very careful to ensure that your ambitions coincide with the majority of rate-payers who pay the bills.

I have seen no evidence of that or that your efforts constitute anything more that the clamour of what is simply another pressure group. And I say this in full knowledge of the munificent praise heaped on you by the current Board Chair – he is of course welcome to his opinion.”

I do not doubt your good intentions for one second – it is simply that I have always been, and remain deeply suspicious of any pressure of this nature after the event – i.e. the tri-ennial election of our democratically elected representatives. Only they can be held responsible at the following election, and the credentials of those who seek to replace them examined in the light of their experience, achievements and spending proposals – revealed during, not after the campaign.

Your sudden suggested conversion of cycling and walking tracks in the hills behind the town into potential lines of communication is certainly a novel, if potentially extravagant solution to a potential problem. It will certainly require a great deal of thought before funding is committed on that premise. As for the link to the cycle trail (I assume you are referring to the Hauraki Rail Trail), I was under the impression that had already been built some years ago – it is just that no-one, or very few use it – more is the pity!

The manifest reasons for the failure (yes, failure!) of the HRT as far as Thames is concerned is a discussion point for another time, but I repeat my statement in the Kerepehi post that tourism is low-wage development, and the danger remains that foreign workers will be required to sustain it – a fact that is hitting home in places like Queenstown – and one that most decision makers appear unwilling to acknowledge.

Despite you and your organisation demanding “promotion,” it simply does not equate with the town’s tourist potential, nor for that matter its development potential – face the facts! Kopu offers limited opportunity that our Council has fluffed around with for six long years.

And no Mark, I am not about to encourage my readers to support anything concerning our Council that involves expenditure beyond core activities – both in the renewal and capital expenditure sense. I would hope that any new Council will restrict ‘nice to have’ expenditure to that which can be proven to be beneficial to the majority of rate-payers, resist further attempts by Central Government to shed responsibility, and further resist ‘knee-jerk’ responses to the demands of pressure groups.

As for outside consultants – I would be pushing for a straight out moratorium of all consultant activity other than that required to assist in controlling day-to day running costs. That would put a ‘cat amongst the pigeons.’  

Those are my thoughts Mark – over to you!  

Mark's sudden emergence as a commenter, and the isues he has raised point to a possible opening salvo in an attempt to improve his election chances, and this may be related to the "Time to Ponder the Future of Thames" post last week. I would certainly expect Mark to again put his 'foot in the water' - whether his views equate any better than before with what is a fairly conservative electorate (Ward) remains to be seen.

Anyone wishing to get their name 'out there' is welcome to use this blog to get their ideas in front of what I believe is a fairly influential readership - I have no way of knowing of course - it is just a feeling.

Probably best to email me your thoughts - I promise to post them unedited (within reason of course!)




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Reader Comments (3)

Hello Again Bill,

I'm sorry I missed this post. Good on you, Tim, for letting me know it was here. I'm not especially familiar with the blogosphere, Bill, and I'm really not using your Sails to try and blow my boat: i have no intention of standing for election at this time - by which i mean this year, rather than any veiled suggestion that i could change my mind closer to the date.

You're quite right to talk about future costs associated with some of the ideas T3 promotes. Costs, in any way you look at it, are going to be considerable as we face into climate change, as it impacts housing, infrastructure, food growing, and primary industry. Of course, no-one knows where this is heading. However, whilst I know you are very concerned about this, I suspect some of your readers may be less certain how to respond. One must invite these people to consider what they would do if this were a military moment, and our leaders were taking us down a road apparently discounting that 97 of their 100 advisors were saying Stop, you're headed into a very strong likelihood of danger. Personally, I think we should listen, and respond - but carefully.

So yes - picking up on your comment re the walkways - when the coast road is too expensive to maintain, what then?

The question is what can one do now with the resources available, surely - and without putting further load on the ratepayer. As Visitor Solutions people point out, unless or until the rail trail is incorporated into our view of Thames and what it has to offer, the previous investment is largely stranded. There are various significant government funds for major tourism related activities. If these can be leveraged to begin futureproofing our community by developing a network on the spine of the Peninsula - and maybe strengthen our economy in the meantime - why wouldn't we do this? And, why wouldn't we be encouraging TCDC to mobilise Tourism Coromandel to be putting such a package together on our behalf as we head into our town's 150th birthday and the 250 anniversary of Cook's Visit. And its not ratepayer money (yes - it is taxes of course - and I can't agree more with the notion of resisting Government's devolving responsibility with no resource!!).

T3, for all its "crazy ideas" and apparently unrepresentative presence (although we do seem to have 323 people signed up through our T3 webpage), has never asked any money from council for its work - except in the last few months where we have sourced and begun to deliver firewood from a former forestry block where at least 10 large logging trucks worth of timber was abandoned when the mill closed down. We are glad to be getting this to needy families, and pleased now to be working with Lions who have come on board. This is part of our energy focus which 2 years ago finished insulating around 300 houses at little or no cost by combining sponsorship with EECA grants. Cold, damp homes have considerable health impacts, and also tend to have raised stress levels. These can contribute to domestic tension, with attendant violence and other crime. I'm not suggesting that social problems are solved by a trailer of firewood, simply that problems are systemic and non-linear, and that relieveing pressure within the system at any point has got to be a good thing!

The next utterly insane idea involves turning the town into an energy prosumer, eventually creating a community owned renewable energy company. It was first suggested by a senior management A&G Price engineer a few years ago who considered it entirely feasible even then (2010). And, of course, the first power for Thames was via the locally owned micro-hydro scheme whose original turbine can be seen in the Bella Street pumphouse basement.

We have recently confirmed support to research the feasibility of this ludicrous notion - funding from outside of Thames, I hasten to add - and, in the first instance, hope to test the steps towards achieving it. Its contentious of course - you'll no doubt find much to say - but the international trends are towards smart grids, and decentralised often community owned generation. Grid parity is hotly debated, but there is little doubt that renewables and especially solar, make sense for places that use power during the day. In Thames we have no shortage of premises where this can happen, including elderly people's villages and so on. Such places are appropriate to set up as grid-connected loop systems, and from this, to establish wider community networks, especially as battery technology improves - and its coming very fast.

Yes: your Electric Vehicle article noted that lithium (for domestic and home battery use) is problematic. The expanding demand will likely reduce the 390 year supply we have at today's usage down to around 40 years. On the other hand, an artificially made amalgam of "fools gold" battery (I'm sure you'll enjoy that!) and a salt-water based battery are showing great potential, as are other technologies. However, your readers will have noticed, as you have, that there is a growing consensus that the need to act is now with us. If EVs capture the collective imagination (and speak to the very human desire that if we are going to have to change, let it not be by too much!!) and can be seen as part of a move towards greater energy autonomy, all the better. If this can be achieved in ways that can build up a local fund for projects (and I don't just mean T3's!) then better still.

I'd love to see a number of damn-fool projects being voiced - I've got quite a few, and I know a lot of people who do too, but - what do you think, Bill?

What are your crazy dreams that would make Thames a place where you'd be glad to live, somewhere you'd be happy to rave to your friends and family about how this town - despite the occasional naive loony groups (and I don't mean the council!!!!!) - gladdens your heart, deepens your sense of being part of something interesting, exciting, and valuable, and brings out the best in people? I'd love to know - and I don't think I'm alone in that!!

Over to you!

Cheers, and thanks again


May 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark skelding

You are like a breath of fresh air sometimes Mark - if only I could consistently understand the point you are making. Never mind, you do have a fund of good ideas that need exploring, and I don't wish to place road-blocks in your way. You clearly also have knowledge about new technologies that I barely comprehend. So good luck with promoting them, just so long as you clearly understand, and incorporate the limits of council funding when rate-payers are already burdened with affordable rates.
As regards tourism, I remain a skeptic - the only rationale in my opinion for aiming at such an outcome is to lift the standard of living of the majority of the community, rather than a rush to the bottom through uncontrolled imported labour.
I invite otrhers to contribute to this argument - it is important, and thhe views of both Mark and I are but two - there will surely be other equally or more valid.

May 4, 2016 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Unfortunately a commonsense approach to just about anything is rare these days as the political system and the media favours the airing of extremes where maybe (if you are lucky) the political process might provide a wise solution.

Mark and Bill certainly provide the basis for an interesting discussion on the future - but unfortunately it will take more than our local political wallies or even Central Government to sort that out.

Commonsense ain't that common and could even be non-existant, even though we all claim to have it.

Good luck on that one!

Unfortunately, I remain a skeptic to this argument going anywhere.

May 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAristotle the wise

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