'Dream Team' Shows Its Hand
Monday, August 29, 2016 at 11:14AM
Bill Barclay

The predicted 'Dream Team' of French, Peters, Christie and Simpson here in Thames has emerged - not without some misgiving I believe - one or two went through a "will I or won't I?" before committing, but the almost unreadable signs are up in town, and there is no way out now.

Why the three Council candidates would want to tie their fortunes to former local Police Prosecutor Peter French raises real questions about their qualities as candidates. Are they members of a party? Or have they committed themselves to a joint policy platform that ties them inextricably to whatever French stands for, and vote as a 'bloc'? - Heaven help us, that is what has paralysed the Regional Council. 

Because that is the real question - what exactly does French stand for? All we know is that he has scrambled on the coat-tails of Leach for the last six years, barely able to articulate a single vision of anything in the way of policy for this Council. It has been "Yes sir, no sir" from day one, and by my own observation, all he has ever done is jump when told to jump, and ask mainly inane questions of people appearing before Council as supplicants for one favour or another.

I have never once seen him emerge to the extent of proposing a single course of action. Admittedly, he has served on the all important District Plan and other committees, but again, his lack of experience in any of these areas has limited his contributions to mostly that of a by-stander. His profile claims to have participated in having "empowered community boards. reduced external debt, kept rates increases minimal, and reduced operating costs without reducing levels of service." 

Unfortunately, these claims are open to debate on every level, and in many respects represent a vast exercise in 'smoke and mirrors' that has pervaded every aspect of Council administration since Steve Ruru departed in 2011. Cr French has been inextricably involved in this exercise even if often in the dark about what has been going on. It has been Leach's, and now French's mantra of course, and they will defend it against all criticism, but aspects of recent reports give rise to real concern about our Council's finances. This will become clearer as the election approaches. In the meantime, French's claims should be taken with several grains of salt. 

As for the three Council candidates - we know full well about where they are coming from. They clearly wish to bathe in the reflected glory of what they hope the electors will see as a successful term (2). But Strat Peters is well past it, and has literally has nothing to contribute apart from his protestations of "wishing to finish off all the good works I have initiated at Board level." His bumbling performance as Chair of the Board, and apparent inability to make a clear-cut decision on matters of importance will remain inextricably impressed on the mind of any fair-minded observer, and again make him a liability on Council. 

The point is that most of those projects have have emerged from staff, and most have failed to get off the ground. Those that have remain with huge downside risk (e.g. Rail Trail and Indoor Court), and others represent the squandering of substantial amounts of rates with nothing to show other than glossy brochures and huge consultant fees (e.g Thames Town Development Project).

There is a new toilet on Queen St of course, and Skate-Park on the way, but the vast majority of the people in this town who are elderly have nothing to show for all the vastly ambitious projects that have been initiated in their name. The re-build of the swimming-pool which would have counted as a plus in that regard remains a figment of Strat and Greg Hampton's  imagination. Their dream of a "Regional Facility" and the chances of Hauraki or even Eastern Seaboard participation remain just that - a dream!

On the other hand, maintenance of core assets - water, wastewater, roads and footpaths remains in a parlous state with lip-service assurances but very little action. Unfavourable comparisons with the level of mainenance on the Esatern Seaboard area constant irritant. Some groups in the town benefit from Council or Board munificence on our behalf, and the use of Council and Board grants to fund their activities. Thus was always the case, but on a vastly lessor scale. 

The only members who I have heard question these policies have been Sandra Goudie, and Board member Craig Cassidy who have both thrown their hats in the ring. The other nominees - Murray Wakelin and Wayne Williscroft both appear to have the life experience and knowledge to make a really fresh contribution to the Council, and appear worthy of serious consideration as contenders, certainly against Sally Christie, who has been around local government, and the Health Board since the year dot without distinction, and Rex Simpson who has given every appearance of being a dilettante during his term on the Board, contributing nothing. 

I will attempt to analyse the background of each contender, both for Council and the Board in the course of the next week or two before the voting papers come out. In the meantime, I have put in links to the profiles submitted for the Council Election. 




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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