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Thursday
Sep292016

Glenn Leach - Appraisal!

"I am going to go go to Thames, throw a blanket around that Council, and choke it!"               (Direct quote from Glenn Leach Election speech September 2010)

I indicated earlier that I would write a review from where I sit on the whole of Glenn's six-year reign. In spite of his jaundiced view of my writing about him in the past, it may surprise him to know that I by no means ‘write-off’ his regime – far from it.

There are both negatives and positives of course as with any six-year term, and overall, he has achieved a great deal for which he needs recognition, but he has chosen the right time to toss it in, and get on with his life – as he said to me yesterday, he does not have a great family health record, having lost his three brothers over the last few years.

Nevertheless, I cannot see him severing his ties completely – particularly if he continues to make the apartment complex over the road in the old Salutation his principle place of residence.

I will attempt to classify what I believe to be his major achievements and failures in the next section, hopefully in constructive manner. Clearly he does not take kindly to criticism, and reacts very badly when he considers that he has been ill-treated by commentators, such as me. But that is by means an uncommon reaction, and I don’t place too much store by it. 

Overall, Glenn’s attributes are related to his decisiveness, his recognition of his own limitations, and willingness to seek and take advice – even if often faulty. He brought to this Council a knowledge of procedure from his previous term, and putting aside for a moment yesterday’s revelations regarding the influence of Bob Birch, he was strong enough to take on Steve Ruru and his well-entrenched cohort, and replace them, admittedly with what were reportedly some very high compensation packages, though not in the case of Ruru, who was at the end of his contract.

I give Glenn full credit for this clean-out, even though I have drawn attention the past to some questionable practices that risked some hefty employment claims through the court.

So 7 out of 10 for staffing changes.

Glenn instituted the employment of an in-house solicitor, which was a bold move even though it simply replaced substantial payments to the likes of Brookfield's, and Simpson Grierson and others. Ruru protected his private access to outside legal advice to an unreasonable degree, and expected councillors to accept that advice without access to the actual opinions which he deemed to be legally privileged. That hurt, and I believe to be legally questionable. 

Glenn attempted yesterday to justify Hammond’s employment to replace Ruru on the basis that it was primarily to institute board empowerment. Well, despite extravagant claims of the success of this move, both the costs and the sustainability of the policy in the face of what he described yesterday as boards going “feral” are very real threats, particularly with any weakness ‘at the top,’ and with the ever-present East/West divide. I suspect that Whangamata will prove a real thorn in the side of future councils, followed by the others on the East side that consider themselves financially ‘dis-advantaged.”'Glenn may have created a ‘rod for the back’ of future councils – I hope not, but the signs are there, and the make-up of future boards will determine the outcome.

6 out 10 for the major structural change of his term.  

I remain highly sceptical of the financial changes that have been instituted – nothing appears to quite add-up even though rate increases have been stabilised at around 2%. It is crazy for Glenn to claim this as a victory when inflation has hovered around zero during his entire term, and it is unconscionable for him to compare the previous so-called LTP 7.5% - heavily weighted to the ESWS - Peter French put his metaphorical foot in it during the election campaign by claiming this as a ’victory.’

What everyone needs to kept in perspective is that Steve Baker was appointed to his position in 2006, and was in charge of finances througout the previous term, but suddenly he has turned from fox to pussy-cat as CFO with praise heaped on him at every Council meeting for his "outstansding performance." He certainly has improved the lay-out of the accounts that were previously incomprehensible, but ‘White Knight?’ – I think not.

There remains much to emerge I would suggest in relation to manner in which our accounts are constructed, regardless of the benign view of the Auditor-General – particularly in relation to the handling of borrowing, depreciation and asset valuations – really ‘big-picture’ stuff that the Auditor-General should be interested in. The other issue surrounds the cavalier attitude toward proper tendering procedures highlighted in a recent internal KPMG Report - that remains unresolved.

Finances – 5 out of 10 until satisfactory answers are provided. The performance of the Audit Committee leaves a great deal to be desired, and that is a creature of Leach’s though it appears to wish to operate quite independently.

That brings us to the issue of committee’s generally – almost always over-provided for in smaller councils. We have an Infrastructure Committee headed by McLean that appears to be under-used, an Audit Committee headed by Fox that takes on great deal without apparent direction, and the Judicial Committee that handles by-law and resource consent matters in the main. And then we have the Economic Development Committee, about which more later.

What I find quite extraordinary is the absence of regular reporting from these committees to Council in order for oversight and direction to be provided. It is like a secret society with agenda adopted in minutes – no discussion other than in closed-door workshops, and little patience for anyone who questions procedure or content

Therefore I would rate democracy and consultation at barely 3 out 10 – not good!.

That brings me to the fraught question of ‘economic development,’ and the role of the Committee appointed by Leach to take over this role. It took weeks for him to accept that having a committee with a non-elected majority was not a good look, and for his conflicted mate Hopper to resign. The numbers were changed around to reverse control after I hammered on about it, and annoyed the Hell out of him. Then came the famous $40k allocation to Rod Millen for his speedway - a totally Leach inspired piece of buffoonery. 

For all that, the Committee under the Chairmanship of Brent Page has accomplished precisely nothing in the four years or so of its existence. It has simply applied a ‘rubber stamp’ to grant lists compiled by our old friend Ben Day. It has appeared to be a creature of Day’s all along, and a justification for his existence. And the news regarding Leach’s Projects – a term he objects to, but I can find no reason to avoid it, is almost universally bad.

Let us look at them – The Coromandel Harbour Project limps along at a snail’s pace with almost nothing discernible achieved in four years. The Mussel Farmers Association appears to have pulled out of its appointed role of carrying the resource consent for Sugar Loaf. Heaven knows where that goes now – the cost will surely fall back on rate-payersl just as we always knew it would. The Inner Harbour project has inspired ‘Expressions of Interest” from two or three parties, but no real progress, and the Furey’s Creek development appears stuck in the mud.

The East Coast Walkway from Hot Water Beach to Whitianga appears to have some major glitches, not the least of which may relate to costings. The source of funds for some major requirements remains up in the air – including that for the Purangi Crossing – a major impediment to which I drew attention in my original post on the subject. There appears no final resolution of the parking issue, and Hahei concerns in that regard. Without Hahei agreement this project is going no-where, but there are so many Gung-Ho types now involved and depending on the project for their very livelihoods that it is hard to get a clear picture.   

The Huaraki Rail Trail remains an enigma despite Glenn’s claims to the contrary at yesterday’s meeting. The fundamental problem with this section (K-2-K) of the track remains – just how it is intended to attract users who will add to the economies of the contributing Councils. It is simply not a goer as it stands – riders will go to Paeroa and ride from there, but the ride through flat farm-land remains as unattractive as ever. It is not even rated by Lonely Planet – the riders ‘bible.’ I don’t wish to throw cold –water on this project, but there needs to be some reality, and intermittent sea-birds do not ‘cut the mustard.’ Just because Chris Adams has won himself a contract with ATEED also ‘does not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’

So what have we achieved other than a few unfinished works along the way? – Sweet Fanny Adams if you ask me, and I am afraid Glenn that with the best will in the World, I simply cannot give you better than 3 out 10 on economic development.

And as for the Committee – 1 out of 10 would be generous – we simply don’t need a high priced Committee to award hand-outs and grants to the impecunious – a highly dubious practice in any case.  There are other areas where I could go, but won’t, because you can only take so much in at one sitting.

Overall, I believe that Glenn has achieved a creditable 5.5 out of ten – his mayoralty has in other words been positive for the District, but there remains the nagging feeling that “could do better” would feature highly on any appraisal. But I think that Glenn can go into retirement with a feeling of real satisfaction, and I wish him well.

I hold no grudges, and I hope he feels likewise. I know that I have been an uncomfortable ‘thorn in his side’ over his entire term of office, and that there are few other mayors who have had to put up with such scrutiny which once upon a time was par for the course – not any longer.

Bloggers have different standards than journalists, and different ‘rules of engagement.” Those who are elected just have to learn to deal with it because we are not going away.

End of story – Go well Glenn!

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

5-1/2 out of 10.
"The role of local authorities is to lead and represent their communities. They must engage with their communities and encourage community participation in decision-making, while considering the needs of people currently living in communities and those who will live there in the future."
We wait with baited breath to see how the new/recycled/old (?) crew(s) will do....

September 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

At 5.5 out of 10 I think you are being far too generous Bill and downplaying the damage Leach has done to the District in the long term. Leach gutted a high performing organisation (as judged by others) and used the oldest trick in the book to reduce rates…..defer future expenditure….any fool can do that and this one did! The cost of the loss of institutional knowledge was significant and while you can always get more staff the cost of payouts to those who left and the cost of training the new recruits was all avoidable. Also it"s always the “stars” that leave, because they can and have confidence in their abilities elsewhere, leaving behind a less capable organisation. So no one around here is sad to see the back of Leach we just hope we’re not in for more of the same from a bunch of try-hards calling themselves a “Team”

September 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterInsider

That phrase is absolutely what Leach did.
When I think of Leach, I see a trail of destruction, families uprooted, good staff driven from the Castle, years of building staff morale destroyed overnight, huge redundancy payments, hush money and major projects costing millions that will hang around this Councils neck for years to come- to wit the M.Bay sports field debacle, the Great Coastal walks, Coromandel Harbour [though that may be buggered already], WW1 forests to name but a few.
To Hell with the 'Team TCDC' - we do not want more of the same. No more Leach cohorts such as McLean, Fox, Peters, Bartley and French.
We need new inovative thinking, new blood as such!

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBadly Hurt

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