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Council Meeting 31 October

I can report straight up that my complaints about the ability of those in the public gallery to hear what is going on in meetings have been heeded, and the layout of the Council has been altered to make full use of the acoustic characteristics of the inverted V of the ceiling as originally designed.

Each succeeding mayor has in turn, over the years altered the layout for their own purposes - often I suspect to avoid any form of public oversight. Leach placed the public as far from proceedings as he possibly could, and achieved the desired result. But the new council and governance people have reverted to the centre of the room to great effect.

I invested in a special hearing device - not 'aid' thank you, to overcome the problem. It is now redundant, but there are still some (you in particular Strat) who need voice production training to get heard, but some (yes, you Murray) are are too bloody loud for their own good, and my device if I happen to have it in. McLean's petulant performance over surf life-saving "double-dipping" was a sight to behold. Hot Water Beach Lifesavers apparently want a piece of the action from all the car-parking revenue, when they already get a substantial grant from the Regional Emergency Services Fund, which is in turn funded by all the councils - $88k in our case.  

The Kauaeranga Road seal extension was the source of real aggravation to Tony Brljevich who thought that DoC get far too much leeway, and show real contempt for this, and other councils. I don't like Docs chances of getting agreement for TCDC to complete the road and obtain recompense at a later date - not without an ironclad legal agreement, and that is hardly likely.

The Economic Development Agency is designed to partner with Government and the private sector to get a fund in place which may become available for substantial regional economic development projects. It all sounds terribly familiar, and we should be very wary, and not just leap in as appeared to be the case yesterday with a rather naive enthusiasm from around the table.The initial TCDC contribution proposed is $30k - not a big deal, but it is just the beginning.

It is clearly a well meant attempt to access government funds. What I question is the examples put forward from similar regional partnerships elsewhere:

  • $10m mineral research centre on Westport
  • $11m -offshore aquaculture development and wharf facilities-Opotiki
  • Major investments in tourism, primary industries & forestry -Northland
  • $30m Kiwifruit development-Bay of Plenty/Gisborne

Each and every one of these should be able to sustain itself without the need for public (Council) involvement. And now we have a Labour government in power how likely is it that this level of largesse will expand exponentially - very likely, I would suggest. Mineral research? - the Greens will have something to say about that I would also venture to suggest. 

As for Opotiki - that project is really contentious due to the well known adverse weather conditions in that area, that probably does create difficulty getting off the ground with private investment - call in the Government and Councils! Major investment in Northland - where have we heard that before? Northland suffers from inherent underlying problems that are unlikely to be overcome by public investment, or Shane Jones - despite best intentions. 

Kiwifruit development - why on earth would that need public investment in the face of the current buoyant state of the industry. Any public investment, you can bet, would only be necessary in marginal areas where private investment is wary.

Do you get my drift? I am extremely sceptical of the value of public investment agencies - no matter what the enthusiasm displayed by council boosters who think they know better than private investors. I doubt it, so don't get your hopes up by this move by ours and other councils. The whole proposal needs to be carefully watched as it develops. It reminds me of our late and unlamented Economic Development Committee whose major contribution to economic development in the District was to gift $40,000 to Leach's mate - Rod Millen, to help with his racing car 'sand-pit.'

There were no others matters that arose that warrant reporting here, but Rob Williams did indicate to me that the his staff changes were complete and that he was very happy with the results - things do seem to be settling down after what is always a traumatic period following reorganisation. He indicated that he was very pleased to have been able to get three new civil engineers on board after a long period of running down that resource.

Despite alleged unhappiness in the ranks, he really does seem to have been an excellent choice - that is my assessment. 




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