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Thursday
Dec142017

Council Meeting 12 December 2017

There were a number of quite important papers presented that will require a little analysis to determine their effect on finances, and policy generally.

The first, related to a Review of Road Maintenance Extents Policy

Though well argued, it contains some doozies that will need to be thoroughly understood, and consulted before adoption. It was the subject of several Public Forum submissions from rate-payers whose properties were severely effected by adverse weather conditions over the last winter - principally access, but also relating to potential slips onto adjacent properties.

The dilemma facing Council is the level of obligation owed to people who have chosen to build on  inaccessible properties on roads that carry little traffic, other than their own. Councillors emphasized that regardless of the 'fairness' principle, we carry a safety obligation in regard to bridges and culverts, even if a minimal standard of road upkeep is taken on.

The three options put to Council ranged from the upkeep of all of the 24 in question to NZTA standards, thus qualifying for the 40% NZTA subsidy at a net cost of $14m. The second option is to upgrade toi a lower (non-subsidised standard at at net cost of $10m, and the third to upgrade bridges and culverts only to a level to provide 'safe' access. - net cost $3.4m.

Naturally, residents on these roads will be holding out for for a higher level than option C, but the Paper suggested that this should only be provided on the basis of 'public benefit' determined by the 'number and type of properties they serve,' but guaranteed public access 'would not be a given.'

Policy & Planning Manager Scott Summerfield submitted that continuing the current policy is not really an option - this would avoid responsibility until either a rate-payer challenge, a traffic accident or natural threat to the functioning of an unmaintained road.

The adoption of a new [policy for the 2018/28 Long Term Plan is now imminent - hence the current consideration, and desire of affected property owners to secure the best possible solution they can, but this would be at a substantial cost to every rate-payer.

Council agreed to take option C to consultation next year. Every rate-payer should take close note of this issue, and make sure that their representatives fully reflect their views on the matter, and not just take the easy way out. It really concerned me to hear Tony Brljevich suggesting a "preventative" approach, and Rex Simpson a "safety first" approach. These contain the seeds of gigantic rate increase for the benefit of very few. On the other hand, I totally agree with the 12 month usage figures as determinant of the level of service that was suggested by others.

Some may have to reconsider their chosen locations on eyries at the end of dangerous access roads as the result of the realities of climate change. Their choices are not our responsibility, regardless of Council having allowed them to build in these locations.  

Whangamata Resource Consents for major events.

Clr Walker from Whgangamata attempted to get the cost of providing resource consents for major events - a particular concern in that area, made a 'District' charge on the grounds that it a Council, not a Board decision to require same in the new District Plan.

This ran into strong opposition around the table, including from his own colleague Clr Bartley. See the minutes of the WCB above  for a full explanation. This relly does constitute the 'thin edge of the wedge' and no one was buying it even though Whitianga stands to benefit much more were it adopted.

Remuneration

This comes up every three years and causes major angst amongst elected members who clearly consider that they are inadequately reimbursed for their efforts, mainly arguing that the correct population figures are simply not accepted by the Remuneration Authority headed up by Fran Wilde.

Governance and Strategy Manager Angela Jane put up a valiant paper attempting to deal with all the objections made in the past that are simply not accepted. These relate to the fact our 50%+ non-resident rate-payers should be included in the figures. It is an old saw, faced by many councils in a similar situation, but the Authority is adamant - population figures provided by the Department of Statistics are the only basis for calculating remuneration.

Her paper is realistic in the circumstances. and outlines all the Council's arguments designed to get the higher population figure accepted, but I would suggest that they will fall on deaf ears. Were they to be accepted, our elected member remuneration, which in the end we pay, would rise substantially.

Frankly, I cannot for the life of me see that our councillors and board members carry out duties that would in any way warrant any increase in their remuneration, indeed I would argue that many are already over-paid.  Best they confine themselves to scrapping over the 'break-up' of the 'pool' approved by the Authority. 

Hauraki Rail Trail

It was certainly interesting hearing Rob Williams describe the chaos in regard to the management of the Trail when he arrived at the Council. This was the hang-over from the Economic Development committee that was supposed to take responsibility for its oversight, but which totally failed to exercise any oversight whatsoever.

He was in the process of describing the new funding agreement into which he appears to have had substantial  input, and which is in the final stages of (reluctant) acceptance by Matamata-Piako.

It is a vast improvement of the previous document and allows for the "equal apportionment of strategic & overhead costs, plus proportionate costs, based on length of trail in each Council area." Thereafter, it outlines  the seven principles on which the Agreement is based.

The new management of the Trail appear to have things under control, but who would know? - we still have not been presented with a proper accounting of the current financial situation. This is really a disgrace, and a poor reflection on Clr Peters who has been the Council's representative on the Trust since its advent. I simply cannot understand why this information has to remain secret, while we are subjected to constant favourable PR designed to promote the Trail.

At least we now know what the situation was when Rob Williams took over!

 

 

 

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