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Mercury Bay Medical Facility

Concerns have been raised by the Kuaotunu Residents & Ratepayers Association in regard to the proposed Mercury Bay Facility based on a block of Hopper/Whitianga Waterways land purchased in a round-about deal by the Council. 

Interestingly, this land was always designated for a medical centre in the resource consent for the Waterways – a fact was not made clear in the submission to Council on 10 June 2016 by Area Manager Alan Tiplady when the purchase decision was made.

What is of much greater concern is the relationship with Leigh Hopper who resigned from the Economic Development Committee around 25 June 2015 over a perceived conflict of interest. This inevitability had been pointed out in this blog ever since the establishment of the Committee in 2013, but to no avail, until his sudden departure in June 2015.

Staff have been unable or unwilling o provide the relative dates relating to the initiation of the Medical Facility, and just who and how this was conveyed to Council prior to the 10 June 2016 meeting. More importantly, and also unanswered were their questions relating the reasons for the change in the proposed ownership of the Centre from Hoppers to the community,  and in particular,  just how support, if any, was sought and obtained for the proposal from the existing providers of medical services in the town.

But firstly let us deal with the Hopper connection. If the land in question was designated for a medical centre, how precisely was it valued for the purposes of establishing the exchange with Council that forms the basis of the arrangement? Hopper appears to have ended up from this ‘purchase/donation’ arrangement with a very satisfactory $250,000 tax deduction rather than cash – but effectively the same thing, for a property that would otherwise be unmarketable, other than for a medical facility.

What is more important as far as Hoppers are concerned is that they achieve the long desired draw-card of an on-site medical centre that will most certainly assist with marketing to mainly elderly purchasers of sections within the development, and parking that will in turn provide a draw-card for a new shopping centre development together with a proposed multi-story retirement village and hotel. These are simply assumptions, but pretty well based when considering the normal modus operandi of Hoppers at similar developments.

We have only to take account of the example of the MB Sports Ground - another arrangement entered into by Council that was extremely favourable to Hoppers. Look below for the Q & A on the current situation regarding that development, and make up your own mind as to just how rate-payers were ‘advantaged’ – millions out of pocket, and more to come providing a facility that is used by very few rate-payers.

WCB Chair Paul Kelly is reported as saying that this is all “ancient history” – well maybe, but it remains entirely instructive when dealing with the Hoppers, and their legal advisors – to quote a very old expression, “sup with a very long spoon”!

Now we come to the current situation. The then Chair of the now disbanded Economic Development Committee  - Brent Page, has told the Kuaotunu Residents & Ratepayers Association (in writing!) that the EDC  processed the Whitianga Medical Centre proposal. Why Brent would claim this to be the case completely escapes me - I can find no reference to the matter in any of the agendas or minutes, and I believe I attended all of the listed meetings.

If Brent Page is correct, then the matter must have been dealt with outside of normal proceedings, or in Public Excluded, but almost certainly when Leigh Hopper was present as a member. Alternatively, it may have instigated his removal when Leach realised just how blatant a breach would occur with his presence.  

Together, all these matters add up to an extremely murky situation which under normal circumstances would probably warrant an investigation by the Auditor General. But he/she has indicated that he/she is only interested in ‘big picture’ stuff, so I for one am unwilling to again subject myself to the ignominy of fruitlessly seeking his/her intervention in issues that we may consider important, but don't fit their 'picture.'

What remains is the outcome of the ‘business case,’ for which Council has provided (confusingly!) a further $250,000. The methodology adopted for this ‘gold-plated’ case warrants extremely close examination by all concerned – particularly by those medical professionals likely to be most affected by the outcome of any deliberations, and the people of Whitianga, many of whom have indicated their signal satisfaction with existing facilities, and who will be horrified at the figures being suggested by Cr. Tony Fox, Leach and others as its likely rating effects.  This follows the assurance from Council that the $250,000 for the yet to commenced ‘business case’ will constitute its sole contribution to the project. 

I predict rocky times ahead for this extravagant folly, and substantial embarrassment for some elected officials who have thrown their weight behind it in the face of almost universal scepticism amongst the eight ratepayer groups extant in the Mercury Bay area, and many within the Whitianga town that has no residents & ratepayer group. This lack of oversight always encourages councillors to go beyond their mandate, unfortunately.




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Reader Comments (4)

A typo I think in first para..."Mercury Bay Whitianga Facility"!!!

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCoromandel 49

Many thanks!

February 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Lets join the dots, it is the same people who put this proposal together that gave Mercury Bay a $4 million toilet block 4kms out of town that few ratepayers use. The same people allowed Hopper Construction to construct 5 football fields using all our Reserve Contribution money ( $7 million) wihthout checks and balances and allowed the developer to walk away from an unfinished job leaving 5 fields unuseable for 6 years. Half a million dollars of ratepayer money was spent in an endeavour to fix the problem. The deal between Council and Hopper is still "commercially sensitive" !!
These same people maintain they have learnt a lesson from this debarcle yet they are following the same consultation leading up to the signed deal, committing $250,000 of ratepayer money for a business case.
Is there anyone out there who does not realise that Hoppers Construction, astute business people, have not carried out feasibility studies over the past 10 years and have most likely found that the proposed Medical centre is not financially feasable to them, therefore to get what they need to advance their developement (retirement village) they require ratepayer input (unlimited funds)
Councillors pushing the proposal have already signalled that it is likely ratepayers will be asked to fund the project.A targeted rate of $100-$200.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Muir

$4m toilet Bill? Seems a little expensive. Just where is this toilet block?
Amazing that the Whitianga community could sit back and allow the past Council to pour money into the M.Bay sports complex.
Even more incredible that the populace of the Bay thought it wise to have a second level with a corporate box [thank goodness the light came on just in time]
The number of toilets/changing rooms would put most sports facilities anywhere else to shame. Sad nobody uses them.
I would suggest that if they are resealing the carpark already then the initial sealing wasn't completed in a trade like manner.
There is still unfinished business around the sports field--what of the land Council bought in Moewai Road for a sports field. If not to be used for a sports field does it not have to be offered back to the vendors?
The new highway into the Bay apparently cut off a slice of the main runway at the airfield which has yet to be compensated for, and maybe the new road is not at the right height either?
The Bay certainly has done well over the past 6 years from the previous Council and now they are trying to squeeze more out of the [District] ratepayers with a building [Medical Centre] that nobody wants.
Look forward to the 200 bed hotel which was also in the consent granted to Hoppers!

February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterThamesite

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