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Tuesday
Feb282017

TCB Gleefully Spends Our Money

There was a gung-ho atmosphere in the Chamber yesterday as out tyro Board got down to the serious business of spending our money. This may have been helped along by it being Greg Hampton's last meeting, and he had a few outstanding matters to attend to. But regardless, there is a prevailing atmosphere of wanting to please a whole range of people who may have been waiting for some time to get their hands on money from the Council. Here is a list of the hand-outs agreed to yesterday:

1. $50,000 LTP local economic development for three years. This is a straight out 'slush fund' that evolved during Leach's reign to garner approval in the boondocks. There are a whole range of criteria requirements that need to be met, but basically the fund is supposed to be used for "local economic development initiatives with an emphasis on local tourism infrastructure and visitor attractions "

The Board was asked to "review the criteria to ensure that they are fit for purpose"before the 2016/17 round. The hand-outs for 2015/16 were to the Prospectors Association ($22,000 for Stamper battery), Thames Mountain Bike Club ($25000 for Karaka Track) and Kauaeranga Tramping Club ($3,000 for track improvements) Applications for 2016/17 close on 31 March.

2.  Thames Skate Park -  It appears that our project team have run into more than one problem starting with the discovery of asbestos in the old marooned ship (additional $15,523), Contract Variations ($26,632) . Now, additional funds are being requested for a "budget shortfall" ($13,000), Planning and holding opening ceremony ($1,120) and for the installation of a white picket fence ($20,000)  What can you say other than that there was clearly inadequate planning despite a very long lead time.

Planned to open on 1 April. Don't hold your breath!

3.  Thames Promotion Project   All the necessary consultations took p[lace before this project was undertaken, but there appears to be a consultant (Visitor Solutions Ltd) involved with an 'open-ended' contract to provide ever more ways in which our funds can be spent on promoting the town and environs.

There are a total of some 16 different projects totalling some $70,000 proposed for the current year. All are worthy, but whether they would survive rigorous examination remains to be sen They were adopted in total at yesterday's meeting, and I note with wry smile that the consultant has proposed additional work in 2018 - and so it goes! The lists of tasks undertaken is mind-boggling - take a look at the Visitor Solutions Plan for "Thames Visitor Promotion & Optimisation"

4.  Treasury Business Case for Funding   Well surprise, surprise, this Report has been prepared by the same consultancy that prepared the previous item. Visitor Solutions are doing very nicely here I suspect.  The Report does not amount to much - full of fluff and unsustainable claims and predictions. But once again our compliant Board nearly fell over itself rushing to adopt the recommendation and allocate $30,000 (plus GST) for the first year of operational costs, with every intent indicated of carrying it on for a further ten years at quite possibly an even higher rate - after all - costs tend to go up! 

I actually don't have a view on the merit of the request for a "bail-out" - I guess we all knew that it would eventually come to this. We apparently have a "World-class" institution in our town, Problem is that very few people wish to use it by their own statistics. I wonder if many of those around the table have actually been inside it, or used its services. Somehow I doubt it. 

5.  Thames Transport Trial  (Additional Notes) Well okay, I have skin in this, and have no argument with such a trial being funded so that demand can be rationally determined. If only we could get local sponsors to come aboard with the other expenditure areas as has been achieved with Richardson's et al. That would make things much easier.

Reality will set in in due course when Board members get about the serious business of setting budgets, and come under the scrutiny of the full Council, and a Chief Financial Officer who will as usual try to work miracles, but even they have be within the confines of available resources. Reminders of the importance of the concept of 'core business' ahead of everything else may be needed, and there is no-one better placed that the Mayor to deliver such a message.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (8)

Hello Bill,

I will briefly mention my experience as a hopefully valued reader, of the lack of ideal 'flow' in reading your blog arising from the many spelling and similar mistakes you allow in your articles. I recall that you have simply passed-off this issue (incidentally, not previously raised by me!) on the basis that the fundamental content is the important thing, and not the detail. Point taken - but?

Please keep up the good work Bill - you do a very valuable service to Thames, in the absence of adequate coverage of Council matters by the 'msm' (main street media).

Thanks, Tim.

March 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Point taken Tim.
In my defence, can I say that it is always my object to get reports on meetings up the same day or shortly after. My typing skills leave a lot to be desired, but I always know that I can return very quickly to carry out the necessary 'proofing.' Generally that is after a good meal! The corrections to this article were thus accomplished within hours, so perhaps you were 'jumping the gun' somewhat.
Regardless, I will attempt to do better in future, and in the meantime, seek your indulgence.
Bill

March 1, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

And for your information, I believe it is 'mainstream media'
B

March 1, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

I offer the following comments in general support of assistance by Council for "The Treasury". I must first admit to 'conflicts of interest'! My partner puts-in many voluntary hours working there. I have a strong interest in the history of Thames, from experiencing the town in earlier times as a school boy, and now working as a volunteer at the Thames Museum.
I am not in a position to comment usefully on the level and duration of support for The Treasury, by the Council. Rather, my support and general comments, hinge around the undoubted very rich history that the wiser Thames area has both Maori, and European, which in combination brought about the exploitation of gold and kauri. While other towns and areas also have such history, I suggest that the history of Thames is richer than most. In addition to The Treasury and the Museum, we have other organisations throughout the peninsula endeavouring to ensure that our history is not lost but rather made available and enhanced for future generations to reflect-on and enjoy. The ideal situation would be that all these groups, and the operations they run, be self funding. This is unlikely to ever be the reality. In the case of The Treasury, the 'demand' for, and payment to view, the written and photographic material it houses and preserves is never likely to cover all its costs despite such costs being supported by all the free hours volunteers contribute. This written and photographic material is critical to our history being as complete and as accurate as possible, and not being dissipated and progressively lost with the passage of time.
I suggest that Thames would be significantly 'poorer' both economically, but more importantly socially, if the organisations involved with fostering the history of Thames were not subsidized as may be necessary, depending on their respective needs.
I put the work of The Treasury in a similar category to facilities provided by the Council that don't pay their own way. These include, parks and reserves, particularly those for 'passive' enjoyment; and library facilities. They have important functions in contributing to the overall well-being of Thames as an enjoyable, vibrant, 'well-rounded' place in which to live, in the widest possible sense. Incidentally, The Treasury is run by the Coromandel Heritage Trust. I understand that the Trust's interest is the Thames Goldfields Area which encompasses all of the TCDC district, and also some of the Hauraki district.
So, in conclusion, within limits which I leave the Council to decide on, I am happy to have a little of the rates I pay go towards supporting The Treasury in the unique, valuable work it does for the whole area.

March 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Fair enough - well stated - it is simply the numbers using what is undoubtedly a magnificent facility that cause me concern. I trust that the curator and assistant will be able to put their minds to attracting greater patronage. And remember that every 'non-core' expenditure needs to be thoroughly and dispassionately examined - not just 'rubber-stamped.'

March 1, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Bill - Visitor Solutions did not prepare the Business Case for The Treasury. It was put together by Morrie, Geraldine, Gary and myself and submitted for the TCDC, Thames Community Board and Hauraki District Council's consideration for funding for staff. It did not set out to fudge any of the figures and is up front in the content and what The Treasury is currently achieving for the local community. The Treasury was not seeking a "bail out" because the financial info clearly indicates that we are not "sinking." But we do desperately need expert qualified staff to help us permanently protect and preserve our Region's precious heritage for our future families to understand and appreciate the trials and tribulations their ancestors went through.
On behalf of our tireless and hugely enthusiastic volunteers I invite you and others in our community to visit The Treasury to discover the treasure trove of information it holds about our local identities and businesses. And ask for a tour of the Archive - it was built by the Coromandel Heritage Trust with funds raised by the Trust - Council owns the land but does not own the Archive and did not fund it. The Council did refurbish the Carnegie but the Trust paid for the fit out required to set up the Family Research Centre.
We are extremely grateful to the Council and Thames Community Board for recognising the value of The Treasury and for agreeing to provide funding. If there are any curators out there who want a challenging role - ask for the job description when we get the final increment that is needed to secure the position.
Marilyn Dodds - former Secretary, The Coromandel Heritage Trust

March 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn Dodds

Thanks Marilyn for the clarification.
We were nevertheless informed during the hearing that The Treasury could not continue in its present state because of the loss of volunteers, and it was certainly indicated that its finances were unsustainable. One can only surmise that eventual failure was likely without additional funding.
I was staggered that there was not one question surrounding the visitor numbers, and I certainly did not suggest any "fudging" had taken place - my words were "fluff and unsustainable claims" - the latter related particularly to the consultants extrapolation of visitor numbers into "district benefit". And regardless of who prepared the information, it was the Visitor Solutions consultant who presented the case, using the Visitor Solutions format. We were certainly not told that it was anything other than a Visitor Solutions presentation.
I stand by my report and wish the trustees well for the future, but I don't accept that a ten year access to Council funding (in effect - $300,000) is desirable or necessary while the emphasis remains on 'curation' rather than 'promotion.' I believe that the Council emphasis should be aimed at improving user and visitor numbers. It is simply too easy for Council to slide into taking on extraneous responsibilities of this nature, no matter how virtuous, but the decision has been made for Year 1, so be it!
And mine is but one view on the matter Marilyn - others will emerge over time - it will have to survive another round of review for the Long Term Plan. Good luck!

March 1, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

What perhaps is more troubling about the funding distribution process is that TCDC and TCB have opened the door to funding capital works (Active Thames 2018), operational expenses and employment related costs (TCHT) for, more generally, the voluntary sector.
It seems reasonable to suppose, given that there is no (evident) policy backstop to these funding decisions, that any group from the voluntary sector can prepare a business case and submit an application for capital works, the operational cost of running those works and funding for the provision of staff, with a reasonable expectation that the proposal will, at least, be received and considered.
Business owners in Thames might also think that, if their particular business is strategically important to the town and is experiencing financial difficulty, they could make an application to TCDC / TCB.
Of course this is a silly thought, but having allowed two groups access to significant amounts of ratepayer money to prop up good causes, where does it stop?
In the ordinary course of events, failing organizations ought to be allowed to fail; that is the nature of these things. If there is not enough consumer patronage or visitor support so be it - the 'market' has spoken.
Ratepayers are in the business of funding critical infrastructure - utility assets [water, sewerage, roads et. al.] ; not sexy, but important.
Whatever else communities might want, communities provide.
But now the door is open; push through people, push through....

March 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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