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Long Term Plan - Submission

These were my principal comments on the LTP that closed on Monday:

Increasing the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) - page 16. Which option for the Uniform Annual General Charge (UAGC) do you support?

This proposal is immoral, and contrary to most basic social obligation our Council has to lower income members of the community who tend to own lower land-value properties, including pensioners, and the vast majority of those in Thames.

Conversely, by benefiting the owners of higher land-value properties in this manner when virtually every other council has or is moving towards capital value rating, our Council is demonstrating contempt for those on lower incomes, and pensions. It is deplorable that this Council sees fit to slip this change through with minimal publicity.

By way of example, the UAGC on our own low to medium land-value property at Tararu will increase $246, or 51% in year 2 of the Plan, and at the same time your Council denies any responsibility for restoring the sea-wall that failed on 5 January. . There is absolutely no justification for this increase, and I ask that this proposal to increase the UAGC to 30% be rescinded. 

Have more to tell us? Please provide details here:                                                

The issues selected to highlight in the Summary are not the end-all and be-all of Council most pressing needs and responsibilities. They may be important, but it leaves out mention of at least three important issues.

1. The first relates to the long overdue decision to stop using depreciation reserves for building new assets rather than preserving the reserve for the purpose of replacing assets for which the depreciation has been set aside. The net result of this foolish, and possibly illegal policy is that the depreciation reserve cupboard is now bare with a mere $6.8m remaining, and with our Council facing $168m of 'renewals.' 

This reversal, and the stated intent to rebuild these reserves to $124m by 2028, while acquiring new assets of $126m appears contradictory, particularly in the light of the intent to eliminate external debt. It seems to me that this can only be accomplished through internal debt to its mandated limit, and a substantial increase in rates far beyond that already signalled in the financial projections accompanying the LTP.  There is something 'screwy' about these figures that need better explanation, particularly as we appear to have been misled over the term of the last Plan, based on the use of depreciation reserves as outlined above.

2. And secondly, the question of asset re-valuations of from $24m to $58m annually, totalling $347m over ten years was raised in consultation at the outset of the previous 2015/2025 LTP, and never satisfactorily explained. Para 87 of the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the Local Government Financial Prudence Regualtions (2014)  states clearly that "These transactions provide local authorities with no financial resources to meet their outgoings,. Therefore they should be excluded from a balanced budget measure."

The proffered Financial Strategy on this occasion makes no mention of asset re-valuations, so that we are left in the dark as to their effect of the ciurrent projections, and claimed 'balanced budget,' if any. I believe that Council has an obligation to disclose this information for the purpose of consultation, and seek an immediate explanation. I should add that the previous CFO was unable to give an unequivocal assurance at the time that it complied with the Regulatory Impact Statement.

3. The other issue that remains the 'elephant in the room' that must be faced relates to the incredible proposal to reduce coastal and hazard management from $6.68m to $3.88m in this period just when all indications point to the need to increase the provision substantially.

It is well known that the 5 January storm highlighted a number of areas that are low-lying and vulnerable for one reason or another, not the least of which is our own area of Tararu. Our Council chose to ignore the effects of  established sea-level rise parameters until belatedly accepting the Government recommendation last November. It remains a mystery as to why we appear reluctant to accept hazard dogma that appear to have been accepted in virtually every other area of the country that is at similar, or even lessor risk.

Our ratepayers deserve a reasoned explanation as to why you appear to ignore the risk to our 400 km of coast, and avoid an appropriate allocation of funding in this Plan to accommodate hazard management. It is irresponsible to sit back and state that you are waiting to see what happens elsewhere, and what level of risk our Government is prepared to shoulder when it has given no indication to date of willingness to accept any level of risk.

The work done to date on erosion hardly meets the standard required, and the 5 January event demonstrated that in spades. Potential flooding from storm and othe more serious events, must be assessed, and provision made for prioritizing relief. The provision of $75k annually for assessment of risk to Council and community infrastructure is derisory, and appears an abrogation of the requirements of the Governments 2010 Coastal Policy Statement.

We in Thames are entitled to ask just what our Council is doing now that it has some understanding of the risks faced by this town with both ground-water, and inundation - the 5 January event is just the first of what must surely become a regular event, and we appear totally unprepared. This is simply not good enough, and this LTP needs to recognise this need.

The proposed 'well-being' projects that comprise the Rhodes Park Grandstand and Aquatic Centre are 'pipe-dreams,'  and unlikely to 'surface' other than through sea-level rise.

Please take them out of the Plan, and substitute wide-ranging assessments and prioritizing of necessary works as outlined above. The savings should otherwise be used to implement urgent coastal work, and reduce the proposed rate increases, and borrowing. 

This LTP is a big on spending, an 8.8% rate increase in our case, and huge additional borrowing to the disadvantage of every rate-payer, but it is completely unbalanced inasmuch as it fails the needs outlined above. I seek a thorough re-examination of these proposals, and for every councillor to examine their conscience before agreeing to its adoption.                                                         

There were many other matters that were worthy of comment, but you have to draw the line - it is hard enough to get your submission through in the ten minutes allowed.




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Reader Comments (1)

Bill, this is a very articulate submission based on a comprehensive knowledge of the LTP and local government processes. you are to be applauded for your work and it is so much better than any us the general ratepayres who feel the same could have done

April 19, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteraircolledguy

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