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Council Today

There were only two stories that interested me in  regard to today's Council.

The first concerned the Hauraki Rail Trail which come with its 3-year Draft Business Plan. This was presented by the our Economic Development Programme Manager - Colleen Litchfield in the absence of the General Manager who presumably prepared the Plan. This absent person appears averse to appearing at meetings - she has only appeared at one to my knowledge.

The Plan as far as it goes appears sound, and goes to great trouble to appear to now be in control of things after a very rough period when it was under the control of a PTO ( Principal Trail Operator), and a Trust that appeared incapable of running the show, or exercising oversight of the PTO during its entire five years. But the full extent of the losses, and stuff-ups were well and truly hidden from rate-payers who were indirectly funding the operation - not even the much vaunted Economic Development Committee aws given access. .

It is now operated as a CCO (Council Controlled Organisation) that while appointing a General Manager who we are told is competent, has otherwise continued the practice of keeping its entire business operation secret. In the entire 32 page business case presented today there is not one mention of the audited accounts for the previous year, or the year to date, or any relevant information of comparative usage of each section of the trail. Rumours persist of Thames to Paeroa usage being severely under projection. This is information that I would have imagined was critical in enabling councillors, and rate-payers to assess the success or otherwise of the current governance structure.

Indeed, the CCO structure apparently relieves the organisation of any obligation in that regard, and this is a common complaint elsewhere in the country where similar reluctance to release information occurs, but by no means in every case. In another paper today Council was asked to re-appoint trustees - John Sandford, John Coombe, and Scott Lee - all apparently mates of the previous mayoral incumbent. How good they are we will never know.

All we do know is that the budgets in the Business Plan are totally 'break-even,' with a covering "Underwriting Agreement" that makes our Council liable for a further $165K in 2019, $159K in 2020 and 161K in 2021, should it become necessary. One must assume that previous such agreements have been acted on in the past as no mention is made in the Plan regarding past losses - a case of 'hopefully, no-one will notice,' by the looks of it. 

I am heartily sick of these amateur attempts to hide information from the rate-payers who have funded this debacle from day one - no matter how worthy and well meant the entire enterprise has been, The Kopu to Kaiaua section remains closed as a result of the 5 January storm, and complaints appear to be coming in thick and fasst in regards to the gate system put in place between here and Paeroa. Certain concillors today expressed concern at the manner in which complaints are handled.

I will undoubtedly be accused of whinging when it come to this facility, but at least I have been consistent, and I am very disappointed at the total indifference demonstrated today in relation to the issues I have raised. It can only mean that once again, relevant information has been hidden behind the closed doors of 'workshops,' no doubt to protect 'commercila sensitivity.'

Rob Williams put a bomb under this outfit when he arrived, and much has changed, but lack of information breeds suspicion.




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