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Thursday
May172018

And On The Expenditure Side

Pool

The expenditure decisions were ‘headlined’ by the swimming pool (‘Aquatic Centre'), and it was on this issue that major fault lines opened up with everyone wanting their own 25m enclosed pools, and questioning the logic of basing the more ornate pool in Thames.

The conversation was confused by the pipedream of a ‘regional pool’ that few could see on the horizon, though there was talk of discussions with regional players, and major funders who would only ‘buy-in’ on such a regional concept.

Strat wisely tried to draw attention to the sea-level rise issue but with little support from the Chair. In the end, the proposal went nowhere – parked in effect while ‘further investigations’ take place. I don’t believe that this issue will affect rates for some considerable time, and no provision was otherwise made.

Roads

Murray McLean  strongly advocated for Option A (upgrade and maintain the 24 roads currently unmaintained), but staff argued for Option C – higher quality maintenance to attract ongoing NZTA subsidy standards. The difference is a $3.7m debt increase v. a $16.7m increase. In the end they took Option C, but only where they can get the NZTA subsidy, and they have added another 5 roads to the 24 in the draft - not sure where that leaves the increase in borrowing, but it won't be much short of the $16.7m, and the $54.40 per ratepayer in the draft - bloody outrageous if you ask me for some barely trafficked by-ways.

Wentworth Valley caused the most consternation with Fox strongly opting instead for an upgrade at Dalmeny Corner and Bridge. But deserving of support that that work with increasing tourist traffic may be, they gave Wentworth the tick – a long awaited improvement that needs to be done now. Debt increase is $1.3m. Pottery Lane at Coromandel was also given a tick - $2.5m.

Totara Valley attracted much comment – particularly at the lack of a prospective developer, but in the end they accepted it at $2.8m, with the proviso that all existing residents be required to ‘hook-in’ and pay – Fox against!

Coastal Hazard Management

They were literally shamed into this $2.6m allocation by Denis Tegg who put them all ‘on the spot’ over their total inaction to date. 5 January finally sank in – I don’t believe it would have happened  if not for that, and the belated interest of Thames councillors in what happened at Tararu was enlightening to say the least.

I see no reason to outline exactly what happened on this issue- Denis was present and has provided an excellent summary on his website: https://teggtalk.wordpress.com/ - everyone should read this and understand the distance that Sandra and her team have come. – still a long way to go, but this is encouraging, and indicates that democracy is not dead, even if struggling!

The Coastal Management Strategy is to be published with the LTP in June, and will include “community-based response and coastal hazard response planning” – that should enable some limited ‘non-capital’ maintenance work to undertaken at ‘pinch-points’ that suffered on 5 January around the Peninsula.

I cannot emphasize enough just how important this ‘toe in the water’ policy is in terms of a long term commitment to rationalise our approach to impending climatic changes..

Thames

I have no intention of analysing the ‘local’ projects’ other than those that affect us here in Thames. Overall, because of the limited number of projects here, and the affect of maintaining the UAGC at 22%, we have done pretty well out of the exercise - see rate projections in previous post.

Kopu Stormwater (year 3 onwards), and Thames South Water ($790k in the first year) went through as ‘District items,’ along with the "covering of open gutters" – long overdue and $268k (Local) in the first year.

The ‘big one’ of the Shortland Wharf Renewal in Year 2 ($422k, and Year 3 ($1.063m) was dropped in favour of a mere $100k mainrenance in year 1 & 2. Th upkeep of this redundant asset has become a total scandal – why are we paying millions to maintain facilities for a half-baked fish factory, and a fish & chip shop? Staff have been told to simply make the place safe to the minimum standard.

The Rhodes Park Grandstand at $332k in Year 2, and $2.801m in Year 3 is another total waste of time and our money. Sea level rise will certainly put paid to this facility in due course, so why are we even contemplating this kind of expenditure. Fortunately staff ‘got the message’ and it has been deferred due to “under commitment of external funding and higher costs with the Dry Court and Skate Park” - they can 'put a ring around that' - it is a convenient excuse, but they should have 'bitten the bullet,' and deferred it forever while explaining a few facts of life to the Rugby Club.

Finally, the late item introduced into the Thames Community Board meeting dated 8 May 2018 by the convener of the Thames Business Association requesting the allocation of $80k

“For remuneration to support the initial work programme of the Thames Business Association; $25,000 be allocated to support the initial work programme of the Thames Business Association; $15,000 for a prioritisation plan for the activities outlined in the Thames Urban Development Strategy and Thames Promotion Project.”

Readers will understand from a previous post my concerns regarding the process followed in the handing of this request, and indeed the whole proposition surrounding rate-payer funding of interest groups of this nature. Thames business has not distinguished itself in the past by its willingness to associate, and fund its own activities. I am not sure why this should be any different, apart from in regard to the undoubted quality of its promoters – Heather Moore and Katina Conomos.

It seems that CEO has agreed to provide a 0.5 FTE for a year to help get it off the ground. The documentation does not indicate whether the $80k covers this 0.5 FTE – let us hope it does, because it is a substantial commitment for rate-payers for what I for one consider a dubious purpose.  

Chair Diana Connors indicated that they were able to fund the $80k from an unspent portion of their Economic Development Grant.

Finally, the rates projected in the LTP Consultation Document are now completely out of date following the decisions taken over the last two days - see previous post

Councillor Performance

This was the end point of a long and difficult process and I know that many readers enjoy hearing about the performance of their representatives over this trying time. These are purely based on my observations, and should not be taken too seriously.

Firstly Mayor Goudie - Sandra performed her task with aplomb and considerable patience when certain councillors displayed a less than full understanding of what the LTP was all about. She used humour to keep McLean and Fox in check – they being the loudest, and most insistent of their entitlements - Fox in particular grates with the pomposity of a parade-ground Sergeant-Major.  McLean’s undoubted experience showed on many issues, and I give them both ‘top marks’ for their vote on the UAGC – that took some courage.

Tony Brljevich was somewhat diffident, but ‘held his corner’ for Coromandel, as did Jan Bartley for Whangamata even if in his trademark rather pompous style. I think we are used to this by now, and it is harmless  stuff. Terry Walker can be somewhat obtuse, but generally only intervened when he had something useful to say affecting his area, which was quite often.

The three Thames representatives are a mixed bunch. Strat I would have to say held his own on this occasion, and talked real sense on most issues on which he chose to speak. Sandra tries to shut him down, but he holds his ground well. Neither Rex Simpson, nor Sally Christie appeared to have a great grasp of the plan, and its effects - understandably. Sally’s stated position on the UAGC was simplistic, and Rex’s well known bent towards social equity showed up, but he doesn't ‘follow through.’  

As for the board chairs who all have a seat at the table, Keith Coulam stood out for appearing to have a grasp well beyond his own area of responsibility, but they all seem to have control of their portfolios and their inclusion is fully justified. Diane Connors appeared totally up to speed, and well able to defend her (our!) patch

Finally a comment on staff performance. In my entire time observing this Council, I have never seen the TYP handled as well. The process was impeccable, the documentation clear and extensive, and the performance inside the Chamber excellent. Both Angela Jane and Scott Summerfield are deserving of the highest praise for the performance of their respective roles, likewise the finance staff - Group Manager Karl Dudley rode his Excel spreadsheet like a pro, which he undoubtedly is.

The TYP can be a major trial for everyone without this level of skilled input.

 

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