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More Concerns Regarding Lack Of Consultation

I try to avoid getting too deeply involved in area issues outside of the Thames Community Board area, but I am regularly approached with information, generally involving lack of consultation regarding great dollops of Council funding allocated for this or that arguably ‘private’ purpose.

My recent reporting on the funding of the Thames Business Association have stirred up concerns in the Tairua/Pauanui and Whangamata Areas in particular that indicate deep antagonism between groups in the communities concerned who feel that they have been completely by-passed  in the decision-making process.

Some rate-payers do consider that their boards operate in a vacuum, or else demonstrate inordinate and unfortunate arrogance. One example of this was reported in the previous post regarding the machinations surrounding Paradise Coast Inc.

Another that has now been reported to me concerns the operations of the Hikuai District Trust, set up to promote the devlopment of the Tairua/Pauanui Walkway where again some of our entrepreneurial Council staff appear to be deeply involved to an extent well beyond their brief, and at the same time using the claimed ‘independence’ of these organizations to distance themselves from any suggestion of their involvement.

This is inexcusable in view of the $100,000 allocated by the Taiurua/Pauanui Community Board at the outset, and more recently, a further $10,000 to repair the predictable January storm damage to the Walkway. There is no evidence of a proper business case having been prepared for either purpose.

I don’t like what I see, and feel sure that there are elected members who consider that they have been misled as regards the level of consultation that has taken place. That is certainly the impression arising from irrefutable recordings that I have been provided with from meetings held to discuss the proposals.

Regardless of the motives of the promoters of schemes that rely primarily on council, or Board funding, they have a responsibility to consult with everyone whose rights are affected by their proposals, and avoid riding ‘rough-shod’ just because they believe they have the ear of the ‘movers and shakers’ on Council.

The issue here relates to the manner in which the interests and concerns of Hikuai residents and land-owners appear to have been side-lined by the simple expedient of using the greater numbers of Pauanui and Tairua residents to push through the proposals for Stage 3 of the Tairua-Pauanui Walkway. This follows the route of the Hikuai Flood-plain that is admittedly in public ownership, but adjacent to private property that may well be adversely affected for a number of reasons.

The concerns that have been forcefully expressed at meetings principally relate to the likely damage to infrastructure resulting from storm damage – already experienced with the 5 January event when the so called Trust needed to return to the Community Board to secure another $10,000 to repair existing walkway damage – no greater demonstration of the apparent foolishness of pushing ahead with the engineering in the Flood-Plain route was necessary.

But positions have been taken, and clearly no quarter is to be given. The concerns of long-time residents have been over-ridden by the needs (or desires) of the town residents for a lovely river-side walk/bike-way. The resource consent (some $27,000) is proceeding, and the objections over-ridden.

Now this may sound like just another local spat that should be ‘worked-out’ locally, without rancor. But such appears very unlikely.

What is of greater concern from the District stand-point relates to the ambivalent and apparently manipulative attitude taken by staff, and in some cases, elected members. Their involvement appears to have done nothing to calm the situation, rather to exacerbate, and cause unnecessary harm.

I have copies of correspondence that do no credit to the Council, and display an unfortunate bias against those who support the contrary view to that of the Hikuai District Trust. This Trust appears to some degree, a misnomer, representing the interests of the residents of Pauanui and Tairua rather than those of Hikuai, and on the evidence provided, appears to have evolved from the mind of one person who sought early on to obtain the support of the Community Board.

The apparent reluctance to consult directly with those most directly affected does no credit to any of those concerned. Pandering to powerful, loud and prominent interests does not substitute for a fair democratic process.

It is clear that such was not the case in regard to this undoubtedly admirable track-building  project, and likewise, the Paradise Coast Inc. project.




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