Yesterday's Council Meeting Uneventful
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 10:41AM
Bill Barclay

Denis Tegg came to public forum to again remind members of the increasing jeopardy facing the Council while it continues to only pay lip-service' to climate change, rising sea levels, and the immediate prospect of coastal inundation at various points around our coast.

Denis has analysed the Tonkin & Taylor Report referred to in an earlier post, and come to the conclusion that it is deficient on a number of levels which he spelt out in his submission to Council, including but not exclusively subsidence, ground water levels, and the increasing incidence of storm activity. Council continues to listen with barely polite tolerance to the warnings that are continually submitted by Denis, but nothing more.

Mayor Sandra's simply cannot wait to dismiss the subject and get on with the next item of business after allowing a couple of desultory questions from Strat, and Rex Simpson - designed more to demonstrate their 'interest' rather than elicit any real information.

I do not have any confidence that our Council has any other intent than to meet the basic and minimal requirements laid down by central government on this issue, and it will probably require another really major 'event' before anything of real substance emerges. It is instructive to see the manner in which they latch onto the imminent arrival of reports to excuse lack of urgency - the current Tsunami Study being the latest.

Whangamata Marae

The staff report and recommendation to reject this proposal gave rise to some pretty heated, but polite discussion with proponents deeply troubled by the reluctance to release the Council owned property at 101 Lindsay Road for the purpose, Clr McLean in particular was outraged at the assumption by the applicants that this was a simply matter of leasing this valuable block (possibly worth $2m) at the  usual $350 community rate.

Most members appeared to prefer that the property be sold, and Marae (really a community centre) purchase the property in the normal manner. The staggering information revealed in the project document was that it will cost $6m plus, financed entirely by grants from a page length list of organisations, mainly agencies of our Government! They then propose a set of budgets indicating a $50k annual surplus - not a good basis on which to to plan a successful $6m project - a fact pointed out powerfully by the CEO who clearly has had experience of previous failures of projects of this nature.

Good sense prevailed in the end, and it was 'sent back to the drawing board' for the CEO and his staff to explore other options, keeping in mind that this land is a 'district' asset - not simply something you 'give away' for the benefit of local board rate-payers - a trap that our Council has fallen into in the past, as Clr McLean loudly declaimed! And regardless of the many magnificent emotional appeals that accompanied the application, together with a $20k report prepared in 2016 by Giblin Associates (yes, the same outfit that Thames Community Board employed to carry out its 'vision' report a few years ago).

Not much mention is made of the Giblin report in this current application, and going by its content, that is probably just as well - they have the reputation of 'digging deep' and throwing their net very wide to secure the credibility they consider a report of this nature requires. Not everyone agrees!

Thames Aquatic Facility

The only other matter of any note concerned the purchase of land for the proposed new Thames Aquatic and Sports Facility, a matter that was Public Excluded on the following grounds:

(48)(1)(a) – That the public conduct of the whole or the relevant part of the proceedings of the meeting would be likely to result in the disclosure of information for which good reason for withholding would exist.

This is of course a matter that will certainly be of great interest to almost every Thames, if not District rate-payer. It apparently relates to land south of Thames Airfield that is said to be free of the (immediate?) flood risk relating to Rhodes Park - originally proposed. Of course, the lesser flood risk is relative, and probably equally contentious in the long term if Denis Tegg's warnings on several levels are given credence, as they should.

Nevertheless, interest in regard to this purchase was heightened by the the earlier outburst by Clr McLean relating to the use of 'District' funding to purchase local (Board) assets - it was clear that this is what he was referring to when he mentioned "other similar matters coming up later in the meeting."

The issue of whether the aquatic centre  is to be a 'district' or 'local' asset has by no means been settled, and will remain one of the most contentious issues facing this Council over the next few months. No wonder they wanted it kept within the Public Excluded.'

The land in question lies between the Airfield, and Totara Palms - opposite the Garden Centre, and is currently being farmed. Heaven knows what, if anything, they agreed to pay for it yesterday - that is information I don't expect to be confirmed one way or another for a day or two, but I bet that either way a resolution was not easy to arrive at,


Update on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 4:23PM by Registered CommenterBill Barclay

I was 5 minutes late for the meeting and missed Denis's opening remarks - it appears that the Tonkin & Taylor Report he was referring to was specific to the proposed Aquatic Centre, but was in his view equally deficient to the earlier iteration on Monataiari in terms of covering the areas specified under the CPS (NZ Coastal Policy Statement), and failed to incorporate 100 year projections.

He had apparently pointed out to Council before I arrived that he "failed to see how the Airfield site will meet the legally binding provisions of the CPS relating to new developments." That should have put the proverbial 'cat amongst the pigeons,' let alone call into question the legality of the other recent major sub-divisions at Richmond Village, Whitianga Waterways, Cook's Beach and elsewhere.

Watch this space!



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