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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Media Council.   

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Saturday
Aug172019

Mathew Hooten & Brian Gaynors on Fonterra

The following ultimate para in Mathew Hooten's columm in yesterday's Herald needs to be taklen aboard by both sides of Parliament - how likely is that?

"Paradoxically, fixing Fonterra involves removing some of its ongoing legislative constraints. It should no longer be required by law to collect milk from new entrants or those who want to expand — which only leads to overproduction, including at the peak — nor to sell raw product to its competitors.

It should be set on its path to being a completely normal company. That requires tough decisions and bold leadership from Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson and Damien O'Connor, or perhaps Simon Bridges, Paul Goldsmith and Todd Muller.

And it will require tough decisions and bold leadership from more dairy farmers. If they want to play it safe as commodity price-takers, the co-op will always be there for them.

But if they ever want the returns expected by shareholders of a2 or even Pic's, they will need to abandon that safety blanket and take a risk with something new, less conservative and less constrained."

And Brian Gaynor's ultimate columm in the today's issue;

"The new chairman and chief executive have adopted a more realistic attitude towards Fonterra's businesses, but the co-op's main flaw remains the same as identified by Allison and Fernyhough 18 years ago. That is "that other people's capital and ideas are essential for baking a bigger cake".

Kerry Group (previously the Irish dairy co-operative ) started down its road to success in 1986 when the co-op transformed itself into a limited liability company and listed on the Dublin Stock Exchange. This allowed it to attract "other people's capital" and a wider range of skills at the board table.

It has also aligned the interests of management and farmers as Kerry Group's senior management team has been successfully incentivised through the company's numerous share schemes.

Fonterra will only pull itself out of its huge rut when it is willing to accept "other people's capital and ideas".

This involves transforming itself into a limited liability company and appointing directors with significant consumer foods expertise, rather than relying almost totally on farmer directors."

Boy, that stubborn determination to maintain the flawed co-operative structure is beginning to look terminal. To repeast my earlier comment - they simply do not have the commercial nouse to dig themselves out of this hole, and Government will eventually have to step in to force a re-structure- our economy depends on it.

 

Friday
Aug162019

Peter Dunn (Remember Him?) Emotes

Peter Dunn makes some interesting observations in today's Newsroom that strike at the heart of modern day debate in our House of Representatives. It is not pretty, and certainly not reassuring to know that this how decisions are now made - particularly on the vexed conscience votes.

His calling out of Simon Bridges for his rather too casual interpretation of 'facts,' and Adern for her "unctuous emoting of just about everything" is too close to the truth for the comfort of anyone familiar with the normal process of breaking down argument into easily quantiable 'facts.'

Our system of Government depends on it - the alternative is hairy, and scary, and will eventually lesd to chaos - "never mind the cost, feel the cloth."

I repeat some of Peter's thesis here because I think it is worthy of close examination as we go into another election cycle.                                                                                                                                

"What seems to be far more important is that those making the claim “believe” what they are saying broadly accords with the facts. Or as Simon Bridges said unusually succinctly recently, “One person’s misinformation is another person’s fact.”

What is most disturbing about the Bridges’ comment (made about his fellow MP Chris Penk’s outlandish claims about late-stage abortions) is its unapologetic nature. Bridges appeared not to be so much criticising his colleague’s unfounded comments, as justifying them. The difference between misinformation and the facts, he seemed to be saying, was in the eye of the beholder and not really all that important.

Conscience debates always used to be regarded as the apogee of Parliamentary debates where MPs shed their restrictive party cloaks and spoke about the issue at hand as they genuinely saw it.

Broadly, the end-of-life and abortion debates so far have not lived up to that standard. The previous dispassionate discussion of the relevant facts, the weighing up of the various arguments, and the reflection of constituency sentiment, all leading to a  balanced outcome, one way or the other, that was largely in line with the evidence, seems to have given way to the often emotional expression of individual personal experiences. And those personal experiences have become translated to be assumed as the experiences of the community as a whole that Parliament should act upon.

In so many ways, we are seeing the replacement of evidence-based approaches to policy by new approaches based on the mere look and feel of policy. Whereas pragmatism was once criticised as too much “if it works, it must be right” today’s norm seems to be “if it feels right, then it is right”.

For example, early in its tenure the current Government replaced its predecessor’s ten Better Public Service targets, meaning it had no way of measuring whether key public services were meeting their goals, and if not, what changes might be required. Ministers were assumed to know instinctively what was working and what was not, and how to correct things.

Similarly, the response to the current row about the funding of life-prolonging cancer drugs owes less to what is the best and most sustainable way forward of dealing with funding the ever-increasing pipeline of inherently expensive innovative new medicines becoming available, than it does to dealing with the extremely understandable concerns of an affected group of patients right now.

Our MPs are elected to implement policies that will materially benefit as many of their people as they can. They are not elected to implement their opinions, or worse still their prejudices. Too many are failing to see that distinction.

All of which leads back to the critical importance of evidence as the backbone of policy. Yet Simon Bridges’ apparently acceptable juxtaposition of misinformation and fact and the Prime Minister’s unctuous over-emoting on just about everything are a worrying recognition that the death of evidence-based policy is nigh, and that future political discourse will be about how things look, rather than what they really are."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

Friday
Aug162019

Denis Tegg To Stand For Regional Council

Denis has advised me this morning that he ihas nominated for the Regional Council. This has scome 'right out of left field,' but should have been expected considering his action to wind up his legal practice in the last month. I just wish he had decided to take Sandra on  - clearly a strp too far, but he would have had far greater influence in that role, and he may have under-estimated the support he would have had.

I happen to believe that it is an ill-considered decision on his part in tthe light of the fact that Dal Minogue has (in my view!) done a good job. and deserves another term. But more important, Denis will almost certainly draw votes form Dal and allow the 'single issue' Graf anti-1080 bloc through the middle. That would be a great shame, and counter-productive in achieving Denis's primary climate-change agenda that most of us support with a passion. 

The problem is that Dal has fought a good 'rear-guard' action on climate-change issues during is time on Council, and I fear that Graf would throw his lot in with the dairy farmer bloc that already dominates the Regional Council in order to achieve his campaign to eliminate 1080.  They are 'shaky' on this issue because most appear to believe that they are on top of the TB threat,- a totally false premise of course.

Okay, so some of you will believe that I 'over-think' these scenarios, but is it worth the risk? I don't think so, and I will therefore have great difficulty in supporting Denis in the circumstances, even if normally, I would I would be behind him 'boots and all.'

All I can say is "may the best man win," but not Graf, please God!

 

Thursday
Aug152019

Now For The 'Bad' News!

In the space of one week, we have managed to accumulate five magnificent examples of how our public services (and Fonterra) can 'stuff-up' in a magnificent fashion, and accountability is somehow absent, excepting for the Chief Statistition who has taken her 'medicine,' and walked.

None of these are related, though they do, in common, indicate a disturbing lack of intelligence in our public services,  and famer-dominated Board. All of these reports are taken from various sources in both Newsroom, and the Herald  and are have been 'cross-checked.'

Prison Letters (Newsroom)

"Christchurch terror accused Brenton Tarrant has been exchanging letters with at least one member of a far-right message board from prison, where he is awaiting trial for the murder of 51 people.

The Department of Corrections has confessed Tarrant's letter should not have been allowed to leave the prison, while the Government has signalled it may crack down on the ability of prisoners like him to correspond with the outside world as a result.

Corrections chief executive Christine Stevenson said the letter should not have been able to leave the prison, and apologised for "the distress that this has caused to those impacted by the tragic events of 15 March".

Pastoral Leases (by David Williams)

"Criticised for years for mis-managing Crown pastoral lease farms, it was rapped over the knuckles by incoming minister Eugenie Sage for granting discretionary consents that allowed out-of-kilter intensive farming in some areas – including the fragile Mackenzie Basin – wrecking some areas with significant values. LINZ was seen as a soft touch on farmers, especially under a National-led Government.

LINZ, the agency responsible for managing more than 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land through 167 leases, did no specific inspections for consent compliance, either itself or through contractors, for three straight financial years – between July 2015 and June 2018. Either side of those three years, it managed only 11 inspections in total.

Fonterra Board Failure by Patrick Smel;ie

"Fonterra's failure is most damningly a two decade record of failure by its board, supported throughout by compliant farmer-shareholders whose self-interest has prevented New Zealand's largest company from achieving its potential.

Created by politics with its own act of Parliament, Fonterra has always had one eye on Wellington and one hand tied behind its back thanks to farmer-shareholders' insistence that the primary measure of success be the annual milk price and a requirement to pick up any and all milk.

It is also becoming belatedly clear that two chairmen for most of Fonterra's existence since 2001 – Henry van der Heyden and the now-deceased John Wilson – acted as command-and-control executive chairs.

Evidence that can only be pieced together suggests they paid scant regard to governance norms that even the lowliest charity would ensure occurred: namely, strategic discussions and succession planning.

Former directors report there being no serious strategy sessions at board level under both chairs and no serious discussion of developing the next generation of directors and senior executives."

Police Lose Car (and Glocks!)

"Police in Gore are looking for a man who rammed two patrol cars before getting away on foot armed with the officers' pistols.

In a dramatic pursuit late last night, officers tried to stop a car shortly before midnight.

Instead of stopping for police, however, the driver rammed the patrol car before running off. A police officer chased after him - also on foot.

The man then circled back around, stolen the patrol vehicle, which had the keys left in it, and rammed another police car before abandoning the vehicle a short while later.

The Armed Offenders Squad was also called upon, as was a police helicopter.

Authorities said two police-issued Glock pistols were stolen.

Police say the man "remains at large".

Census ‘Stuff-up’ (Herald Editorial)

"It is in our view that the focus on online responses and overly optimistic view of 'Stay the course. The paper will come', led to insufficient action being taken at the appropriate time," they said.

The report also concluded:

• There was too much focus on the online work and not enough testing

• The design of the survey was feasible but the problem was how it was carried out

• The budget was big enough – but more funding was needed to cover risks for the change of approach

• Leadership lacked strategic direction and there was too much optimism.

• The field workforce was too small – only about 40 per cent of the size of that in 2013.

• There was not enough preparation for offline results – for example only 4800 bilingual packs were printed, making it difficult for Maori to engage.

• The costs and impact of the North Canterbury earthquake – which closed Statistics NZ's offices in November, 2016 – were underestimated.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Aug142019

Council Elections - Nominations Close 12 Noon Friday

It appears from the Council post today that there are sufficient candidates for each of the Council and Ward seats. There are only two for Thames Council at this stage, but Sally Christie was seen hurrying in to the Council Chambers prior to the list coming out, so that will bring the number up to the required three.

I am far more concerned at the apparent quality of the candidates to date., but others may appear before midday on Friday- others would be a blessing. I will therefore leave an analysis until that time, but apart from Gary Gotlieb at South Eastern Ward there does not appear to be any new talent to get excited about.

Some rather well worn old faces have appeared who seem likely to perpetuate the same old, same old policies that have put our Council in the position it is now in on really important issues, like climate change, and appear unlikely to challenge Mayor Sandra on her determined course. Innovation probably is a step too far to expect, but if only we could anticipate more attention to governance deficiencies, it would be a step-up.

I simply cannot see any sign of the required skills amongst the raft of candidates as it stands. Most appear to be simply standing for the now substantial emolument - now approaching $40k, with $8k for Board members, and $16k for Board chairs simply because thay are able to attend Council, with no voting rights - all sums approximate.

I implore anyone who has the required skills, and who is wavering to put their names in  the hat - download a form now, and fill it in - you will need to deliver it to your local office by 12 noon Friday, along with the $200 deposit - you get it back! There is literally 'nothing to lose.' and you may find it quite enjoyable, if boring at times.

All it requires is a few standard sized signs in strategic places , and if you feel inclined, spend a little money on More FM, and your local paper - forget the Hauraki Herrald - it is as useful as a 'two-bob watch,' and is renowned for getting copy cocked up.  

Go for it!

 

 

 

Friday
Aug092019

Inundation v. Erosion

This story by Eloise Gibson t from today's Newsroom  is instructive in many regards, but more particularly because it references the 5 January 2018 storm that caused substantial damage within the Gulf, and draws attention to the likely effects of varying levels of inundation over the entire country.

Why the story attracted my attention is because of long overdue attention it pays, at least as far as this District is concerned to inundation or flooding, as opposed to erosion that appears to be then main concern of our Council.

Erosion of course is the main concern of the Eastern Seaboard, and those likely to be affected are the ones most vocal in attracting the attention and financial commitment of the Council to taking corrective action by way of seawall, bund and bags along with diversion and other protection measures.

By contrast, interest in providing protection of any kind against inundation on the inside of the Gulf against wave action resulting mainly from storms - particularly when combined with spring tides as occurred on 5 January is extremely limited. Certainly, unless existing works were provided bu the Regional Council, it has specifically denied any responsibility. This leaves those residents whose homes and businesses may have been built long before concern for these conditions became a fact of life.

I have sat through Council meetings when the subject has come up, and observed the marked bias toward combating East Coast erosion which endangers homes and town centres that have in the main been built comparatively recently, even currently in the case of the Whitianga Town Centre, and in defiance of the obvious danger. Legal threats against Council for having allowed development in these areas have been publicly, and loudly expressed at times. 

On the other hand, residents of Thames, Te Puru and Coromandel who are equally at risk, but whose properties long pre-date East Coast developments, are told that their problems are therefore theirs and theirs alone. Almost no assistance from either Council was offered following the 5 January event - even to the extent that Tararu residents were obliged to take matters into their own hands, and subscribe to a private fund to effects repairs to existing infrastructure. What was forthcoming was reluctantly given, and comprised a few loads of rock, and limited assistance with wall repair

Major danger posed by the inaction on the part of the Bupa owned retirement village at Tararu to undertake any breast-works at their property endangers the entire village and adjacent suburb. Meanwhile, Mr Parker's village at the mouth of the Kauaeranga proceeds apace. The madness of this , particularly with the advent of this report has to date appeared to escape the attention of our Council, but unsurprisingly, not that of potential buyers.                               

There is something essentially unfair about this state of affairs, and although the risk may well be covered in the Coastal Assessment that we are told is underway, their is no way that the budget for essential and urgent works will extend to any of those works needed on the Gulf. In fact, it remains at much as risk today as it did on 4 January, and stoic residents have been left to deal with their insurance companies, if they have any, as best they can.

With the departure of Jan Van der Liet as Coastal Engineer, I am not sure of the status of the Coastal Assessment on which future Council action is supposed to be based, but there is no indication that any action will result in regard to the areas most at risk on the Gulf, and this while plans for substantial expenditure are being announced for the eastern Seaboard. And once again, these works will be undertaken as a 'District' charge, on the grounds, as always, of being 'un-affordable.'

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug082019

King Salmon's Cook Strait Plans Announced Right On Time

Patrick Smellie's story on King Salmon's Cook Strait plans in today's Herald  atrived at exactly the same time as a grand symposium on aquaculture sponsored by the Cawthorn Institute is underway in Nelson. 

But Patrick Smellie's story contained one single sentence that will be causing conniptions for NZ King Salmon's Grant Roisewarne who would no doubt have expected better having funded Smellie's trip to Norway last year. Here are the fateful words:

"If it all goes according to that optimistic-looking timetable, it will be a small miracle."

What is absent from Smellie's otherwise upbeat and generally supportive story are the actual figures regarding the cost of establishing this 'miraculous' venture. One has to go to yesterday's international salmon industry on-line journal SalmonBusiness to get a grip on just what Mr Rosewarne is planing to spend to get the initial 4,000 tonne venture 'off the water. Double this for the planned 8,000.

"Developing the first open ocean farm will initially require the commissioning of suitable vessels and pen infrastructure based on international technology, as well as the training of team members, with an anticipated capital investment of around NZD 25-30 million (EUR 14 – 17 million)."

NZKS COO Allen Cook says:

“Climate change is very real and we have felt its impact in the Marlborough Sounds over the past couple of summers. This decision is crucial to our long term sustainability efforts,” said Cook. “It will undoubtedly be a major challenge to farm in the open ocean because of more extreme conditions than in the Sounds, but we’ve chosen the best site possible.”

The 'elephant in the room' relates to just how Rosewarne intends to lay his hands on this kind of money to undertake such a risky venture after so little testing, and accumulation of knowledge about the suitability of the planned site - one year precisely, as against twenty years or more experience in the Norwegian Fjords, and deep sea.

Note the intent to remove the planned crew of eleven, presumably by chopper,  in the face of forecast North-West storms - sounds fun! And note also that the major problem with the off-shore cages in the Northern Hemisphere has come from the unplanned escape of vast numbers of fish from storm-damaged cages. But no doubt Mr Rosewarne has an answer for that quandary.

The almost total reliance on the work of the Cawthorn Institute is an indication of the profound anxiety of Rosewarne to depart the Sounds where he is under increasing pressure to 'pack up shop' in the face of environmental protest, and the salmon life-limiting effects of climate change.

Taking it one step further, one has to ask whether his attempts to curry favour with Shane Jones and Jacinda Ardern is a precursor to an attempt to obtain massive Government financial support for this highly speculative venture. Certainly, there is little indication anywhere of there being an appetite amongst the investment community, or his own shareholders for that matter to 'throw caution to the wind' to follow his dream.

I remain immensely sceptical of any attempt by Rosewarne and King Salmon to seek Government backing  - our tax money in other words, to subsidise this risky venture - particularly on the specious grounds that we need an alternative to grassland farming to provide equivalent protein to the World.

My whole attitude is presaged by what I consider to be an utterly flawed enquiry into the use of the Hauraki Gulf for fin-fish aquaculture - a subject that seems to have disappeared from the headlines over the last year or two, Or is is still lurking within the four walls of the Regional Council from whence came the initial impetus?

I remain particularly sceptical of the motives of Mr Rosewarne, and I believe that in order to protect his reputation, Patrick Smellie should be very careful to retain journalistic impartiality in regard to his relationship with this industry.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Aug072019

Good News At Last on Nominations

Barrister Gary Gotlieb is  a top flight Barrister with a widespread reputation in many areas of the law. He has nominated for the South Eastern Ward, and will no doubt find himself up against the perennial, pontificating Jan Bartley who seems to have been on Council forever and a day. Shouldn't be much competition I would have thought.

Gary has lived between his home in Herne Bay, and a holiday home in Whagamata for over 50 years, and would bring long absent skills to the table. Both staff and other councillors will need to 'up their game' if they are to compete with Gary on detail, governance and accountability issues - all of which have been lacking for a very long time.

Gary has recently led the fight to oppose the attempt by staff to restrict public access to reserves - i.e. Williamson Park. This experience inspired him to stand and combat what he considers to be poor goverancse, and staff manipulation of elected representatives.

He is formerly President of the NZ Criminal Bar Association, District Law Society, Board member of the NZ Law Society, Triathlon NZ, Masters Swimming, and he is a qualified Whangamata surf lifeguard.

Gary has indicated that he is willing to make whatever time is needed to fulfill his responsibilities as  councillor. I for one look forward to being to observe his input, and I hope that his nomination inspires others to put their names forward during the last week before nominations close.

 

Monday
Aug052019

Labour Bullies Greens on Schedule 4

"What a difference two years makes" as Farah Hancock says in today's Newsroom.

Here is Labour's 2017 platform on the extension of the Schedule 4 boundary south of the Kopu-Hikuai Road - a measure dear to the hearts of Coromandel Greens, and one that was taken for granted in the Coalition Agreement:

“Labour will: Amend Schedule 4 to add ecological areas and world heritage sites to the generic protected categories, and to extend southwards the described area of the Coromandel.”

A footnote defines this as: “This would add to the Schedule 4, item 12 description of the Coromandel Peninsula all the conservation land south of the Kopu-Hikuai Road to the southern boundary of the Te Aroha Ecological District.”

Seems pretty clear doesn't it?

Well actions speak louder than words, and according to the Greens Gareth Hughes, Labour have effectively reneged, and are using the failure to finalise the Hauraki Settlement as the excuse for inaction on the extension of Schedule 4 as proposed in the Platform.

The following statement from Minister for Energy Megan Woods appears to 'muddy the waters,' and will barely satisfy the suspicions of local Greenies that long-standing Labour policy is being twisted to possibly favour the aspirations of the mining industry:

"Expanding Schedule 4 in these areas was 2017 policy. However the Government is currently working through the much broader policy of no new mines on conservation land, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne."

The Settlement was and is being used to justify all manner of  delay in decision making, and I suspect that certain Collective members will be feeing aggrieved that they are now being 'scape-goated' in this process. Indications are that they simply want to get their hands on the 'levers' without delay - they have certainly waited long enough, and if the councils and Government still have not got the details worked out, you have to call into question the sincerity of those involved.

For Heavens sake, let's get on with it, and stop the prevarication. I tend to stand with Gareth Hughes on this one. The longer it goes on, the more division will occur on what is already a very divided Peninsula, and surely acquiring the acquiescence of the Collective in fulfilling theclear Election promise should not be beyond the wit of our renowned Wellington bureaucracy.

 

 

                                                                                                   
 

Saturday
Aug032019

Weekend Herald Investigates Smart

Some dirty little secrets are emerging in the first iteration of a Weekend Herald  investigation by Mike Valentine into what appear to be some nefarious activities by and through Smart Environmental that may or may not have been known about by our Council and/or its employees.

They specifically involve the manner in which waste has been dumped at ours and other transfer stations operated by Smart on behalf of councils in the Western Waikato. At first sight and because of the credibility of the 'whistle-blowers,' the finger appears to point directly at management, and in particular Mr Graeme Christian, who has now conveniently disposed of his shareholding in the company to a multi-national.

That sale also greatly benefited all of the executive team, apparently including Mr Benjamin Day who was well known here before and after he was appointed deputy chief executive during Hammond's tenure as Chief Executive. He was later hired by Christian to run Smart's Tauranga operation following his abortive attempt to manage an Economic Development Committee for the Council - one of Mayor Leach's less illustrious innovations, and to which he appointed Christian. This Committee achieved 'sweet Fanny Adams' during its time, and was swiftly disposed of with the advent of Mayor Goudie and new CEO Rob Williams, along with Day.           

It seems that there has been even more going on that now warrants the attention of the Auditor General, and when the full truth emerges, we may find that the Company, and quite possibly certain individuals may be in a great deal of trouble. Just let us wait and see where the investigations lead us, but the allegations of breaking into the transfer station, and illicit dumping in the 'dead of night' does sound rather like the modus operandi  of the Soprano's, and not at all the stuff of normal Thames drama. Actually, I think it was the Gambino family that was 'up to its neck' in NY waste disposal - it is certainly a demonstably distasteful activity for Council staff here, and everywhere else it seems. 

My only concern on which I have previously posted relates to a matter touched on in the report regarding the attempt currently under way to get Council and Government agreement to take responsibility for disposing of the mountains of plastic and paper previously dispatched to places unknown under the terms of a supposedly 'tight' contract. Christian, who has reportedly taken tens of millions from the Company sale,  has mounted a strong campaign in that regard, and our mayors and even Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage seem well disposed to the idea -what suckers!

Here is an extract from Mike Valentine's report that relates to preceeding matter:

"The company is contracted to pay Thames Coromandel District Council $181 per tonne of waste — but appears to have been paying $77.05 per tonne, documents show.

The council has confirmed it is working with "appropriate authorities" to identify whether there is any evidence of illegal activity or contractual breaches.

Smart manages the council's seven transfer stations. The council investigation centres on whether Smart introduced the discount without advising or negotiating with the council in what sources believe would be in breach of a council contract."

And:

 "A former member of Christian's team said the "discount" was introduced in May last year after the company failed in its attempts to get compensation for the "Chinese situation", which had resulted in a ban on taking and paying for recycling.

That was despite the contract with the council, which states Smart took the risk and the rewards of recycling prices. The council had required the company to undertake a risk analysis before signing"

I hesitate to draw attention to the plastic stack fires over recent months. As one commenter has said - "where there is smoke, there is fire," Perhaps in the light of the Weekend Herald report, they do warrant closer investigation - just sayin'!

 

Tuesday
Jul302019

Glenn Leach Responds 

Subsequent to the post below on Council debt and the Election Report, Glenn Leach has sent me a set of Exel figures without comment - presumably to demonstrate that my comment about the deterioration in the Council’s fiscal position during his tenure was inaccurate.

I concede that based on these figures (provided to Glenn by Council staff) show that total debt (both internal and external) increased from $27m in 2003 to $110 in 2010 – (almost all due to the unbudgeted increase brought about by the fantastic Eastern Seaboard wastewater scheme), and actually reduced to $107m in 2016 at the end of his term in office.  

Although these figures clearly show show these movements, in normal balance sheet terms the reduction in reserves over the period from 2010 to 2016 of some $90m (give or take, because I do not have access to the actual figures) is indeed ‘material,’ and should be taken into account – something the Council has appeared anxious to avoid.

And the listing of 'borrowing' in 2020/21 as only $57m is deceptive, contributing to the lack of transparency. The inconsistent definition of 'borrowing' has been a characteristic of this Council for over ten years - the only constant being confusion. .

Otherwise I stand by my comments, and highlight the failure to disclose in the Election Report the full movement of debt (both internal and external), together with reserves, and alongside average rate increases over the previous three years.

The lack of transparency is remarkable and points to the need for more detailed and consistent disclosure – something that should be a requirement of the Act. Councils should be subject to similar disclosure requirements as entities registered under the Companies Act, and NZX. As it stands, they each appear to carry on as a 'law unto themselves' in the absence of definitive legislation, regulation and case-law.

 

 

 

Saturday
Jul272019

Pre-Election Report - Coastal Management Strategy

Following on the complete abrogation of  our Counci's responsibility in regard to climate change to date  other than out and out blarney by the Mayor relating to her Council hybrid car, and "the employment of the only Coastal Engineer by any Council,"

I looked for evidence of progress elsewhere in the Report. Here is what I found in the CEOs Section of the Report:

"By June 2018 we had adopted a Coastal Management Strategy that sets us on a journey of research and new discovery and understanding about our shoreline involving robust engagement with our communities to develop management plans for our whole coast. Further community awareness raising is scheduled for release in the coming months including engagement with specific communities scheduled for the next two years as we work our way around the Peninsula in developing the proposed shoreline management plans. These engagements will discuss various options available to communities for future management, protection or otherwise. The potential costs will be explored and funding solutions considered. Some urgent shoreline remediation works are also happening in the meantime."

Wow! -that sounds like progress. The only problem is that a search elsewhere in the Report revealed no sign whatsoever of any funding being set aside for this purpose. And what is more, the much vaunted employment of a 'top Coastal Engineer' -  Jan Van der Liet, has come to nothing - he has apparently already departed for the greener pastures of a Buddhist monastery somewhere up North.

Perhaps the "Journey of research and new discovery and understanding" will throw light on the subject - here is hoping.

The lack of any apparent funding provision is puzzling - just how do they plan to complete whatever defences are deemed to be required to meet rising sea levels, and increased storms over time. Perhaps they have been seduced by Mr Brickell's Power Points and have come to the conclusion that it is all a hoax.

Oh well, time will tell, but don't expect anything of great moment to happen in this direction in the near future, or the next Council - certainly not while Messrs Goudie and  Williams remain in control.

 

 


Friday
Jul262019

That Ballooning Debt - What A Nuisance!

Readers will aware that following the 28 June meeting I drew attention to the CEO's warning after the adoption of the Annual Plan that the new proposed borrowing would take our Council to its mandated external borrowing limit, which is supposed to be 150% of rate revenue, contrary to the statement elsewhere in the document that the limit is 150% of total revenue.

For the record - I was present in the Chamber in 2011 when Clr McLean moved the relevant motion regarding the limit increase. I can say with some clarity that the only reason it passed was because the wording was changed to 150% of rate revenue. This reduced the actual 2011 increase limit to $30m, from what would have been $50m - too much even for the profligate incoming Council to stomach.  Perhaps  the CEO should thoroughly check the records as there was considerable confusion at the time.

In any case, he was not wrong in regard to his admonition to the Council to be aware of the hard choices lying ahead. Take a close look at the figures provided in the Council's Election Report - required to be produced under the LG Act prior to each election - often the only time that rate-payers are able to see our councils financial position (Balance Sheet) in a clear concise manner:

Just look at the highlighted line of borrowings in the Statement below and work out just how Mr Williams proposes to pay for all the capital works listed in the LTP. Yes - you are correct - the only possible source is further borrowing, or rates increases.

The problem is that rate revenue for 2020/21 is set at $71m, and 'Borrowings' at $57m, but we know form long experience that 'Internal Borrowings' are not included in this figure - that is where depreciation and other reserves are 'raided' for the purposes of 'balancing the books' - a practice long looked upon askance by auditors, but equally long tolerated in local government.

We only know the level of this form of 'borrowing' by following the level of reserves disclosed in the Annual Report. The reduction during Leach/Hammond's tenure was from around $100m to some $8m - far short of what will be required in due course to fund the replacement of major capital items including wastewater and water infrastructure. The only action subsequently proposed was to "rebuild the reserves," and henceforth cease futher 'raids' on reserves for purposes other than for which they were intended.

Leach and Hammond had changed this Councils fiscal position from positive to negative in six years flat and the upshot is that Williams is now left to 'carry the can' left over from the Leach/Hammond era. Perhaps he proposes to have moved on by the time rate-payers become aware of the inevitable effect on rates. but nevertheless, he has been at the helm right through this further round of LTP capital  expenditure expansion.

Some councillors (and I strongly suspect some senior staff) do not appear to understand the precise relationship between expenditure and rates. We are not the US Government - witness Trumps current plans to increease the National Debt by billions at the drop of a hat. I predict intense audit  interest in the coming year as our accounts are further  'massaged' to disguise the true extent of likely debt distress.
                      
Enough  background - just look at the figures below, and contemplate just who you think may be best able to halt this mad increase in borrowing over the next three years - Goudie, Fox and McLean have already put their names forward - same old, same old!

 

Statement of financialposition - For the year ending30 June 

The Statementof FinancialPositionis also knownas the balancesheet.It showswhat the Councilowns (assets)andwhat it owes (liabilities)at the end of each financialyear. The total sum of assetsand liabilitiesis referredto as ‘netassets’– this is the net worth of the Council– providing a snapshotof the Council’s financialpositionat that particularpoint in time.

            2916/17     2017/18     2018/19    2019/20      2020/21     2021/22      2022/23

                        AP              AP             LDP            LTP           LTP            LTP              LTP

                          $000               $000                 $000          $000              $000              $000              $000

Current financial assets

8,911

17,809

9,169

9,599

9,845

10,080

10,313

Other current assets

102

108

102

102

102

102

102

Total current assets

9,013

17,917

9,271

9,701

9,947

10,182

10,415

Investments in other entities

1,348

1,549

1,514

1,933

3,193

4,492

5,661

Other non-current assets

1,440,754

1,489,540

1,543,850

1,586,280

1,632,999

1,674,033

1,719,119

Total non-current assets

1,442,102

1,491,089

1,545,364

1,588,214

1,636,192

1,678,526

1,724,781

Total assets 

1,451,115 

1,509,006 

1,554,635 

1,597,915

1,646,140

1,688,707

1,735,195

Borrowings

0

0

0

0

8,000

0

0

Other current liabilities

33,105

34,816

19,597

20,473

20,779

21,377

21,883

Total current liabilities

33,105

34,816

19,597

20,473

28,779

21,377

21,883

Borrowings

23,000

30,000

48,429

55,795

57,436

66,358

66,327

Other non-current liabilities

8,717

8,730

6,956

5,680

5,668

5,656

5,644

Total non current liabilities

31,717

38,730

55,385

61,475

63,105

72,014

71,971

 

64,822

73,546

74,982

81,948

91,884

93,391

93,854


1,386,293

1,435,460

1,479,653

1,515,966

1,554,256

1,595,316

1,641,341

 


Thursday
Jul252019

Diane Connors Calls It Quits, (Or Does She?)

Here is a Facebook entry from today that is interesting from a number of angles, but mainly because of what it doesn't say. Diane and Sandra have seldom been on the same page to any interested observer, and Diane has been an avid supporter of the empowerment model - impractical, contradictory, and extravagant as it was predicted to be from the outset.

"This is to notify Thames residents and ratepayers that I have resigned from my role as Thames Community Board Chair and board member, effective immediately.

I believe the environment and culture that has been allowed to develop under current leadership has eroded the Community Empowerment model and prevents me from carrying out my role- my commitment to my community. I am sorry if I have let anyone down.

Over the last 15 years we have acheived some great things together - as a community. It has been my previledge to serve you. I always said I wasn't a politician - but an elected representative. I will continue to advocate for my community in whatever means possible. I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and encouragement over the years. Arohanui.

Diane Connors ex- Chair, Thames Community Board"

But there is more to this than meets the eye. I doubt if Diane considers that she would have a realistic chance at beating Sandra in the mayoralty contest - though I am sure it has crossed her mind at times.

What I do know is that she stepped down from the Council and Strat stepped up by mutual agreement - I suspect that the roles were meant to be reversed at this election, but Strat once again indicated his change of heart some time ago and that he would again stand for Council - goodness gracious  - how often has that happened over the years. His contribution has been minimal during this term, but at least he was 'on the side of the angels" when it came to the climate emergency motion.

Diane has of course performed sterling community activities - much admired by all who have come into contact with her, and it is not surprising that she has found Sandra's dictatorial, and rather reactionary attitudes 'hard to stomach.' So have a great many others who have experienced her hard knuckle politics. 

Beyond her, lies the maze that needs to be negotiated within the Castle, and the almost complete change of staff - most of whom would find the so-called community empowerment model an anachronism when centralisation has been the order of the day for so long. The Community Board has virtually disappeared from sight, and its deliberations almost irrelevant as time has gone on.

There is more to be said at some point about the unhappiness within the Castle - weekly initiation sessions are said to have become the norm by way of example. General unhappiness at all levels is seeping into the public arena, and with much finger pointing at the leadership style at the very top. These issues have a habit of seething away for some time before the top blows, and they become impossible to ignore. I will be watching with great interest as we approach the election.

 

Wednesday
Jul242019

Why Local News Is Critical!

One of my regulaar readers, on picking up the TED talk stoty in the previous post sent through the following link to another TED that took place in Denver related to the demise of the Denver Post - a sad reflection on the universal decline of critical journalism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR_jBlB-fj8

I, and other bloggers working in this area may not satisfy every need, and are often the subject of critical comment by regular journalists - I have often been obliged to describe the role of a commenter as opposed to that of a journalist, who is required to apply tenets of fact checking, and seeking response that are unnecessary (and impractical!) in commentary. 

Regardless, this Chuck Plunkett talk is a real eye-opener, and demonstration of the SOP endemic in the hedge-fund industry that has created so many billionaires.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jul242019

Boris Takes Levers Of Power - Should We Be Worried?

Say what you like about The Guardian - it does not mince words when it comes to Boris - - quoting his former editor at The Telegraph:

“There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not so much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth”.

It goes on in its article to describe Johnson as:

"A man who refers to gay men as “bum boys”, black people as “pickaninnies”, Muslim women as looking like “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”; he has conspired to have a journalist beaten up; he was sacked from the shadow cabinet for lying about an affair; ran a Brexit campaign based on disinformation; was fired from his job at The Times for making up quotes; was deemed an embarrassment by civil servants during his brief stint as Foreign Secretary; and is widely regarded as having little grasp on any of the portfolios for which he has been responsible. It is no small surprise, then, that he is such an admirer of Trump."

And:

 "We now need to say our final goodbyes to the deeply outmoded idea that we live in a meritocracy, unless of course merit is now understood solely in terms of a self-serving, conniving, dissembling thirst for power."

He does come across as a nincompoop, completely out of his depth, who no matter how well he does in his first 100 days, will he, like Trump, ever be able to be trusted by friend or foe - sad indeed, to quote one of the Donald's favourite expressions, but trust is hard-won, and so easily dissipated.

The Poms will live to regret this day - of that there appears no doubt. The first test will come when he attempts to take the country out of Europe without an agreement. It appears certain that sufficient Tories will desert him on a confidence motion to ensure a General Election; and that would be reckless to say the least. 

Related to the totally unexpected emergence of Boris is a TED talk given by Observer columnist Carole Cadwallader a month ago to a assemblage of techies  in Silicon Valley that lifts the lid on exactly what happened in regard to the Brexit vote, and the role of Facebbok in particular. She was attempting to touch on the inherant human instincts of this group - long inured to the base instincts of their bosses.

Carole paints a frightening picture in which it appears that we have literally lost control of democracy as we knew it. I won't say any more - simply tune in and listen to one of the best explanations that you are likely to hear around our current situatio as demonstrated by the rise of Trump, and his mate Boris. 

Zuckerberg and his henchmen are achieving what no other conqueror in history has ever managed, and beyond irony, they appear to be achieving it without the slightest self-awareness.

 

 

Monday
Jul222019

Rod Oram Lets Fly at Fonterra!

Anyone in any doubt as to where Rod Oram  currently stands in regard to dairy and red meat industry leadership in this coiuntry, and Fonterra in particular, need only read his article in today's Newsroom. Rod is not a happy commentator, and will not let the current coterie of leaders 'off the hook'.

For example:

"Quite simply, they (DairyNZ - the farmer funded research oreganisation) are trying to grandfather their current volumes and practices by refusing to let true farming leaders lead. Instead, they are holding New Zealand’s economy, climate, natural environment and international reputation hostage to the political power of the lowest common denominator in their ranks.

As Fonterra said this week when it released its submission on the Zero Carbon Bill: “The Co-op is committed to doing its bit in New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon future.”

A bit? For God’s sake, Fonterra is not some two-bit bunch of cockies out in the backblocks. It, its farmers and their cows are by far the largest single source of emissions in our country. They generate a fifth of New Zealand’s entire climate crisis causing gases..

In effect, they want at least two generations to upskill their rank and file to to level required to meet our 2050 obligations. This is not a commitment  - it is an admission of total failure to understand the nature to the 'emergency' being faced by everyone on the planet, while they continue in their bucolic ways with  excuses and bumbling denials.

Claims that waterway plantings, and special pleadings from the Fonterra 'ivory tower,'  somehow meet their obligations to look more and more pathetic as each year passes.

Likewise, totally irrelevant claims of us having the most efficient primary industry in the World, and eschewing farmer emission payments in favour of awaiting miraculous technological advances  that National's Todd Muller seems wedded to.

 

 

 

Friday
Jul192019

Man-Made - 'Balderdash!'

For those tempted to accept the Brickell/Goudie/Collins (and Trump!) hypothesis that climate change is simply the result of a natural cycle of events over which the human race has no control should read this article by Joel Rindelaub in today's Newsroom.

It expands on the danger of accepting the views of those who expound unscientific views totally lacking the basic requirement of peer review. The article arose from a recent outburst by Magic-talk  host Peter Williams who is rapidly slipping into 'shock-jock' status, extolling on this occasion the widely discredited views of one Dr Willie Soon.

The problem is that Soon fits the category of 'denier by any other name' that we have become so used to though they represent less that 5% of the scientific world. The 95% who hold the opposite view  are being proven correct by the day - particularly in the Northern Hemisphere with unseasonal storms, and the current unprecedented heat-wave building in the US.

How peole can continue to be bamboozled by this threadbare theory is almost beyond belief, but hold it they do - almost until  the 'last man standing' proves their undoing. The article is a crushing rejection of the hypothesis, and makes those on our Council, and in this District who support it look very foolish indeed - though they would be the last to recognise it.

Basic ignorance and greed is a massive hurdle to surmount, and although my friend Denis Tegg may not be everyone's 'cup of tea,' he does provide the antidote to this crass resistance to rationality - may the rumour of his possible candidature for the office of Mayor prove prescient.

I say this regardless of the likely futility of countering someone who is as popular as Sandra, and whose views on climate change apparently approximate those of the majority of the excessively complacent, and mostly elderly voters of this District.

A contest would certainly put this to the  test, and provide a platform for greater light to be thrown on the issue than would otherwise be the case. Dennis would markedly lift the voting percentage.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul162019

Noosa Declares Climate Change Emergency

Noosa yesterday became the 27th Australian municipality to declare a climate emergency

The momentum is building to remind central governments everywhere of their responsibility to take more stringent measures to react to the challenges we are all facing in regard to climate change, and our Government has 'political capital' in that regard.

Declaring an  emergency may be regded by some as a pointless exercise that entails no commitment, but such an interpretation is simply wrongheaded. Realistically, it has two effects:

a) with sufficient support, it reminds central government that there is patently a risk in continuing with a half-hearted response that entails no real pain. The political high-ground may cost initial electoral support,  but as the evidence piles up. and and costs of physical damage mount, generational support will be restored. It simply takes courage and resolve.

and:

b) it does indicate a commitment that our Council would find extremely difficult to ignore in the future when major mitigation plans are presented. Further, and even more important, it commits existing councillors should they choose to stand in the upcoming election. Clearly five councillors and the Mayor have put a stake in the ground indicating that they wish to make no such commitment, meaning that they intend to continue the current completely inadequate policies into the future.

That is very bad news for all rate-payers, and is worthy of real consideration when deciding where to place your vote at the election. No-one has so far put their name forward to oppose/replace incumbents. this is a great shame, and indicates a desire to talk, rather than act.

And in case anyone accuses me of 'calling the kettle black,' I am 81, and probably, no longer 'the sharpest knife in the box.'   

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul162019

KIng Salmon Builds Pressure For RDF Funding

Owen Evans in Stuff  dated 15 July reported the latest effort by King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne to apply further pressure on Government for funding to assist his companiy's  efforts to establish in Cook's Strait. This appears specifically designed to 'short-circuit' the opposition to his efforts to establish farms in the outer sounds to replace those on the iner sounds where they have caused extreme long-term environmental damage - a move that awaits full Government approval.

You have to agree that Rosewarne is nothing if not a trier - he is pulling every PR stunt in the book to obtain the result that he so needs to combat both climate change, and the opposition to his outer sounds plans.

It seems that his latest ploy is to claim, on the basis of extremely limited research that conditions in the Strait are conducive to his grand plans for massive sea cages based on Norwegian design. If that is the case, it does appear a wonderful solution to his present dilemma, but if that is the case, why is he continuing to search for sites down the East Coast of the South Island? Something does not quite 'add-up' in this regard, and our previous experience with Rosewarne should warn us to treat his claims with caution.

There is a Cawthorne Institute symposium involving international aquaculture experts taking place next month that will no doubt be slanted towards reducing the concerns of industry sceptics, and which will undoubtedly be used by Rosewarne, and his cohort to apply further pressure on the Government to 'come the party.'

As I have previuously indicated, it is my view that this whole exercise is aimed at securing public funding to cover the extreme risk of any move into Cook Strait - as he has previously demonstrated, Rosewarne is no tyro in this endeavour, and our PM's caution as demonstrated at the Blenheim Chamber of Commerce seminar last month will be severely tested.