Complaints - Please scroll to the bottom of the page
Search

 

Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Media Council.   

Suggested Pledge - Any amount, any time, appreciated.

Remember this blog's policy - No distractive advertising!

Please use 03 0458 0274812-002. Thank you.


Friday
Oct182019

Election Final?

12 midday - I aimed to have the final results posted immediately that they were up on the Council website, but alas, it appears to have been all too much for the over-worked staff at the Castle to achieve what appears to have been achieved by every other council - posting of the 'finals' by yesterday.

This is pathetic, and inexcusable for such a small Council - they are not conducting a 're-count' after all (or are they?) - simply tallying the votes that for whatever reason were unable to be tallied on the day. Quite different results are even showing in the Saturday presser, than are showing on Election page on the Website - that is straight out carelessness.

I will continue to monitor the Website, but cannot guarantee a result before the weekend, or before it is time for staff to pack up for the day.

Sorry Robyn  - stand-by!

 

Thursday
Oct172019

Mayor, TCB and Regional Council

Someone has correctly pointed out that Alison Choppin has only a majority of 7 over Robyn Sinclair with specials still to counted, so her occupancy of that seat is by no means assured. This is the closest majority of any across the Peninsula, so Robyn still has an excellent chance of taking it out later today when they are finally tallied. I am very supportive of Robyn - she is young and a 'go-getter,' and I think she would add some real vigour to the Council, and perhaps be more amenable to change than Alison  who does not appear to have these attributers in abumdance.

I will provide an up date later today, if required, along with the notification of the date of the first meeting if such becomes avaiable. 

Now for the other results as they affect us in Thames:

The re-election of Sandra Goudie as Mayor was almost inevitable even though Len Salt put up a good showing. I hope he 'keeps his powder dry' until the next election because Ii think he has considerable potential to effect the changes that will inevitably be required by that time. The cooling of my enthusiasm for Sandra was entirely down to what I considered to be her stubborn and ill-judged attitude towards 'climate change,' thereby avoiding  the necessary leadership role for our Council to take the necesssary steps towards putting in place practical and effective measures in dealing with its effects.

Otherwise, there can be no doubt that Sandra is an extremely effective 'chair,' who uses her consumate political skills to generally arrive at the decision she desires, but as with many mayors throughout the country, she regularly succumbs to the temptation to hide behind the 'closed doors' of workshops to suppress any suggestion of dissent. Decisions are made, contrary to requirements of the Local Government Meetings Act, and simply returned to the Council agenda as a fait accompli for formal ratification. But she is by no means alone in pursuing this 'loophole.'

Her support in the electorate is strong, and has often been noted, Sandra is adept at cultivating her 'base' - she will 'attend the opening of an envelope' if she deems it worthwhile. Her resulting majority gives her a clear mandate to implement a limited range of policies that she has promoted, but her past 5:4 majority at the table is clearly at risk, and she may have to work harder to achieve all she desires. She clearly has a close relationship with CEO Rob Williams, and this may be tested' in coming months. 

The cleanout at the Community Board provides somewhat of a dilemma in regard to predictions as to the direction it will take, though almost certainly it will elect Strat Peters as its Chair, and he will continue to push for his pet Thames 'renewal' project' - particularly the Town Centre., though he may find some stiff resistance to any suggestion of major expenditure a'la Whitianga. Clr Fox will no doubt breathe 'fire & brimnstone' at any suggestion of 'district' funding of any aspect off this project. They spend so much money planning and designing these projects that there is little left for the actual work in any case. 

Cherie Staples, Sheryll Fitxpatrick and Peter Revell all seem to have secured a similar block of votes, and appear solid citizens who are unlikely to unleash any major surprises on the population, particularly since Sandra intituted policies to 'clip the wings' of boards that had been given wide latitude by Leach. As Chair, Strat will continue to 'sit at the Council table' should he be elected. 

I was a little surprised at the result of the Regional Council election - Denis Tegg will I am sure provide an extremely strong voice at that table, though his 'single-minded' approach may take some time to secure support from the farmer majority who for some time have controlled its decision making process - most notably in regard to weakening enforcement of environment controls over the entire dairy sector that forms thr back-bone of the regional economy.

As readers will be aware, I was always a loyal supporter of Dal Minogue who I believe 'fought the good fight' and secured unexpected support from sceptics around the table who may have been expecetd to oppose his point of view. He was extremely analytical in his approach, and was able to deal with all sides of an argument with patience and aplomb. It was a great pity that the election was tainted by the lies regarding  rate increases in particular promulgated on the air-waves, and in print by his opponent Clyde Graf. Thank-you Dal for a job well done. 

Denis's approach that may not garner support immediately, but I wish him well, and hope that he is able to unify the Council's approach to a range of issues that have been inadequately handled in the past. There has to be clear deliniation of responsibilites for instance as between the district and regional council in regard to 'climate-chnage' issues in particular - it is a total mish-mash as it stands, as exemplified by the coastal protection shambles at the head of the Gulf where protection of farming and urban interests are eye-watering in their complexity.

And 'retreat' has to be on the table at all levels. Neither Council can 'run away' from the issues any longer - time is now 'of the essence,' and further delay will cause real grief in due course. Good luck Denis - you  have the mandate to get the job done.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct162019

Back To Life, Starting With the Council!

No, I was not shocked off my perch by the results of the election, or the downpour on Monday night, though I was touched by the enquiries! It was simply a case of being fully engaged with entertaining friends from 'Bundy' (the 'Every Dog a Dingo' story went totally 'over their heads,' but the idea of $3,500 jars of honey on the shelves at Harrods made an impression. 

Frankly, there did not appear a great deal to comment on, though on reflection a couple of changes do warrant examination, if only becasue of the effect on the future dynamic of Council, and willingness to accept Sandra's domination as was patently obvious on the last Council.

The two who I know have the knowledge and experience to 'take her on' as it were, are Police OIC John Morrissey from Coromandel, and barrister Gary Goitlieb from Whangamata. And I will go so far as to suggest that the first sparks will fly over the make-up of the Committees - in particular the all-important Chief Executive Committee that oversees the performance and salary of the Chief Executive, and his three-year contract that will shortly be up for review.

No-one was impressed with the CEO's 'last-minute' revelation of the $2m overspend on the Whitianga Town Centre, including the two - McLean and Fox, who would normally have expected re-appointment to this Committee along with the Mayor. Fox's tenure as Chair of Audit and Risk, may also come in for attention. He should have known far more about what was going on in regard to over-expenditure generally, and the 'run-down' of depreciation reserves -he clearly displayed inadequate governance nous to have let this 'get away.'

McLean will probably get Infrastructure again, though there are also questions over his oversight of the Whitianga contract. I am picking an attempt will be made at a complete 'clean-out' on all committees, and an introduction of 'new blood' to shake up a complacent structure. Mayor Sandra may find her authority well and truly 'on the line' when the process comes around.

It is interesting that the first meeting has yet to be notified on the Council website - somewhat unusual I would suggest, and perhaps indicative of background maneuvering through 'closed door' workshops. These are often used to impose a level of uniformity on the thinking of new councillors (four), particularly in regard to the authority of the Mayor over Committee appointments. I am not at all sure of the where Martin Rodley and Alison Choppin, both from Thames, are likely to stand in this regard, but they may well  be influenced by other more experienced members. 

As a 'parting shot' in regard to defeated members - Jan Bartley, Tony Brljevich and Rex Simpson (Note that Strat Peters 'stood down'), I don't think any will be missed - Jan is well past his 'use-by' date, Tony has been far too indecisive, and Rex simply useless by my observation. I was not surprised by Sally's return at the top of the poll, but regard this as an entirely inappropriate success when viewed through the lens of her involvement with the Waikato Health Board debacle. On the other hand, she has applied the 'blowtorch' on occasion to the some of Mayor Sandra's more egregious moves. 

All I can say is that based on past performance, Walker, Fox and McLean with stand 'four-square' with Mayor Sandra on most issues; Sally will waiver, and the remainder are 'in play.' Should be interesting. 

Next, the Mayor, Thames Community Board, and the Regional Council.

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct032019

ECan 'In The Gun' 

The return of a fully elected Environment Canterbury Board will foreshadow some make or break changes over the entire Province that is causing conniptions amongst the farming community who are simply unprepared for the changes necessary to reduce the nitrate run-off that is fouling waterways, and threatening the health of the entire population.

Hopefully, and at last, real enforcement action will be forced on the authority to ensure compliance that has been successfully avoided since the appointment of commissioners by the National Government ten years ago.following sustained pressure from the farming community. This is what both bete-noir identities - artist Sam Mahon, and university lecturer Mike Joy have in common in claiming that far too little, too late characterises to actions of the reposible regional authorities, including ECan. 

What is interesting from our standpoint is highlighted in David Williams excellent article in today’s Newsroom  that points to what in the view of outgoing ECan’s Chair – David Caygill that constitutes what he considers to be its greatest achievement:

"Only last month, ECan notified plan change seven to the regional plan, which includes catchment limits for the Waimakariri and Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora areas. (By notifying the plan before this month’s election, the plan still falls under temporary legislation that restricts appeals to points of law.)

Caygill says several thousand farms are covered by the new, nitrate-limiting rules, maybe as many as 5000. “All dairy farmers, for sure.”

That is a staggering achievement after ten years! But enforcement has always, and will remain the issue – one successful prosecution is noted for the entire Province over the last year.

But for all that, they are still a country mile ahead of progress in this direction here in the Waikato, and there is no sign that with the Election, there will any change in the power balance on our Council that will ensure that nitrate restricting measures will be put in place that will ensure the cleanliness of or our waterways being achieved at any time in the foreseeable future..

It is just too difficult, and points to the necessity for central Government to take control in the manner now proposed, but against which a rear-guard action will be interminably fought by Federated Farmers and the entire cohort who feel threatened by any measures likely to place further demands on their farming practices.

Undoubtedly ECan faces a entirely different and fragile situation with its porous soils and underlying gravel structures, but it is laughable for the South Canterbury Fed Chair Jason Grant to claim that knowledge of the nitrate effects post-dated the mad charge into intensification – an 1980 OECD report on pastoral farming in this country pointed out the potential dangers from nitrate leaching into the waterways. Evidently, nobody took any notice. 

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct032019

Calling Every Dog A Dingo!

Here is a good one from Newsroom today to chew over around the water cooler:

Mānuka Honey Appellation Society spokesperson, John Rawcliffe, isn’t opposed to collaborating with Australia to grow the industry but Rawcliffe wants to differentiate New Zealand’s product. 

“It’s not shutting Australia out. It’s ensuring that the consumer is getting a product that they have previously purchased and recognised."

Rawcliffe rejects the notion that Mānuka plants (leptospermum scoparium) in New Zealand and Australia are the same. 

“It’s like calling every dog a dingo."

Boy, we certainly know how to get up Okker noses. I can't wait to pass that one on to our Queensland friends when they arrive to stay next week!

The whole story reminds me of when Jack Turner - then CEO of Turners & Growers came up with the name Kiwifruit (actually the Hayward cultivar), but failed to register the trade-mark around the World because no-one knew if it would 'catch on.'

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct022019

Time For A Contribution!

I find it remarkable that I can garner well over 700 (by 8am today) page views following yesterday's story on the Whitianga Town Upgrade, but I have received almost zero contributions over the past twelve months to assist with keeping the blog going.

It is not that it costs a great deal - about $400 all up, but it does involve a substantial contribution of my time, and I have to be constantly aware of the dangers of someone taking offense, and even threatening legal action - that can be crippling. So while I am extremely careful about what goes on the site, it would be reassuring to know of real asnd tangible support from out there.

It woud certainly be reaffirming, and encouraging were regular readers able to find their way clear to stuffing an appreciative note in my stocking top on occasion. I can't promise titillation, but at least you will continue to get a regular diet of Council tid-bits for your edification, and amusement.

Details of how to keep this small organ grinding are at the top of the page.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct012019

Last Minute - Bad News! 

Nothing of note happened at the ultimate meeting of the current Council today until the subject of the annual financial ‘wash-up’ (See ‘Insignificant‘ Expenditure from 26 September below) came up , and then all hell broke loose..

Suddenly, Rob Williams was declaring his utter ”shock and surprise” at having discovered the extent of over-expenditure on the various projects – "the quantum of which I now know, but the reason for which I do not know."

You would have imagined that the Group Manager – Operations Bruce Hinson, and Corporate Services Manager Carl Dudley, would have been in the ‘hot seat’ for this interesting discussion, but they both managed to make themselves ‘scarce,’ and leave it to Finance Manager Donna Holland to ‘carry the can.’ - Carl did front later on, but his responses were mumbled, and incomprehensible to me, at least. 

To say that apoplexy was the ‘order of the day’ would be a gross understatement. Both Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Fox and McLean) were venting fury at the sheer and obvious incompetence being demonstrated by our very highly paid senior officers who have assured the Council for months that they ‘had everything under control,’ and that the Whitianga Town Centre would be brought in at, or under budget. It was the revalation that over-expenditure on this project alone was some $2m that ‘brought the house down,’

One remarkable statement to which I earlier drew attention related generally to ‘over-expenditure’!

"In general, over expenditure is usually able to be offset by corresponding increased revenue or over expenditure in one activity can be offset by under expenditure in other activities but within the same group of activities. This is a usual situation and process at year end.

This was not possible in all instances this year. In some instances, capital projects that had planned to be funded from retained earnings were funded by loans so the retained earnings could be used to fund operational over expenditure.”

But buried in the Recommendations was the following:

7. Approves funding the deficit caused by the the subsidy revenue shortfall on the Whitianga Town Centre upgrade Project by Mercury Bay Loan.

What was hidden here was $1.9m in over-expenditure at Whitianga that was clearly set to swell the already grossly over-extended budget on this project – now some $13m. No, I did not make this up – just like the Sports Ground and now the Billy Point Boat Ramp, this Project will no doubt enhance the already over-enhanced self-image that Marina towns here seem to have of themselves. I heard McLean say today that it was a ‘stylish,’ rather than an 'extravagant' project. He was joking, I think!

Be that as it may, Fox is determined that we all dip into our pockets to pay for it, reminding others wanting an ‘upgrade’ (i.e. Thames!) that they will have no call on District funding unless he gets his way.. Since the Thames upgrade is hardly likely to involve any ‘underground-services,’ the situation is hardly comparable, but Fox was ‘lashing out.’

Of course this has to be someone else’s fault, and in this case it is clearly Transport NZ who are copping blame for failing to come through with expected subsidy, but why it took so long to work this out was not explained, let alone to accept the incompetence that simply failed to get the budget figures correct and keep the ledgers in order. Williams was flailing about pleading ignorance, but it was not a convincing performance -after all, 'blind Ned' knows that the TNZ subsidy is only available for national highways, and the Whitianga main street fell out iof that category some years ago. By the end, the inadequacy of the software system again came in for a flailing, regardless of the millions already spent getting it to this stage.

There are 42 projects that involve over-spending, and that is simply a reflection of total disorder, incompetence and inefficiency in running a Council. Perhaps it is time to throw the system out, and revert to high chairs and hard-bound ledgers in the accounts department. It would certainly be better than the constant 'blame the computor' culture that has existed in there since time immemorial.

Of course, as Williams was want to remind us, previous councils had that previously had substantial capital under-spends were able to absorb the over-spends, along with the famous ‘depreciation reserves’ that Leach and Hammond raided with monotonous regularity as a ‘management prerogative’ it seems. But now, reality has set in, and there is no such back-stop - only more borrowing!

As I said in my commentary on the TYP earlier this year, you may expect a substantial rate hike at the next Annual Plan to cover all the shortfalls that have been revealed. And unless the next Council is prepared to ‘bite the bullet,’ and cut back on the grandiose spending plans laid out by this Council, then we are certainly heading for substantial rises over the next ten years.

As for current staff, I don’t think that Rob Williams made his position secure by his performance today – even though he did claim to be the first to bring transparency to the Council table for many years. My comment would be – too little, too late, and how come did he not know about it until so late in the piece?  The borrowing slide has started, and I cannot see it being reversed.

I don't blame current elected members for this debacle - it is clearly a reflection on the quality of staff that we have running the show, and the incoming Council has a job on its hands to deal with that isssue.  Though on reflexion, Fox does have some responsibility - he after all is Chair of the Audit Committee, and should have been more sceptical about the answers he was getting. .

 

 

 

Friday
Sep272019

Connors Cuts Loose

You have probably seen the extraordinary advertisement which appeared on the inside back page of the HH today ‘authorised’ by Diane Connors, formerly the Chair of the Thames Community Board, who had a falling out with the Mayor and CEO of TCDC that has festered over a long period.

You can be sure that the paper’s Auckland lawyers will have pored over the content long and hard to ensure that they were well and able to defend themselves should they become involved in any defamation action brought by anyone as a result of publication..

Most of the content of the four questions that Diane puts to Ms Goudie in the advertisement have been vaguely ‘out in the open’ over the course of the last year, along with the depth of feeling between Mayor and the Chair.

The problem for Diane is that in resigning her position at the last meeting of the Board, she sacrificed her opportunity to question the relevant people in ‘open meeting.’ It has been perfectly obvious over the entire life of this Council that the principle objective of the Mayor has been to ‘keep the lid’ on dissent, and reserve any contentious matters to closed-door ‘workshops,’ and ‘end of meeting’ discussions when the pesky press (in effect, me!) have left the room.

Mayor Sandra has become the absolute expert at maintaining a veneer of peace and goodwill, even when the opposite was bubbling along just below the surface. Diane began to avoid meetings, while the grumbling proceeded in the background as our brave bunch wondered what to do next. Mayor Sandra had not faced down the National caucus in the past without acquiring some political skill.

But it is all very well to time your attack on the Mayor (and CEO) in this manner, and ‘go for the jugular’ with little opportunity remaining for reply prior to most people returning their votes. Diane is sufficiently experienced in the ways in which councils operate to know that if she in simply not prepared to take her adversaries on in ‘open meeting’ then this method of attack rather loses its effect, and appears gutless to those who will be very conscious of the timing.

Dealing with each of her complaints:

  1. Who was the “letter of concern” addressed to? - it is not at all clear, and about whom was it complaining in particular?, And given its obvious importance, why was it not raised in ‘open meeting?
  2. So Council requested a meeting – presumably with the Mayor – what happened?
  3. Now that is more like it! ‘Pay-outs’ have been a ‘bone of contention' ever since the days of Leach and Hammond, and untold amounts of our ‘brass’ has been poured into this secret method of avoiding ‘constructive dismissal’ actions. The quantitative figure would be very interesting and if not forthcoming, I will put in an OIR. Diane clearly is concerned about it.
  4. Well that is a concern, and reportedly the cause of real staff reaction inside the Castle, but what  developments? We need to be able to judge the gravity of the charge.
  5. The last time an elected member resigned may be instructive, but hardly relevant in the circumstances.

Sorry I can’t be more supportive Diane, but it seems to me that you have lost your opportunity to hold the Mayor and CEO to account, and that is a shame. I have a far longer list that I intend to process at an appropriate time post-election, particularly as the CEO's contract approaches 'review.'

What lies behind this imbroglio in my view has been Diane's utter disgust at the dismantling of the expensive 'community ermplowerment' model that was so much a part of 'Leach's Legacy' - the model of which he was inordinately proud, nut he appeared oblivious of just how ridiculous it was to servise each of the little community boards in this manner.

It was a complete anathema to Goudie and Williams, and they set about dismantling it immediately they took over by the simple process of withdrawing staff and funding. It subsequently collapsed in on itself, and has never recovered - probably just as well. This is after all a district of 26,000 residents, and it simply cannot justify or afford the duplicated facilities and services over five offices that evolved. It certainly did not fit Rob William's concept of centralised control. 

But it had fitted Diane's vision completely. It was her 'baby,' - she even 'stepped-down' as a councillor to take control at the Board, and I think she was devastated to see it 'go under.' She was certainly never going to forgive Sandra or Rob for sabotaging it. 

 

 

Friday
Sep272019

Climate March Today

Just in case you are in any doubt as to where our current Mayor stands on this matter, here is an  extract from the Stuff Climate Change Survey published yesterday of the responses of 801 candidates for election who chose to respond - our Mayor chose not to!

What is does reveal is an extraordinary level of conservatism amongst the mayors from around the country. - the 12 or do who refused to sign the Local Government Association Declaration came up with the most bizarre range of excuses, none more bizarre than that of our own. It is encapsulated in the following which I re-publish here on the day when it behoves all of us to contemplate just what lies ahead following the release of the latest United Nations Report earlier this week.

Here it is:

Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie is also not signing the document. She had previously told RNZ that "it's got statements which bind you to outcomes that you've got no idea of, so I wouldn't sign a contract without knowing specifications."

There are no binding resolutions in the declaration.

The vast majority of the 78 mayors and chairs said they believed the science on climate change, though some refused to answer or hedged their answers somewhat.

Goudie claimed ignorance on the issue and refused to answer. "I'm not a scientist, I'm not debating the science. I can't comment, I'm not a scientist.""

I think it is important on this particular day to remind ourselves of our Mayor's stance, and decide whether whether she can really claim that she is not a 'climate-denier,' simply "ignorant," or whether this is 'twist in the wind' to get her 'off the hook.' Sandra could of course claim claim the slippery National back-bencher 'fall-back' of being a 'climate-inquirer.' What a joke!

It is significant that her only serious contender for the Mayoral position - Len Salt has come out strongly in support of the Declaration, and is uneqivical in his support for more urgent and direct Council involvement in mitigation measures.

Most seem to think that Sandra will 'cruise' in, but several informants tell me that Len Salt has really imprressed in his candidate presentations, and may yet give her a 'run for her money' with strong East Coast support.

That would certainly 'put a cat amongst the pigeons' in our all-to complacent 'Castle on Mackay'.

 

 


Thursday
Sep262019

"Insignificant" Over-expenditure!

Here is the content of a paper that goes to the final Council meeting on Tuesday next week that is designed to "wash-up" the end of year'over expenditure' items. As you will see, this is a convenient way of disguising inefficiency behind a veneer of gobbledegook:

"The decision being considered by the Council is not considered significant when assessed against the criteria within the Council’s Significance and Engagement Policy. Community engagement for this decision is at the discretion of the Council."

 

These are the items being approved:

"In general, over expenditure is usually able to be offset by corresponding increased revenue or over expenditure in one activity can be offset by under expenditure in other activities but within the same group of activities. This is a usual situation and process at year end.

This was not possible in all instances this year. In some instances, capital projects that had planned to be funded from retained earnings were funded by loans so the retained earnings could be used to fund operational over expenditure.

Solid waste

The solid waste activity had an operating deficit of $2.6 million. The deficit was not able to be fully funded from solid waste retained earnings ($0.46 million). Funding was achieved by the deferral of a budgeted ILOS loan repayment of $156,000 with the balance funded from district retained earnings.

3 Waters

The 3-waters activities had a combined operating deficit of $1 million. The deficit was funded by using retained earnings from the water, wastewater and stormwater retained earnings reserves.

Roading

The district roading activity had an operating deficit of $2 million. The roading activity does not have any retained earnings. The deficit was partly funded by funding less depreciation on the subsidised portion of roading capital expenditure ($0.85 million) with the remainder from district retained earnings.

here was an NZTA subsidy revenue shortfall of $2.2 million on the Whitianga Town Centre upgrade project. This shortfall was funded by raising a District loan of $0.27 million for the district portion of the project and a Mercury Bay loan of $1.9 million for the local portion of the project. The rating impact is $1 per district ratepayer and $20 per Mercury Bay ratepayer.

Thames

The Thames Community Spaces activity group had an operating deficit of $0.22 million. The deficit was funded using the remainder of the Thames retained earnings with the balance of

$97,000 being funded from district retained earnings as a loan. The loan will be rated for from the Thames community and paid back to the district retained earnings reserve in the 2020/2021 rating year. The rating impact is $20 per Thames ratepayer.

Capital expenditure

Expenditure was also exceeded on 42 projects by $1.7 million; 19 exceeded by more than

$5,000. The over expenditure was funded using the same funding mechanisms to fund the original project budget if available. For example, if the original project was funded by depreciation reserves, then the over expenditure was also funded by depreciation reserves. In some instances where reserves were not available, the over expenditure was funded by loans. Although these projects exceeded budget, there were 113 projects with a total budget underspend of $10.1 million.

Other

The budgeted top up of the Disaster Reserve from the Coastal and Hazard Management activity of $0.3 million was not possible. The Disaster Reserve year-end balance is $1.2 million instead of $1.5 million."

Nothing to see here - eh! Behind the most innocent sounding papers lies some of the most interesting information.   

 

 

 

Monday
Sep232019

Thames Candidate Meeting

Last evening’s candidate meeting in Thames was uneventful, and in most respects totally predictable. T3 deserve compliments for their organisation though I still fail to understand why it was considered necessary to bring in a high-flying Auckland lawyer as facilitator. (chair) – all a bit ‘over the top,’ He had little to do in any respect.

Mark Skelding opened proceedings with a grand, and rather long speech in te reo, that demonstrated his skills in that area, but it was longer than allowed any candidate (3 minutes!). He covered all the usual acknowledgments, but what he failed to do was draw attention to the forthcoming and ground-shifting challenge facing both councils in regard to the Hauraki Settlement. For years, it has been the ‘elephant in the room’ that by my observation, recent administrations have chosen to ignore until the actual changes catch up with them.  

The main impression that I was left with was that candidates almost universally are so tied up in conveying their own ambitions for the councils they aspire to join, that they fail to explain precisely how they plan to work alongside other councillors in achieving their aims. There appears almost no understanding of the cut and thrust that leads to decision-making, good or bad.

Further, it is all very well to expand on a grand vision for bike-ways, and aquatic centres, but it is quite another to explain how you plan to raise the funding necessary to cover these desirable grand designs.’ Not one single candidate that I heard referred to rates, or alternative sources of funding, other than Mr Kedzlie’s rather hare-brained scheme of raising bonds a la Auckland City for great Regional Council projects.

Those seeking re-election surely made full use of their ‘inside knowledge’ of how things operate within the walls of council, and spoke confidently of the ‘progress’ that has been made during their term of office - all excepting Sally Christie that is, who was a ‘nervous nelly,’ and failed her set lines on several occasions.She did not show any remorse for her role on the DHB.

Rex Simpson came over as the pundit on all things local – something he has not demonstrated in Council . Of the ‘newbies, ’eager-beaver’ Bobyn Sinclair came across as intelligent and well-grounded, if a little enamoured with regard to expensive new bike-ways., a commitment to which many other towns are beginning to regret.

Martin Rodley spoke well, and had done some ‘homework’, but again, sent a shiver when he advocated for a ‘coastal bike-way' presumably to Te Puru – immediately supported by Murray Wakelin - think cost of 5 January 2018 inundation repairs, and double it!. He otherwise came across as a ‘light-weight,’ along with Alison Chopin, who rather pushes her ability “to read a balance-sheet.”

Strat Peters, who is similarly endowed was absent – this was supposed to have been explained, but wasn’t. It is unlikely to affect his ‘base’ vote.

On the Regional side, Denis Tegg continued his dire predictions which appeared to have strong, and deserved resonance in the room,  Liam Kedlie spoke confidently, with rather too much emphasis on his ‘fresh’ approach – what that will achieve was not clear, though he certainly means to tune-up our transport options.

The all-important regional environmental issues  were only dealt with by Dal Minogue, and he drew attention to the improvement in the Regional Council finances over the last three years. Clyde Graf failed to front, and that was probably just as well. All in all, probably a win for ‘local boy’ Denis, given the substantial local ‘green’ element present.

Come supper-time, my time was up, with a hacking cough, and symptoms of imminent departure from this mortal coil, I had to leave before what would surely have been fascinating debate between the Community Board, and the Mayoral  candidates.  I was sorry to have missed Len Salt’s presentation as I understand that he has been by far the most impressive at the other candidate meetings.

Anyone is welcome to contribute to this through ‘comments,’ but on this occasion I ask that you append your name – no pseudonyms please!

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep222019

Graf's Deceptions Need To Be Called Out!

Like night follows day, candidate election material can generally be classified as innocuous and meaningless rubbish that  generally indicates that the candidate has little concept of what it is they are seeking to achieve, or else it fits the description of egregious mis-information aimed at discrediting existing councillors seeking re-election.

But Clyde Graf's advertising - both newspaper ansd radio, fits into an entirely different category of deliberate lies designed to discredit the existing Regional councillor - Dal Minogue, who defeated him hands down at the last election when he was far more open about his 'single issue' anti-1080 agenda.

Graf has an ad in the Hauraki Herald (p.19) claiming that "in these last 3 years your rates....increased by over 24 per cent!" . He blames Minogue for this increase in a graph with red bars on it which is printed above this comment. He is also plastering MoreFM with ads claiming that Dal is responsible  for these "over 24% rates increases".

However, when you read the fine print on the graph, it states that what is represented is  increases in rates revenuenot rates increases.

Graf obtained information about rates using the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act procedure and was given information about increases in rates revenue as part of that by the Regional Councils Statutory Process Advisor on August 27 2019 with the important proviso that:

"...the increases in rates revenue identified...will not translate into an increase in the rates bill received by ratepayers...(as) new ratepayers will contribute to the funding requirements".

So in the 3 years he is talking about, with the number of ratepayers increaseing somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000, meaning that there is no meaningful correlation between rates revenue and rates increases over this period. 

Graf is giving the public phony and misleading information, and must know it is phony and misleading because of the proviso made in the OIR response by the Councils Statutory Processes Advisor on August 27 2019.

As I stated in my earlier candidate analysis, Graf has demonstrated the now well-worn Trump mantra that lying is fine - just make sure you 'double down,' and people will eventually believe it. Such a dishonest campaign certainly raises real questions about his fitness for public office.

Peripheral to this is that when one talks about average region-wide rates increases, they are not necessarily relevant to Thames-Coromandel. For example when targeted rural rates rises related to recent flood protection in the the lower Waikato and Waihou/Piako areas are excluded from the region-wide average, rates increases come down to 3.73% which sits well below the average for all our Waikato Councils, but remember that these could vary significantly depending on the timing of your Government valuation. 

The claims and record of candidates with Graf's background need to be very closely examined.  

 

Saturday
Sep212019

T3 Candidates Meeting 

Here is Mark Skelding's 'Notice to Candidates.'regarding the Meeting (Civic, 5pm Sunday):

Greetings Candidates,

This will be the last update prior to the Candidates’ event on Sunday at 5pm.  Currently there are 3 candidates who have not acknowledged, so I am assuming they will not be coming.  Unfortunately, Strat Peters has contacted us today with his apologies.  He is unwell, and will not be able to attend.

Candidates will be invited to speak in their relevant cohort - Council, Region, Community Board, Mayor.  There will be a break midway.

Candidates order of speaking will be drawn from a hat (or perhaps a Boomerang Bag!).   Each candidate gets 3 minutes to address the guiding question:  

If elected, what will you do to make Thames and the District the best place to live into the future?

When all have spoken, we will allow the time for questions from the floor directed to the cohort collectively or individually, processed though the question wranglers.  This time will be based on the number of persons in each cohort, multiplied by 4 minutes.

So – the 5 confirmed TCDC candidates would have 3 minutes each and then there would be around 20 minutes for questions from the floor. 

Thank you for your participation.  We look forward to an interesting event.

Best wishes

Sorry about Strat - he of all people needed to be present, but I guess there is not a great deal we can do about illness. He was seen in town on Wednesday apparently looking 'chipper,' but looks can deceive.

I guess the 'guiding question' is sufficiently wide for candidates cover the issues that concern them, and is certainly an improvement on the restrictions in the original document.

Everyone should make the effort to be present, and ask 'serching' questions that with notable exceptions cut through the vagueness of the 'flyers' we have seen to date.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Sep182019

Almost Like Clockwork!

Almost like clockwork - that is the only way to describe the latest PR 'blurb' promulgated by the Communications crew at our Council in relation to upcoming K2 Cycle event.

I say 'like clockwork' because of my having drawn attention to the 'spin' emanating from our Council in my warning to Candidates in the previous post.

Here is the 'blurb' contained within the K2 promotion on the TCDC Website:

MitoQ's products deliver a breakthrough form of the antioxidant CoQ10 directly into the body’s mitochondria (your cells’ power plants), supporting natural function, health and neutralising potential damage.

“We feel a responsibility to educate the world about mitochondrial health and one way of doing this is connecting to groups of people for whom taking a positive approach to mitochondrial health can deliver significant performance gains. Sponsoring K2 is a good way for us to share the story of mitochondrial health along with the benefits of taking MitoQ and the positive impact this can have on performance," says Mr Marshall.

“Our company goal is about helping people to achieve their personal best whatever they do, so finding events where we can proactively support participants to do this is ideal. Based on the research we have undertaken, we can see a strong link between smart training programmes and MitoQ supplementation delivering performance gains, and consequently we think we can develop a strong connection with K2 participants and help them achieve their personal best," he says.

It is unconscionable for our Council to be promoting products in this manner - particularly when there is no indication of the medical science that backs up these outrageous claims.

Yes, outrageous, and I call on the Council CEO to immediately instruct his 'spin merchants' to withdraw this PR release, and resubmit it in a more acceptable manner that should be immediately obvious to him, if not to his Communications Manager.

This shameful act is being done on 'our dime' on the pretext that it it helps promote 'our tourism industry.'

 

 


Wednesday
Sep182019

Candidates Need To Develop Policies

I am heartily sick and tired of hearing candidates say that they seek election simply to implement policies that rate-payers require, and when pressed give every indication of having no clue as to the direction they think Council should be heading.

If candidates do not have policies on a range of subjects including but by no means exclusively on rates, climate-change. infrastructure, (including the 'three waters' and 'roads and bridges' at the very least, as well as the important areas of recreation facilities, parks and reserves, and finally, governance and finance issues facing our Council, then they should not be standing.

Don't expect rate-payers to tell you what they want - they want to hear what you have to say on these issues, let alone all the 'feel-good' stuff that seems be 'top priority;' for T3. Remember that you are elected to 'do the basics' first up - then think about social areas that are really the concern of central Government first and foremost -central Government places enough calls on our resources already without councils prioritising them. 

You may not know a great deal about the governance and finance issues at this stage, but at least show a willingness to 'get to grips' with same, and be ready to ask the right questions at the right time., Familiarise yourself with meeting procedure so that you can 'hit the ground running.' And remember that the staff are there to serve you as elected members - be aware, very aware of when you are being fed 'spin,' so find what 'communications' is all about in the context of local government!

I raise these matters because I have seen myself, and heard from others of their exasperation at their inability to get 'straight answers' from candidates as to their positions on anything, let alone the issues that should be the real concern of councils generally, and ours in particular given the serious issues it is facing right now.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Sep182019

TCDC Position In The Annual League Tables

Here are the annual published league tables that show where we stand in relation to all other councils on a range of different parameters

Oick up the TCDC from the map to get the average councillor, and mayoral pay, together with the CEO, and other information. Then go to the index for the columnar information on comparative rates with other coiuncils.

I am sure that you will find this as interesting as I, and it is good to have iot at electiome time. You can draw your own conclusions from all this information.

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep152019

Why TIME Devoted Its Entire Issue To Climate-Change

Read all about it!!

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep152019

WRC Action On Climate-Change

At last WRC have accepted the inevitable, and joined with a number of activist groups and academics to work together on the 'crisis' we are all faving. This Summit is a very welcome move, 'shows the way' for our own Council that has 'sat on its hands' until now.

A bus will be going from Thames -details later!

MEDIA RELEASE

12 September 2019

Waikato CAN change with the climate

A Waikato climate change summit in Hamilton later this month is setting the stage for activists and academics, student leaders, council candidates and community groups to work together on actions to plan, adapt and thrive in a changing climate. 

The Waikato CAN (Climate Action Now) Summit is inviting people from across the region to participate in the day, scheduled to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Youth Summit and Zero Emissions Day on Saturday 21 September.

People interested in attending are encouraged to email climate.action.now@waikatoregion.govt.nz.

“The climate’s changing and so must we,” said Waikato Regional Council and mayoral forum chair, Alan Livingston. “But climate change, and transitioning to net carbon zero by 2050, is not something councils can address by themselves. All parts of society are required to manage the risks climate change presents.

“That’s why I’m excited about this summit, and especially the opportunity for councils to work with our region’s passionate and energetic young people on developing solutions to such an important and significant issue.”

Last month the Waikato Mayoral Forum threw its support behind the region’s councils working together with the community on a climate change action roadmap, which will step through current and planned regional activities as part of New Zealand’s transition to net carbon zero by 2050.

Waikato CAN organisers are aiming for the event to be carbon neutral and are encouraging people to choose lower emissions travel to the event at Rototuna High School – walk, run, bus, scooter or bike. If there is enough demand, buses will be available to bring people from towns across the region. RSVPs need to be received by organisers to make this happen.

The event will also include a 3D mapping workshop, a creative and engaging approach to developing solutions and identifying actions. The actions will feed into the climate change action roadmap for the Waikato.

“We’ll exchange views and ideas to help us lower our carbon footprint in the Waikato and transfer this knowledge to our communities, workplaces and schools,” Cr Livingston said.

Guest speakers include Professor James Renwick from Victoria University who was awarded the 2018 New Zealand Prime Minister’s Science Prize for communication and Professor Ian White from the University of Waikato, an engaging science communicator and TEDx speaker. They’ll be joined by a number of other speakers providing context around transport, energy, construction, rural land use, the Māori perspective on climate change and how people can turn ‘knowing into doing’ at home.

Cr Livingston said while all councils are factoring climate change into policy, regulatory, operational and corporate support areas, it was important to work together with all Waikato sectors to adopt an agreed roadmap.

The summit has been organised with the support of the Waikato Plan Leadership Committee, Waikato Regional Council, University of Waikato, Go Eco, Xtreme Zero Waste, Enviroschools and School Environment Leaders.

For further information, contact:

Wendy Valois

Communications advisor

07 859 2721 or 021 369 815

media@waikatoregion.govt.nz

The climate’s changing and so must we.

Join us in an informative and hands-on session to map the actions we need to take to survive and thrive in a changing world.

Come prepared to learn and to share your knowledge with a wide cross section of people from the Waikato community.

We’ll exchange views and ideas to help us lower our carbon footprint in the Waikato and transfer this knowledge to our community, workplace and schools.

DATE: Saturday, 21 September 2019

TIME: 10am-3pm

VENUE: Rototuna High School, Kimbrae Drive, Hamilton North

RSVP: by 13 September 2019

OTHER: A light lunch option will be available to purchase at the summit for $5-6. We are investigating options for shared transport to the event. Please indicate in your RSVP if this is something you are interested in and we’ll be in touch.

 

 


 

Saturday
Sep142019

Democracy Up-ended at Napier CC

One of the most remarkable aspects of New Zealand local government is the apparent inadequacy of the Local Government Act in establishing and maintaining councils as democratic institutions that serve their communities, as evidenced by the recent actions of the Napier City Council Chief Executive

The reason for this quite simply lies in the disconnect that allows chief executives to attain power far in excess of their public service equivalents. There is a cohort of often ill-qualified people who appear to have succeeded in confining access to, and circulation within these positions around the country,. They oversee the process of appointment, and salary setting, often by manipulating the process that is carried out in the main by temporary and inexperienced councillors .

I have closely observed this process over a number of years, and marvelled at the manner in which this group have been enabled to act unrestrained as the pivot between councillors and staff over which they preside. I have pointed out on several occasions that the sole determinant of Cchief executive appointment, performance and conditions is these council committees set up periodically to oversee this process. It is almost unheard of for councils to reject or alter the recommendations provided periodically by these committees. 

In turn, chief executives have the sole right to determine the salary levels of their underlings - generally in accordance with a rough formula that results in his/her ability to ensure fealty to his/her unfettered rule. The resulting salary scales within councils are generally far in excess of the norm within the communities they serve, and completely 'out of kilter' with other salary scales elsewhere in both private and public sectors for equivalent responsibility. This is further exacerbated by the lack of any effective oversight by any outside agency such as the Higher Salary's Commission, thatt sets the ollowances of elected members. 

Oversight by the Auditor General is demonstrably lacking in this and other areas as evidenced by its lack of action in regard to the TCDC Depreciation Reserves debacle. And the Minister is 'sitting this one out;' inaction that appears to be the modus operandi of this Government.

What has come to light recently in regard to Napier City Council, is the alleged action of its Chief Executive to have staff trawl Facebook pages to establish whether entries by sitting councillors could be construed as grounds for disciplinary action under that Council's extremely restrictive Code of Conduct. Under this Code, councillors are forbidden from publicly commenting on Council decisions - in this case, its decision to construct a new swimming complex. 

The Chief Executive's reported attempt to suppress democratic comment by Councillors who opposed this decision has been exposed, and severely criticised by academics and jurists alike. He has taken leave, along with the Mayor, in his case apparently to escape the furor that will almost certainly lead to an enquiry that could well result in his dismissal. 

I find this case troubling and relateable to our own situation here where their is a similar swimming complex decision to be taken in the not too distant future that may well involve opposition by a number of Councillors who may feel strongly about the appropriateness of Council funds being spent on a facility that may soon be subject to the effects of sea-level rise.

As far as I am aware , the TCDC Code of Conduct does not prevent Councillors explaining their position publicly, or bind them to silence if they disagree with decisions, other than those taken 'in confidence' - generally involving a legal matter, but this may well be a matter of interpretation. Whatever the case, the whole idea of a Chief Executive interfering in such a manner as in Napier is abhorant..

One of the first actions of the new Council will be to elect a Chief Executive Anointment and Performance Committee. This Committee will review the current Chief Executive's performance and determine whether to extend his contract, or call for new applications for the position. This Committee has comprised the Mayor, plus Clrs McLean and Fox for the last two terms, and the new Council needs to seriously consider whether to refresh its membership, should this group be re-elected to Council. 

Chief executives may have inordinate power, but they are in general on three-year contracts which gives some opportunity for councils to review performance, and if necessary 'move on.' The only problem is the limited range of applicants, and the fear of appointing people from outside who may have good qualifications and wide experience other than in the local government area.

Running councils is not 'rocket science,' after all. 

 

 

 

Friday
Sep132019

Transition Town Thames Takes Over

he invitation to the Transition Town Thames Candidate Meeting in the Civic Centre on Sunday 22 October arrived yesterday. I find it disappointing that T3 has again been able to take the initiative in promoting and running the Thames candidate meeting   This has happened because no other group in the town put its hand up early enough to take on the role.,

I would have no objection had T3, mainly represented it seems by the views of Mark Skelding, eschewed attempting to impose its particular agenda on the gathering, which is primarily aimed at allowing candidates to expose and explain their views and what they aim to achieve by standing for office. Such is just about impossible when 3T impose and corral the agenda.

It makes it very hard to be able to judge the views on candidates on the usual functions of Council as laid down in the Local Government Act when T3 list the matters in which they are interested which go beyond this, especially when strict time limits are also put in place.

Mark defines "the core values that are essential to the community." He further sets our the issues that T3 wishes to be discussed:

"Whilst there is considerable concern in regard our readiness in a changing climate, he (Mark) said that there are other significant local issues to be considered.  These include an ageing population, lack of employment opportunities and the silo-ing of community sectors, as well as cynicism, domestic violence and lack of housing." 

This is presumptuous; immediately sets the tone, and restricts the ability of candidates to expand on the issues that concern them.  I primarily want to hear about how prospective candidates intend to oversee the spenduing of the roughly $3,000 a year that we each pay in rates, and climate-change issues - those are my issues, and I suspect those of most other rate-payers., but which appear outside the ambit of T3's agenda. 

Mark then goes on to further defines the occasion in the following manner:

We are hoping for some inspired examples of “joined-up thinking”.  We'll be listening out for ideas that address the immediate challenges in ways which don't lose sight of our national commitments and the global context.  Under the circumstances its difficult to see a future without increased immigration pressure, changing economic conditions, and a need to think differently about energy, food, and waste.”

He also lays down the rules for the evening, about which I have no argument - it is T3's show after all.  But I do take issue with the decision to bring in a high-flyiong Auckland lawyer (and Professor Emeritus of law, with "a deep interest in Celtic spirituality, and who speaks fluent Te reo" no less, amongst other admirable qualitiues) as facilitator?

Do we not have a local quite capable of performing this function? It is insulting in my view, and could be regarded as an attempt to intimidate. This is simply a candidates meeting, not a multi-million dollar arbitration claim. Get real Mark!

The final paragraph of the 'invitation' that has been widely circulated sets out the month long agenda organised by T3  on 'Living Solutions' which again appears to define the agenda prior to the election.

I have no objection to T3 running its program this month in this manner, but it is confusing and unfortunate that it should be associated with the candidates meeting in this manner. I just wish that Mark, for whom I have the highest regard, would 'back-off,' and let the candidates have a 'free hand' to display their wares - not necessarily in regard to the concerns of T3.