Engineering Services Committee (21 November)

This was a busy week. And hence the lateness of these posts.

Busy because on 15 November I attended two public hearings relating to Freedom Camping and Psychoactive Substances, followed by a further hearing from 18-20 November in relation to the Olive Estate lifestyle development, followed by the Engineering Services committee and Urban Design Forum meetings on 21 November.

I won’t dwell on any of the hearings apart from making one observation in respect of the Freedom Camping debate. It became apparent very early on in the hearing that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the council’s proposal to change the Freedom Camping rules. Confusion because there appeared to be a feeling from those attending the hearing that the council was removing the freedom camping rules, when in fact it was replacing them with new rules that provided for a far higher level of enforcement.

Engineering Services Committee

The Engineering Services Committee meeting was held on 21 November. Apologies for not attending this meeting were received from Cr Higgins and Cr Edgar.

Similar to the Community development meeting held the previous week, there were a number of reports submitted to council requiring no decision. These reports are interesting in that they show the wide level of activity that the council is involved in.

A public forum was also held. Maxwell Clarke raised concerns over council’s debt level and suggested some projects including the proposed water storage project (known as the lee valley dam) should be delayed beyond the long term plan. Concerns over the closure of the Richmond reuse shop were also raised.

The agenda for this meeting comprised a number of reports and issues including: (1) the designation of Whitwell’s car park in Motueka (which is owned by Wakatu Incorporation and leased to Whitwell Holdings Ltd), (2) the Motueka flood control project (which I will discuss below), (3) the engineering departments procurement strategy and process (eg, for tendering out roading work), (4) appointment of councillors to water supply committees and working parties, (5) the recent past and future planned activities of the engineering department, (6) Jackett Island’s erosion problem and the proposed long term solution, (7) Mapua wharf’s maintenance issues, (8) the Riwaka flood  bank, (9) LED street lighting trial (occurring in Norman Andrews Place in Richmond), and (10) a confidential session in relation to the potential purchase of land (or not) in relation to Warring car park.

Motueka Flood Control Project

The Motueka flood control project has been and continues to be a big issue for Motueka. As Cr Canton pointed out at the meeting, many councillors during the election had voiced their support for the project and the flooding concerns of residents. As I have stated in earlier posts on this blog, council  need to seriously start reviewing spending decisions.

The financial cost of the project can best be summarised as follows. The Long Term Plan (the 2012-22, 10 year LTP) estimated the Motueka flood protection project would cost $5million (which was a reduction of the original $10.5 million that was originally estimated), with $700,00 budgeted for 2013-14 to progress consent and design works. To date, $632,000 had been raised from loans and spent on feasibility and investigation costs.

While $632,000 had already been spent, those funds had contributed to more accurate modelling that had indicated that flooding from breaches in the stop bank caused by saturation in a 1-in-100 year rain event, would not be as extensive as previously assumed. New modelling suggested that there would be less area flooded and the height of potential flooding in the township would not be high (at best 10cm high). The revised modelling also indicated that the river flooding risk of Motueka township was small for a stop bank breach scenario. Further, those areas that would be most hit by flooding, were more likely to have been flooded because of coastal inundation, than stop bank failure. Thus, investment in preventing stop bank failure to prevent flooding in a severe weather event might be a waste of money, as coastal inundation would still occur, resulting in those areas still being flooded.

There was also the risk that $5 million of stop bank strengthening work might not have fully prevented stop bank failure over the whole of the stop bank. In effect, a breach might have occurred in an area of the stop bank that was not subject to any strengthening work, thus making any strengthening work useless. This is not a strong argument in itself (as council had enabled this argument to be made by not fully funding the project to the tune of $10.5 million, so that all of the stop bank could be strengthened), but it is one to be taken into the mix, when considering if it is worthwhile to continue with a $5 million project.

On the basis of the revised modelling which showed less overall impact, the impact of costal inundation (which was outside of the projects control), and the fact a half baked strengthening project might not prevent a stop bank breach, I agreed with the council staff’s recommendation not to proceed with the project as proposed in the LTP. The benefit (flood protection) just was not there, for the costs involved.

I imagine on principle, Cr Canton objected to the recommendation on the basis of his campaign position. All other councillors present supported the removal of the projects future cost to the ratepayer. I felt that this was a good outcome and perhaps the tide was beginning to turn. Was the message of debt reduction and keeping rates down getting through. If there was any hesitation about the tide of decision making on council, it was the fact that councillors had not actually taken the initiative themselves, but instead had relied on council staff to promote the obvious cost saving measure to them. My impression to date is that council tend to support staff recommendations and are hesitant to challenge the information and recommended decision placed in front of them.

On this decision I give council 6/10. Improving, but someway to go yet. Especially given council’s reluctance to defer investigative spending on the Golden Bay community centre (see earlier post) until after we have decided owe want to commit to such a project, and future decisions on investment on entertainment events (Council should be enabling and facilitating these events, not bank rolling them).

Procurement processes

In regard to the procurement processes of the engineering department, my only observation is that council need to be benchmarking their processes against other councils to ensure we are not outside normal practices. Its also an opportunity to take onboard best practices that might appear from looking at how others conduct procurement. It appeared that council staff thought this was possibly a good idea and undertook to further investigate such an opportunity.

Water Supply Committee and Working Party Appointments

The following appointments (recommended by council staff on the basis of locality) were made:

  • Dovedale rural water supply committee: Cr Norriss
  • Eighty-Eight Valley rural water supply committee: Cr King
  • Redwoods rural water supply committee: Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster
  • Hamama rural water supply committee: Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster
  • Wa-iti Valley community dam users group: Cr King and Cr Higgins
  • Wakefield water and Eighty-Eight Valley rural water working group: Cr King and Cr Bryant
  • Takaka wastewater treatment plant upgrade working group: Cr Norriss, Cr Bouillir, Cr Sangster, and Golden Bay Community Board members.
  • Motueka wastewater treatment plant upgrade working group: Cr Norriss, Cr Dowler, Cr Canton, Cr Inglis, and Motueka Community Board members.
  • Joint waste minimisation and management plan working group: Cr Bryant, Cr Edgar, and Cr Dowler.

Engineering activities

The engineering department reported on a number of interesting activities. These included:

  • Staff restructure: A recent restructuring that increased full-time staff levels from 21 to 39 staff (increasing staff by 18 with a corresponding increase in wages by just over $1 million). This was the result of bringing in staff to undertake work that had in the past been contracted out in order to make substantial planned savings and service level improvements.
  • Refuse waste: The operation of the Richmond refuse shop is under review after the Kahurangi Employment Trust advised the Council that it did not wish to continue after the council proposed increasing the lease costs of the refuse shop from a peppercorn rental to a more commercial rate. Recent increases in refuse (31% increase in commercial refuse and 19% increase in residential refuse since last year) and a shortage of waste transport bins has led to difficulty in processing and transporting waste. There have been increases in construction and demolition waste from outside of Richmond.
  • Roading: Slip repairs from June 2013 are ongoing. An innovative bush layer wall system is being trailed at the Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road. Bridge pier protection at Hoult Valley Road West is progressing. Fonterra has been given “temporary” approval by NZTA to increase their standard tanker loading. Some intersections may require seal widening to accommodate these larger vehicles. This work is being added to the minor improvements work list. Brooklyn Valley road work is ongoing. Drainage and culvert repair and maintenance work is ongoing on Dry Road and Cowin Road. Road widening (via bank cutting and binding) is to be completed during November to ensure vehicles are kept away from an under slip. A bridge approach sealing program is being devised which will include a number of golden bay bridges and will be added to the Pohara Road widening work project to improve cost efficiencies. Matiiri Valley Road (Murchison) has had 6 culverts replaced with another 4 culverts yet to be replaced.
  • Cleaning: Richmond town centre’s sundial square’s pavers are to be cleaned before Christmas. I had to question this work as the square looked tidy to me and seemed an unnecessary non-urgent expense. Especially if the area might be affected by future Queen Street road works. It seemed to me that, that was the time to clean up the square.
  • Rivers: The Riwaka River required emergency repairs arising from erosion threatening the stop banks during the June floods (being a 1-in-17 year flood event). The Shaggery River (or Old West Bank channel) leo required emergency work. The June flood also affected the Dove River widening the river channel in places as well as depositing large amounts of gravel above some of the bridges. A greater focus on stop bank maintenance is continuing with further work planned. Council staff are working with landowners to remove gravel. However, to progress gravel extraction future consent hearings may have to be held.
  • Road safety: From 1 November 2013, the law regarding child restraints changed. Children up to 7 years (formerly 5 years) must be restrained in an approved child restraint (see http://www.nzta.govt.nz/about/media/releases/2669/news.html).
  • Richmond town centre: A draft richmond town centre framework (December 2012, revised January 2013) has been prepared outlining possible future development of the Richmond town centre. A Project Board will be established to bring together various storm water, wastewater and water improvements, land use and parking rules to ensure an integrated approach. The project will aim to up upgrade underground utilities and improve traffic and parking management.
  • Work still to be completed for 2013-14 (ie, up to June 2014): Reservoir creek dam – new spillway ($431,201), Rewika-Kaiterteri road realignment ($1,170,329), champion road culvert upgrade ($500,000), remediation of slips along Abel Tasman drive ($2,078,278), Richmond reservoir work ($2,613,737), Water meter replacements ($641,196), Talbot Street and Valhalla Drive water pipe upgrades ($371,900), and Clifton sewer upgrade ($1,020,737).

Jackett Island

A groyne was installed on the Motueka Spit by the Council in 1996. The Environment Court held that erosion on Jackett Island was caused by the groyne. The Motueka groyne was removed in October 2012. The parties subsequently agreed to a cut through the Motueka spit. While the location of the spit has been agreed, the design (and cost) of the Spit remains outstanding. A decision from the Environment Court for a long term solution is expected soon. The aim of the cut is to reduce water flows and hence erosion forces together with sand replenishment on the Jackett Island foreshore. Damage (caused by September 2013 storms) to the sand bag wall has meant remedial work (of $80,000) was required to be undertaken by the Council.

Mapua Wharf

A fire on 1 August 2013 caused fire damage to the Mapua Wharf. A structural inspection identified a number of joists and piles underneath the wharf required urgent remedial work. The work is expected to cost $13,000 (plus GST) and will come from existing council funds. The inspection highlighted several medium-rem structural issues that require future attention. Approximately $15,000 every two years is required for this work.

Links to agenda and minutes

A copy of the engineering services committee agenda and minutes can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2013/2013-11-21.

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