A full Council meeting was held on 5 December 2013. The agenda was substantial (taking over the allotted 6 hours to be considered) and comprised:
- public forum presentations;
- freedom camping rules;
- port Tarakohe proposal;
- appointment of directors;
- Murchison visitor centre proposal;
- regional tourism proposal;
- parking and other traffic restriction rules;
- Saxton field transmission lines;
- Kina peninsula boat shed proposal;
- Water storage (known as the lee valley dam) project issues;
- Brightwater domain deliberations;
- Chief Executive’s activity report; and
- replacement of the mayor’s car.
All councillors were in attendance.
To keep this post short, I have summarised below the main items that took up most of the councils time.
A number of submissions were received – most on the trans-pacific partnership agreement (TPPA) and Port Tarakohe.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
Having received a number of public submissions on the TPPA council resolved to ask that staff report back briefly on the public’s draft resolution so that it might be considered at the next full council meeting. By way of background, the previous Council had already passed a very short resolution in September 2013 (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2013/2013-09-19) which was followed by a letter from council to the Minister of Trade (a copy enclosed in the agenda at p 309). However, the proposed draft resolution put before council proposed using similar wording as used by the Auckland and Nelson councils resolutions.
The Auckland council resolution (item 26) can be found at:
- http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Auckland-City-resolution.pdf; or
The reports and presentations that gave rise to that Auckland council resolution can be found at (item 26, pp 385-419):
The Nelson council resolution and minutes can be found at:
Council decided to direct staff to report back at the next full council meeting on the draft resolution’s consistency with the Auckland and Nelson resolutions, so that it could consider whether it wanted to pass a more though resolution.
Since then, Greater Wellington Regional (GWR) council has also passed a resolution (dated 12 December 2013) on the TPPA (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9513659/Council-wades-into-trade-debate). It is noted that the proposed resolution (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/council-reports/Report_PDFs/13.1049.pdf) and final resolution (reproduced below) were much shorter than the Auckland and Nelson resolutions. The final GWR resolution (dated 12 December 2013) states:
“That the Council expresses concern at the lack of information available on the potential implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for New Zealand and for local government and, while accepting that treaty negotiations are general confidential:
1: Notes public reports that the New Zealand negotiators, along with those from other like-minded countries, do not agree with a number of proposed measures including those pertaining to pharmaceuticals, intellectual property protection and environmental measures;
2: Notes that the TPP, as with all trade agreements, will go through the full parliamentary process and, once that is complete, any law changes necessary to ensure New Zealand’s compliance with the treaty must be passed by parliament; and
3: Urges the Government to instruct its negotiating team to continue to oppose measures that would have unjustifiable negative impact on the ability of local government to make decisions on a range of options including procurement that are currently available under New Zealand law.”
For information on the process of adopting a treaty into New Zealand law (see http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Treaties-and-International-Law/03-Treaty-making-process, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00035/treaty-making-101-for-ministers-bloggers-and-lobbyists.htm, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/50HansQ_20131210_00000008/8-trans-pacific-partnership—release-of-information, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/50HansQ_20131211_00000005/5-trans-pacific-partnership%E2%80%94ratification-process, http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/1996/05/Publication_38_101_R34.pdf).
For a recent update on the TTPA see http://werewolf.co.nz/2013/12/tpp-all-cards-on-the-table/
I’ve spoken to this topic in an earlier post. Essentially Tasman now has two freedom camping bylaws. One governed by the Local Government Act (LGA) and now another governed by the new Freedom Camping Act. Designated areas in Motueka have been selected for coverage by the new bylaw as empowered under the Freedom Camping Act. Other proposed areas (for example, Liga Bay) will continue to be controlled by the older bylaw empowered under the LGA, as is most of Tasman District. Council will be monitoring the application of the new bylaw to gauge its success and whether further role out is warranted (if at all).
This was a controversial proposal. The premise for the proposal was the removal of financial support from the general rates so that users of the port were paying for its ongoing operation, rather than ratepayers. In order to do this charges for using the port would have to be increased to make it self sustaining. The port is used by recreational users and commercial fishers (mainly mussel farmers). After, what I consider to be, a very brief consultation period (given its complexity and magnitude), it was decided that the original proposal would be softened. In effect, the impact of the proposed charges would be spread over a longer term (ie the charges would progressively be stepped up over a five year period) producing a working capital surplus by year 5 of nearly $300,000.
During council discussions I had asked staff if the projected working capital could adopt a zero surplus position (in effect reducing the charges so no working capital was accumulated). However, I was advised that without sufficient working capital no improvements to facilities or services on the wharf could be made (and this had been requested by community board members and some councillors).
I believe that council and the Golden Bay community still need to come up with a longer term strategy for the port to be sustainable. The real issue is the amount of business that the port generates (or does not generate). If there was more business going across the wharf, then there would be less pressure to increase port charges. In my opinion, if products (like milk) were able to use the port for shipping product to and from Golden Bay, rather than being trucked over the hill (causing road repair costs for the community), then the port (and our roads) might be in safer hands. The challenge is to make shipping a cost effective option. It might also be suggested that business activity around the port could be increased by providing the right incentives for new port businesses to be established and grow.
Tourism is another significant issue for Tasman. It is also a multi-faceted issue that essentially involves two layers of tourism promotion. First, there is promotion (usually the provision of information) from visitor centres within the region. This is the most visible form of tourism that ratepayers might experience or see themselves. Secondly, there is the promotion of Tasman to the outside world – both domestically and internationally. This type of destination promotion is pitched at attracting people to the region, rather than giving them information once they are here.
At present, tourism for Nelson and Tasman is managed by a company called Nelson-Tasman Tourism Ltd (NTT) that is jointly owned by the Nelson and Tasman councils. NTT operate a number of licensed “i-sites” (effectively branded visitor information centres) across both Nelson and Tasman. The most used and most visible being the Nelson “i-site”.
As part of NTT’s review of its operations, it proposed to close down two loss making “i-sites” – namely the Golden Bay and Murchison “i-sites”. At this point, its worth noting that a separate proposal for the continuation of a visitor centre in Murchison was also considered by council. In effect, the proposal sought to provide a visitor centre as part of a single central service hub that would be housed in a common building with other council services (for example, the council services centre). The recommendation was that a visitor centre needed to be on the main road. However, this is open to debate, as effective signage on the main road that points to a side road, only a short distance away, might be just as effective. It’s only when the journey from the signage to the visitor centre is more convoluted, that a presence on a main road is required. In Murchison, there is no danger of the journey being very long, as there are only a few side streets off the main highway through Murchison.
In terms of visitor centres, I am of the opinion that a single central service hub for visitor centres is the way to go. This would mean that NTT would not be required to manage visitor centres and council would directly fund them. A shared service hub, be it with other council services or the Department of Conservation (DOC) should provide cost savings, both from shared building space and shared staff. For example, in Motueka, a visitor centre could be part of the Motueka library. Similarly, a visitor centre could be part of the Richmond library or Golden Bay library. This would enable visitors to have access to computers to make bookings, as well as have access to library staff who can point them to the relevant resources. I should add, that this would not mean that the Richmond visitor centre on Gladstone Road would be abandoned (as its incredibly cost effective due to being run by volunteers), but rather tourism could be run from the Richmond library as well, for very little additional expenditure.
Bringing all visitor centres under the direct control of council is the direction that is being pursued. And I agree with that direction, provided it delivers cost savings. This would mean that half of NTT’s function (and funding) would no longer be required and that funding would be redirected away from NTT and back to council. Whether council wish to withdraw from the second function of NTT (the promotion of Tasman as a destination) is still open to debate. Certainly the resolution that was passed by council invited further consultation on the issue, although it also made it clear to NTT, that council was considering withdrawing all funding of NTT for destination tourism. To make it absolutely clear, the council has yet to make that decision.
At this point its also worth considering the council commissioned report from OPUS. That report examined NTT’s role and suggested that it merge with another agency – the Economic Development Agency (EDA). Whether that is a well thought out proposal is hard to gauge at first glance as there was very little in terms of evidence in the report to suggest where the efficiencies and cost savings were from such a merger.
In my opinion, Tasman still requires investment in destination tourism. The question is what entity is best suited to provide that service. Is it NTT or is it another entity. Of course there is also another question tied up with this issue, which is funding. Who should be funding destination tourism – ratepayers or business? In my opinion, if council is funding visitor centres, then from a position of consistency, council should also be funding destination tourism. Lets not forget, businesses also pay rates.
So what was decided. First, council approved ongoing funding of NTT for the 2014-15 year at a maximum level of $426,000 (which is what Nelson council recently agreed). Second, council undertook to directly fund all visitor information centres in the region for the 2014-15 year (and correspondingly reduce NTT funding to a maximum level of $170,000). Thirdly, council sought, as part of its consultation over the 2015-25 long term plan, consideration of a proposal to withdraw all funding of NTT. Whether this proposal is adopted has yet to be decided. Fourthly, council agreed to consider the Murchison proposal to merge visitor information and council services centres into a single hub. Finally, council requested that financial proposals for Motueka, Golden Bay, and Murchison visitor information be completed by 31 January 2014, so they could be assessed.
See also http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9518177/Tourism-body-threatened, http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9489922/TDC-set-to-pull-the-plug-on-tourism-bodys-funding, http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/opinion/9498567/Editorial-Fine-tourism-line-for-Tasman, http://www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz/council/news/recent-media-releases-and-news/council-commitment-to-tourism-remains.
Water Storage – The Lee Valley Dam
Council were also briefed on the processes and requirements council could be expected to follow when considering any future water storage proposal. As part of that discussion the chief executive had devised a memorandum of understanding with the key players to date. Namely the Waimea Water Augmentation Committee (WWAC) and a proposed holding company (Dam Co) that would be established by the WWAC. Dam Co would be used to apply for the various resource consents required for any water storage solution. Council was advised that wrap-around legal documentation with Dam Co, securing various property interests and rights for council, would be entered into between Dam Co and the council.
In my opinion, council should be establishing its own holding company, rather than using a privately owned entity, regardless of the legal protections council might put in place. This is because it shows to the public that no ownership outcomes have been pre-determined and avoids the need for unnecessary legal complexities. As history shows, complexity is the father of unforeseen surprises and this is not a project where we need surprises.
Appointments – Director of Airport
The council resolved to appoint Cr Edgar as a council appointed director of the airport. Cr Edgar holds a number of chair positions on council committees and is an experienced councillor. Readers of this blog will also remember that Cr Edgar was also nominated for deputy mayor at the first council meeting, which she subsequently declined to accept (see earlier post).
Agenda and Minutes
A copy of the agenda an minutes of this meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2013/2013-12-05