Community development committee meeting (12 February 2015)

The community development committee met on 12 February 2015. All councillors were present, except for Cr King and the mayor who arrived after the start of the meeting.

The public forum received a very comprehensive presentation from Michael Rea on the motueka harbour and coastal works account. This topic was discussed at the corporate service committee meeting, held immediately after this meeting. A summary of the council’s deliberations and my thoughts are included in my post on that meeting.

The agenda included the following items: (1) Tapu Bay bach removal report, (2) community reserves expenditure program report, (3) various managers reports on the following topics, including: the aquatic centre, community events review, library usage, new online LIMs process, and a new online submissions process.

I will highlight the main items of interest for councillors (and myself) below.

New internet developments

In my mind, this was the big theme of the agenda. And no doubt will play out over the coming weeks as a good news story for the council. As it should be.

OnlineConsents

Many readers will already know I am very keen for council to automate many of the manual processes using online solutions that ratepayers (and other customers) can access from the internet. This improves council service levels and timeliness for customers, and keeps the increasing pressure on staff wages, down.

In my opinion, council is making some good first steps on utilising technology to generate efficiencies and improve service levels. I can only congratulate the IT staff on their latest effort and look forward to more initiatives.

The new online “submissions form” process is a great example of the new technology culture that is beginning to flourish. This new online form has an excellent user interface (UI) and will make it easier for ratepayers to make submissions, track progress, and receive active reminders of hearings.

From council’s perspective it removes all the manual work required to enter the hardcopy submissions into databases for sending letters and arranging times to attend hearings. This is a substantial cost (and time) saving for council. Staff also advised that the system is a modular (drop and play) system and is therefore easily transportable to other networks.

In my opinion, this is a piece of technology that could (and should) be shared with other councils (as well as its development costs). For example, Nelson City Council (NCC). This is a great win-win for everyone. I note that Wellington City Council (WCC) has already expressed interested in developing co-operate arrangements with other councils over the development of apps and other technology (see http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=74752). Perhaps its time to talk with WCC too.

Note! For those who are not on the internet, or do not have email, or choose not to use the new online submission form, they can still use the post. I should also note that the new online changes are only in relation to communication from ratepayers to TDC – after TDC has first notified the public of a submission process (eg for the annual plan, special consultation, plan change, or consultation document). Initial communication notifying the public of a submission process (what ratepayers receive first) will remain unchanged. This will continue to be done primarily via hardcopy media (eg local newspapers and newline) – and including the TDC webpage.

Another IT development is the new online LIM’s and resource consent process. Staff have advised council that the new online LIM process has reduced processing of LIMs by one day’s worth of time. With much of the remaining time now taken up with checking data for accuracy. Clearly further improvements can be made and I look forward to seeing these come online.

Tapu Bay bach removal

In March 2011, the council established a policy on “private structures on esplanade reserves” which effectively provided that privately owned buildings, occupying council owned esplanade reserves, had to be removed by 31 March 2014. This policy has been consistently applied across the district, except for one instance, where an owner of a Bach was granted a life time license to occupy reserve land that they had donated to the council.

More recently, two baches at Tapu Bay were notified of the policy, with one owner removing their bach, and the other owner requesting they be permitted to stay on the reserve for the remainder of their life time. This owner, had been granted permission by the council in 1984 to occupy the esplanande “at the pleasure of the council”.

The bach had occupied the land since the 1930’s. Staff advised council that the Bach was built in 1894, but did not have any heritage protection and was unlikely to receive any.

The question before the council was whether there were sufficient grounds to grant an exception to the esplanade policy. The short answer was there was not. Accordingly, there was little support for the mayor’s proposal to grant an exception to the policy on “compassionate grounds”.

In my opinion, the policy was known to the community for some time and had already been widely applied. In some instances, people had already removed homes (where they had lived) from esplanade reserves.

In this case, the owner had not donated the reserve land on which their bach was located, and did not live in the bach. Rather, the bach was a family holiday home. While the owner may have donated their time and energy to community service, or was elderly, these facts were insufficient to award an exception on “compassionate” grounds. To do so would have set a very low bar (if any).

On the basis of fairness and consistency, and in the absence of justifiable compassionate grounds, the council had to apply the policy without bias or favour. The council had to be seen to be objective and neutral in its decision making. The rule of law had to be applied. To do otherwise could set a dangerous precedent for the application of other policies and rules.

Voting on this decision is recorded in the minutes of this meeting. The committee’s recommendation will now go before full council for approval. A question that was not addressed (or asked) at the meeting was whether the policy was fair (eg, that it required revisions).

Community reserves expenditure program report

Richmond ward councillors have been providing feedback on proposals for the community reserves expenditure programme for the next 20 years as part of the long term plan discussions. This outlines how money for public art, playgrounds, public toilets, and sports grounds will be spent and when. Two major changes to the reserves fund has been made. First, rather than spend anticipated income, expenditure will be based on what was received in the earlier year. This avoids overspending. Secondly, some of the fund is now allocated to the repayment of debt. For details refer to the agenda (pages 23 to 24).

Aquatic centre

In 2014, the patronage for the aquatic centre was 20,737 people (less 5,916 for gym membership and casual use or from concessions). This compares to: 22,687 (2013), 23,426 (2012), 20,935 (2011), 17407 (2010), and 17489 (2009).

Unfortunately, the aquatic centre continues to require council subsidisation. In my mind, to make the aquatic centre self sufficient, pricing concessions may have to be confined to residents, through the presentation of library cards or rates invoices.

Community events

The Skatepark tour has been run by council for several years. Staff now consider that it is now possible to hand the event over to community groups to run, allowing council to focus on establishing new events. I certainly welcome this indicated change.

The Jazz in the Park event was held in Washbourn Gardens in Richmond and was attended by nearly 3,000 people. In my opinion this is clearly a well supported event and one council should continue to support.

Cricket world cup kicks off from 16 February (including 19 February and 5 March) at Saxton oval. In my opinion, Tasman council support appears to be poorly promoted in contrast to NCC. I understand that the commentators allocated to the match for 16 Feb are: Michael Atherton, Ian Botham, David Lloyd, Alan Wilkins (all England), Ian Bishop (West Indies), and Russel Arnold (Sri Lanka).

The Trust power community awards open for submissions on 2 March and close 1 May. Awards will be made on 29 June.

Libraries

Use of the libraries online resources show strong growth with use up 60% (26,119 downloads) from the same time last year. The tables below illustrate (1) the strong online growth trend from 2008, and (2) the general usage trend of the libraries in Motueka, Richmond, and Takaka since 2005.

Graph1-CD20150212

Graph2-CD20150212

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-02-12.

 

 

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