The consultation document (formerly known as the “Long Term Plan” or LTP) outlines where council intends to spend your money over the next 10 years (from 2015 to 2025).
The deadline for submissions is 20 April 2015.
The relevant documents and an online submission form are located from http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/.
The 10 year plan includes some very important decisions, including whether the Waimea Community Dam should proceed, and equally importantly, how much of your money council should contribute to that project.
Overall, this is a good start for council, which has indicated a greater willingness to reduce expenditure and debt – which invariably translates to keeping rates increase down. However, this should only be the start of the journey.
In my opinion, there is still room to make further improvements on reducing expenditure and reducing the need to increase revenue (and increasing rates).
This might mean that some services would be reduced or cease. It might mean that some services are delivered through shared service arrangements with the private sector or other councils. It might also mean that their are some asset sales or fundamental questions are asked about whether council should be involved in commercial activities, and instead concentrate on its regulatory functions to achieve positive community outcomes.
Council debt is very much like shifting a container ship. The larger it is, the longer it takes to turn it around.
The good news is our projected debt is planned to be reduced. But it will take time and requires discipline with future spending decisions. Choices will need to be made, not only within service areas, but between different services.
It’s a question of priorities.
So what will our debt and rates look like over the next 10 years. And what did it look like before 2013.
The debt position for the next 10 years has substantially improved. By 2025, projected debt will be around $109 million, with it peaking in 2018 to $193 million, if $25 million is invested in the Dam. How this is achieved is outlined on page 11 of the consultative document.
Essentially, its a $143.39 million reduction in expenditure over the 10 year period. However, a number of important infrastructural projects will still proceed. These are outlined on page 34 of the consultative document and include storm water initiatives (Borck creek and Richmond CBD improvements), water storage (the Dam), water supply initiatives to support growth, the Motueka library upgrade, and the second instalment of the Golden Bay recreational facility.
This is a marked improvement on where we have come from. From 2006, there was been a clear trend of escalating debt and expenditure. With debt beginning to increase from 2003.
So how did council accumulate this debt? The simple answer is that council spent more than it earned (as illustrated below). In my opinion it often borrowed money in anticipation of earning it, and often those projections were unrealistic or optimistic. In my opinion, council also appeared to over capitalise in anticipation of perceived problems. For example, widening roads. Or spent money on projects that were nice to haves – often within the community development budget. Again it is noticeable that spending began to markedly increase around 2003 and gained momentum after 2006.
The good news is rates increases will now be capped to no more than 3% (plus an allowance for growth). Growth is projected to be between 1.18% to 2.55%. This is a substantial improvement on the past (as illustrated below). However, I believe there is still room for improvement, but this will have to come from reducing or ceasing some activities that the council has performed in the past.
Council’s revenue is driven from three pools of income: (1) general rates, (2) targeted rates, and (3) other charges and revenue sources (eg, consent charges, forestry, and other commercial activities), as illustrated below.
For more detail about the council’s finances read the Draft Finance Strategy report, located in the supporting information table (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/).
The Dam decision
This is the big issue for this consultation. Do we proceed with a Dam, how much money should we be contributing, and how big should the dam be?
The majority (not all) of council has suggested a ratepayer contribution of $25 million. This comprises around $9 million to secure urban water supply for the the long term future, and a further $13 million for the environmental benefits of an improved river flow. The remaining amount (roughly $3 million) funds administration and planning.
Any plan B initiatives for urban water needs are likely to cost no more than the urban contribution for the Dam. However, it needs to be remembered that the urban water supply is statutorily protected – such that if there are severe water restrictions, maintaining water supply for people is a priority. Although this would come at a cost to those businesses dependent on water.
The environmental contribution ensures the river flow is maintained to around 1100 litres per second. It might be that a lower flow rate is acceptable. Alternatively you might question pif you are getting your money’s worth from any benefits from providing enough water to fill the river for trout or swimming. It might be that you are happy that there is enough water in the gravels, rather on top of the gravels. What do you think?
How much of the environmental flow is funded, and whether it is funded on a cascading tiered approach, or a flat levy, has yet to be decided. The contributor/exacerbator argument, that many submitters raised, has been accepted in principle. However, council continues to suggest that all ratepayers might be called upon to provide a contribution. What do you think?
To date ,the government has not made any noise on underwriting any cost blow outs for urban water users or assisting in the funding of the environmental flows. However, the government has made noise about providing financial assistance for irrigators. At the same time, Nelson council is consulting (in its consultation document) on any contribution to the Dam.
All the relevant Dam information is still located on the dedicated webpage (see http://www.waimeacommunitydam.co.nz) as well as the in the consultation documents.
In a recent survey, storm water risk was, by far, the number one concern for Richmond residents. The question is, has the council done enough?
At present, the council has committed to ensuring the Richmond business centre receives immediate attention.
Council has not reduced the storm water budget from earlier years, whereas it has reduced expenditure in other areas. However, some may question if enough was done in the past.
Should council re-prioritise funding priorities so that known flood risks are mitigated before another heavy down poor happens. For example, shift funds from the transport budget (for new traffic lights on Salisbury Road), to fixing the 4 risk hotspots in Richmond. Or are residents happy to wait for work to be done over a longer period of time.
The edges of Richmond (in particular, Hart’s Road, Bateup Road, Wensely Road, the cemetery reservoir, and Selbourne Avenue), have not received any attention in the short term. Should they?
I mention the cemetery reservoir, because it nearly breached in the last big rainfall, had it not been for a resident clearing the overflow grill in the very early hours of the morning (we’re talking 1-2am). Given the new Olive Estate development has been given consent to discharge storm water water down its road and towards the cemetery, it very likely the cemetery reservoir will have even more water to hold, and is therefore more likely to breach. Some may question the council’s use of a cemetery as a flood plain.
Olive Estate has also been given consent to discharge 600 litres per second of water into Harts Creek (along Fairise Drive in Richmond South). With the reservoir above Fairise drive already expanded to hold storm water from the new Hill Street South development, its likely more water will be entering Harts creek.
In my opinion, council needs to urgently address improvements to Harts creek. This might only be digging it out deeper to allow it to hold more water, and replacing the narrowed pipe between Harts creek culvert and Bateup Road culvert. If this is not done, then I envisage even more water will spilling out of Harts creek, and making its way down Bateup Road in an uncontrolled fashion. Which is exactly what happened in the 2011 floods.
Unfortunately, I have got little support from the other Richmond councillors to invest money in fixing well known hotspots. In my opinion, council should be protecting homes from flooding, before spending money on other projects (like new traffic lights on Salisbury Road or road widening in Lower Queen Street). Its about priorities.
Council is also addressing Borcks creek which much of the Richmond storm water systems were designed to connect into. In fact, Richmond South was at one point in time, prevented from further residential development until Borck’s creek connection work was complete. How this condition was ever removed from the District Plan is beyond me, especially when the revised plan sought to intensify development in the Richmond South area.
For more detail around what is (or is not planned) see the document entitled “Stormwater Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.
Water (supply and quality)
The council has already undertaken to improve water quality in Richmond. In my opinion, infrastructural investment which was well overdue, and should have been done sometime ago before spending money on community development initiatives (like recreation centres). Its about priorities! Fortunately this has now been done, with the new water treatment station coming online this year.
At present council is trying to supply water more water to the Richmond South development area (south of Hart’s Road). To do this council is shifting water around during low consumption periods (mainly over night). Should council be investing in better water supply infrastructure, rather than putting together infrastructure in an ad hoc fashion?
Water charges and expenditure
Water charges are increasing to service expenditure.
Operating expenditure increases from $11.2 to $16.1 million over the 10 year period. This is due to inflation, increased loan servicing costs and network growth.
To address increasing expenditure, the daily charge is proposed to rise from $0.82 to $1.25 over the 10 year period. The volume per cube is proposed to rise from $2.09 to $3.15 over the 10 year period.
This roughly translates into the following revenue forecast.
Capital expenditure fluctuates over the 10 year period. The notable peak in year 2017-18, in addition to the dam, is due to the Wakefield Treatment Plant ($4,000,000) project.
For more detail around what is (or is not planned) see the document entitled “Water Supply Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.
The roading budget has been reduced. This has been achieved by sweating the assets more than in the past. Effectively, roading assets were being replaced (maintained) at very high levels, often being replaced in anticipation of deterioration based on industry best practice, rather than evaluating if the road actually needed to be replaced.
In my opinion, the council has a very high level of service in roading compared to the past. You only have to look around to see a high level of capital investment. For example: a pedestrian island on Hill Street with Steel protection barriers, that only has room for one person; traffic lights on Salisbury road when a cheaper round-about would have done the trick; roads being unnecessarily widened in anticipation of increasing use, rather than responding to increasing use; sealing roads that perhaps should not have been sealed, and then having to maintain them.
The roading work that is projected to be done is outlined in the councils activity management plans. These can be viewed in the document entitled “Transportation Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.
If you think some projects are unnecessary – then let council know in your submission.
More traffic lights?
In my opinion, the roading budget needs to be reduced further. For example, the long term plan is proposing two more sets of traffic lights on Salisbury Road. One at the T-junction of William Street, and another replacing the old round-about at the Queen Street\Salisbury Road intersection.
At $1 million a pop, this type of proposed expenditure is unnecessary. Its complete over-kill. My own assessment of the William Street intersection shows that there is only a 20 min period where the road becomes congested and this is primarily to do with the location of the pedestrian crossing next to the intermediate school and the prior traffic lights which send through large blocks of traffic – long enough to block William Street when people are crossing.
Replacing the old around-about, which has probably been the best roading investment council made, with more traffic lights, is in my opinion just bonkers. I’ve continually advised staff that traffic lights are not wanted by the community (in fact people go out of their way to avoid them). In the UK they are ripping out traffic lights and replacing them with round-abouts. At very busy intersections. See my earlier post on the case against traffic lights (https://greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/the-case-against-traffic-lights-removing-the-roads-to-nowhere/).
If you agree or disagree with the proposal to install more traffic lights, put in a submission.
You might also want to mention in your submission how the Gladstone Road\Queen Street traffic lights do not allow you to turn left into Queen Street when coming from Nelson (via the deviation). Apparently the left turn was removed as part of council’s ring road system.
I’m not sure how allowing the left turn again, compromises this ring road system (if at all), but its no surprise that businesses in lower Queen Street are having a hard time, when traffic can not enter lower Queen Street. Council need to allow the left turn.
Again, your submission will hopefully persuade others around the council table that residents want further change and more cost reduction. Because the more money saved, the less money council needs from you in the form of rates and charges.
Submissions can be made in hard copy or online. The online submission form has the advantage of letting you make multiple submissions. So if you remember something after making your first submission, you can make another.
The online submission form is located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/make-a-submission/#form.