Community development committee meeting (6 August)

The community development committee meeting was held on 6 August 2015. Councilors Canton and Bryant submitted their apologies, otherwise all councillors were present.

The agenda included a number of “information only” reports, as well as presentations from the Nelson Tasman Business Trust and Sport Tasman. The reports included (1) Saxton field designation, (2) residents survey, (3) Pohara commercial lease , (4) Golden Bay community recreation facility update, (5) manager’s update, (6) library update, and (7) community relations update.

Public forum

A presentation was provided on the Golden Bay community recreation facility by working party members Sarah Chapman and Peter Bladsdale. I will discuss the helpful points they raised in my discussion below.

Saxton field – designations

Nelson council has decided to clarify the scope of its designations over Saxton field. As a requiring authority, Tasman also has to approve any changes. Designations control how the land is used. The need for clarification is due to a number of new facilities appearing on Saxton field.

Proposed changes to the designation include: (1) extending the scope of the designation to include fencing, signage, playgrounds, and park furniture, (2) increasing the permitted building area from 50 sqm to 400 sqm, and (3) increasing the heigh restriction from 3 m to 18 m.

All the changes are intended to allow construction of planned buildings. The height increase would also allow a more extensive playground to be built.

Council resolved to approve all the proposed changes.

Residents survey

Not many surprises in this survey. 402 residents across the district were called and asked for their opinions. If there is a flaw in the survey, its the over representation of residents who have telephone line connections. If you only have a mobile phone (or no phone), you will not have been contacted. However, the survey did ensure that a fair age range was represented in the survey. A copy of the survey is located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/reports/resident-survey/.

The survey makes for interesting reading.

Interestingly, the council decisions people disapprove of the most were: (1) the Dam (13%), roading/roadworks/road safety/footpaths/traffic (5%), rates increases (4%), council spending/waste (4%), planning (zoning/subdivision) issues (3%), and council attitude/performance (3%). Clearly there was a lot of different opinions given the low percentages – but still some strong themes.

Community concern about unneccessary spending on roads (road widening is a constant gripe) is a theme I have also picked up on as I walk around Richmond as part of my mid-term catch up with residents.

In contrast, the most popular council decisions were: (1) cycle ways (9%), (2) public consultation (4%), community engagement (4%), sport and recreation facilities (3%), park maintenance (3%), and good services (3%).

Overall, 32% would talk negatively about council (the LGNZ national benchmark is 46%). In contrast, 62% would talk positively about council (the LGNZ national benchmark 36%).

In relation to communication, the main source of council information was from reading Newsline (61%, compared to 56% in 2014). However, more people were getting their information from local papers (28%, compared to 24% in 2014). Nearly 80% of people, say they get enough information from council.

In my opinion, we may well be overloading the public with information on the less important stuff, and not providing enough information around the big items. It continues to amaze me how many people do not understand the new water allocation and rationing rules, that were approved of by the former council’s plan changes. Leaving aside the issue about the level of public funding, these rule changes are driving the council (as an extractor of water on behalf of Richmond residents) towards funding some form of water augmentation solution (dam or otherwise) for Richmond residents.

Pohara lease

The committee were asked to approve the Hearing Panel’s recommendation to grant a commercial lease (subject to conditions) to Golden Bay Kayaks at Cornwall Place, Tata Beach. The proposal to grant the lease drew 64 submissions concerning the adverse impact of the business activity on the nearby park and residents. The business had been operating since 2002 and sought to renew its lease (for 3 years, plus two rights of renewal at council’s discretion).

The committee resolved to approve the lease (subject to conditions).

Golden Bay community recreation facility

Before I start, I have to disclose that I was not a supporter of this development. I still am not. I think the existing building had a few more years left in her – that we should have been utilised before replacement. In my opinion a toilet and shower facility (commonly provided by way of a modified container), could have provided the facilities the community identified as lacking, for far less money, and done faster.

Interestingly, this report required a decision – albeit the decision was to receive the report? The essence of this report was that the estimated costings had come in higher than the $ 4 million budgeted for this development – which included a replacement building ($3.6 million), 2 netball courts and car parking ($400,000). Proposed plans for the development were enclosed in the agenda (pages 63 to 65). The higher costs meant the working group had to rethink its approach – such as a design and build approach.

By way of background, council undertook to fund $3.2 million, and the community had to raise the remaining $800,000 (being a 20% contribution to the overall cost). It had always been my understanding of the original resolution that the community would have to confirm the funds, before the council would commit its funding.

As mentioned above, the public forum received a presentation from members of the working party. They informed council that 25% ($200,000) of the community contribution had been received to date and that the remaining $600,000 was outstanding. According to the presentation, a large portion of the remaining funds were dependent on the various conditions being met. For example, some community funders would not provide funding until either the resource consents had been granted or tenders confirmed. The working party sought leave from council to receive $400,000 (50% of the community contribution of $800,000) in written pledges. Effectively, only providing 1/3rd of the required cash up front.

Apparently, council had accepted written pledges in the past for other facilities and these had all been honored. Pledges would also allow funders who were placing conditions on the availability of funds to show their intention to provide a measurable level of funding.

Interestingly, the working party members also reminded council that the community had provided over $900,000 in district facility rates. No doubt to emphasis the Takaka community had already made a sizeable contribution to recreational facilties.

Unfortunately, this was a district wide levy (not a Takaka levy) and did not mean an equivalent amount had to be spent in Golden Bay. Although, I suspect that is probably how this particular “rate” was probably sold to ratepayers. It was certainly my impression during the annual plan, that some members of the community held an expectation (“its our turn”) that a facility would be built in Takaka.

I have to say this only confirmed for me that there should not have been a district wide facility rate, and instead the council should have left the communities to fund their own resources, rather than building up what looked like something resembling a pyramid funding scheme – where the final cost to the district was probably far higher than what everyone probably thought they would be committing in rates contributions at the start. In my opinion, a large part of the council debt was probably attributable to the accelerated community facility construction that had occurred in the last decade.

In my opinion, there also appeared to be a lot of pressure being placed on council in terms of project timelines. This came across during the public forum presentation and the report. While the “planned” timelines might be tight, councilors should be under no such illusion. Their duty is to prudently spend ratepayer funds according to the directions and conditions they set. If the council had resolved to not release funds until the community had secured the necessary funding, then the project timeline would have to be adjusted. In my opinion, there was no time pressure and the community should have all the time it needed to raise its funding portion.

After much discussion, council resolved to allow the pledges to be received. Albeit under a slightly tighter time frame than had been requested. If tenders were to be approved on 2 October, then council would need pledges confirmed before that date. This effectively meant that the tenders panel (Crs Norris and Edgar) would be the ones considering if the pledges were both valid and sufficient for council to commit to $3.6 million (of ratepayer funds) to the project.

Managers update

The report highlighted the following activities:

  • MBIE broadband registration of interest. Council has been working with the EDA preparing and submitting a registration of interest (ROI) application. The ROI seeks funding for a variety of broad band services across the district. A digital engagement plan will be submitted in September. For information about what it all means, check out http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/technology-communications/fast-broadband/new-initiatives.
  • Aquatic centre. An update report on during May 2015 was submitted. Generally, numbers were lower than expected.
  • Reserves and facilities. The Takaka memorial garden project is nearing completion. The velodrome earthworks (on Saxton field) has started and drainage is nearing completion. The avery toilet block on Saxton field has also begun.
  • Health and safety. A recent incident (an altercation between two people involving a knife) at the Richmond library resulted in a police call out. Staff handled the situation professionally and no injuries were reported.

Library update

As always I find the data presented on libraries very interesting.

Information queries

InfoQuery20150806

Online use

OnlineUse20150809

Items issued

Issued20150810

Library visits

Visits20150808

The general trend appears to be a decrease in book issues, but an increase in use of digital resources. Apparently e-book and audio book loans increased 44& and online resources 41.5% compared to last year. Quite a surge.

Interestingly, visits to the library appear to be trending down – a 1% decrease from last year (although Motueka recorded a 1.4% increase). Library membership (by residents) at the end of June 2015 was 21,277 people (roughly 45% of Tasman district). During the last year, 19,476 new items were added to the library collection, which totals 145,846 items.

A new mobile app (bookmyne) was launched in May and is available on android and iOS mobiles. It allows users to search the Richmond catelogue, place holds, and check accounts.

This part of the meeting then got rather strange (if not amusing). I say strange, because the chair (Cr Edgar) decided that I could only ask one question. I only presume there was a quota for the meeting and I had used them all up? There was certainly no time pressure on the meeting concluding, as everyone sat around for sometime after the meeting closed, chatting to one another.

I had three questions in mind. The first concerned a typo. I pointed out that para 7.1 of the agenda should have read “Richmond and Takaka” not “Motueka and Takaka”.

When I came to ask my second question, I was told I could not? I was somewhat surprised with this response. Had I used up my quota for the meeting? Was there a pressing meeting elsewhere to attend? I therefore decided to ask “why” my second question about the recirculation rate of books at the Motueka library could not be asked.

I had intended to ask this question because a number of residents had queried the refreshment of books at the Motueka library as part of their submissions for a larger library to hold more books. At this point, before the chair could respond, staff offered an answer. I was assured by staff, that the books at the Motueka library were regularly refreshed (or recirculated) between the district’s libraries. I had wanted more detail, but quickly pressed on, as I wanted to ask a third question.

I then sought to ask my third question. At this point the chair became quite upset with my tactics of subverting her directions and flatly refused to allow me to ask a third question. At this point I stressed to the chair that the question was being made on behalf of a Richmond resident. But this did not deter her and she became quite loud in her insistence that I ask no more questions.

Given I was unable to ask my third question during the meeting, I put the question to the library manager after the meeting had closed. My third question was whether some tourism information (eg, AA guides) could be made available somewhere in the library. It would only require a small stand. The reason for the request, was because some residents had wanted access to this type of information, but were unable to get hold of it from the Gladstone Road Information centre as it was often closed during the winter period. The library manager undertook to look into it.

Community relations report

This was another information update report.

Highlights included:

  • Events. The Tasman skatepark tour was being reviewed by staff, with a discussion paper exploring alternative delivery methods and funding. Winterruption (winter festival) was successfully delivered and a debrief meting would be held. Another “second hand Sunday” was planned for 13 September. It was agreed that the Eco-fest trade show has served its purpose and would no longer receive council funding. However, $5,000 would continue to be allocated to eco related events.
  • Publications. The online youth publication (Jam) and the youth council’s facebook page would be integrated – the consolidation of two online services would improve access and delivery of information for youth (and reduce costs). Further rationalisation of council publications would be undertaken – including: Mud Cakes and Roses, and NewsLine. In my opinion, a review of both publications is well overdue.
  • Grants. The creative community grant applications had closed on 10 July. 21 application (requesting $35,425) was received. Community grant applications closed on 31 August.
  • Education. During 2014-15 330 students, teachers and prents participated in resource recovery centre, and landfill tours. Another up-cycling competition is being held in Motueka. Another school has signed up as an Enviro-school and will receive staff support for projects on public property.
  • Facilities. A standardised contract for service delivery has been devised for Murchison, Motueka and Moutere. Previously each centre operated under different expectations.
  • Communication. Staff have mainly been involved in communicating the long term plan to the public. This included a new design and layout for the new form of LTP documents (a new national requirement). It is worth noting that the TDC LTP document was selected for consideration for a national award.
  • Online. Useage increased (16.39% more users, and 9.96% more page views) in comparison to last year. The online “grants” application form has been updated as a result of public feedback.

At the conclusion of the meeting I informed staff that the most valuable section of Mud Cakes and Roses (according to resident feedback I had received) was the events section – and any future delivery (or redelivery) of this information needed to be considered as part of any rationalisation. I also suggested that Newsline could reduce its page count or frequency – either or both changes would reduce costs.

I also took the opportunity to emphasis the need for council to outline the new water allocation and restriction rules to the public. In my opinion, council has not done a very good job given how many people are either not aware of them or do not understand how they change the new rules.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-08-06.

 

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