Corporate services committee (3 September)

The Corporate services committee meeting was held on 3 September 2015. Apologies were received from Crs King and Bryant. Crs Boullir, Sangster, Ensor, Canton and the mayor arrived later during the meeting. There were no public forum presentations.

The agenda included a number of information updates (or decisions to receive reports). The agenda included the following topics: (1) koha policy, (2) Motueka clock tower trust, (3) IS staff restructure, (4) property services, (5) Motueka aerodrome and UAVs, (6) Richmond unlimited, (7) commercial activities (Mapua shed 4 development, forestry, campgrounds, Port Tarakohe), (8) Nelson airport, (9) treasury update and swap rate policy change, and (10) information services strategy and work programme.

A financial report for the corporate services team was absent in this report due to activity pressures on the team.

This meeting was fairly straight forward and all the agenda resolutions were approved without amendment by council.

Koha policy

The council’s koha policy document (enclosed in the agenda at page 17) was reviewed by staff and no changes were recommended. The policy was adopted by council in June 2013 and was developed to clarify the circumstances in which donations and gifting of koha by council to third parties is appropriate.

Paragraph 7 of the policy document makes it clear that council will only give cash donations under “rare and exceptional circumstances”, which must receive the prior written approval of the chief executive. Payments are not koha if they have tax implications (for example, a payment for personal services).

Cr Dowler noted that the koha policy document (and all other policy documents) should have the name of the authorising officer who signed the policy (as the policy document only had a signature).

Motueka clock tower

The Motueka Clock Tower trust has provided a copy of its financial statements as required by the loan arrangement. The trust is required to make annual repayments of $12,000. This comprises $5,000 from the trust and $7,000 from council’s reserve financial contributions. The council loan to the trust has an outstanding balance of $74,724.

Richmond unlimited

Richmond unlimited (representing local businesses) has submitted a copy if its annual report and financial statements to council. This organisation is funded by council through a targeted rate.

IS staff restructuring

The information services (IS) structure review is nearing completion with updated job descriptions and job mapping circulated to affected staff. The revised structure aims to improve internal customer service and prepare for future delivery and technology challenges. Three positions have changed. Minor cost savings have been achieves with no increase to overall staff numbers.

Operating expenditure for information services was 97% of budget, and capital expenditure was 55% of budget. This reflects a shift away from in house maintenance of software and hardware.

Property services

Highlights include:

  • lift and stairwell project for Motueka recreation centre completed
  • seismic repairs to Motueka memorial hall competed
  • new compressor for Richmond aquatic centre acquired ($21,000)
  • sale of 95 wharf road under negotiation
  • various licenses to occupy roads, road boundaries confirmations for land parcel surveys, and compensation agreements, made.

Motueka airport

The civil aviation authority has released new rules relating to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This can be found on their website (see https://www.caa.govt.nz/rpas/index.html).

The Motueka aerodrome advisory committee will be meeting to consider the new rules. The Motueka aredrome operations and safety committee has already met to consider a request to operate a UAV within 4km of the airport. Any UAV operating within the 4km zone requires prior approval. The committee has drafted a set of rules to apply to the applicant (a land surveyor) and will consider future applications on a case by case basis.

The commercial subcommittee report (28 August 2015) also reported that the Nelson drag racing association has released its racing days. These are: 7 November 2015, 9 January 2016, 6 February 2016 (or 7 February if wet), 26 March 2016 (or 27 March if wet). See http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/commercial-subcommittee/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommercialSubcommittee/2015/2015-08-28.

Nelson airport

The Nelson airport constitution was recently updated to include references to the appropriate legislation. The constitution now refers to the appropriate updated legislation (see http://www.nelsonairport.co.nz).

Great also to see some new operators in the region – with Jetstar, Origin, and Kiwi Regional Airlines now providing services for the Nelson region (see http://www.nelsonairport.co.nz/air/bacon-and-eggs-welcome-jetstar-to-region/, http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/69661139/new-airline-originair-set-to-go, http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/69662951/Kiwi-Regional-Airlines-names-start-date-and-routes, and http://www.nelsonairport.co.nz/air/air-rivalry-in-regions-welcome/). This is fantastic news for the region. Making the opportunity for travel to and from the region much easier (and cost effective).

Commercial activities

The corporate services report touched on a number of topics covered in much more detail in the commercial sub-committee agenda (28 August 2015). I would recommend anyone with an interest in the councils commercial activities read that report (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/commercial-subcommittee/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommercialSubcommittee/2015/2015-08-28).

Mapua development

The shed 4 development has hit a few snags and is experiencing delays. Ground work is expected to be completed soon. Discussions are ongoing for the last three lease spaces in the new Shed 4 development. Hamish’s cafe has closed and moved out. The Golden Bear has developed draft plans for the former cafe space.

During questions, staff suggested that toilets would be developed in part of the former cafe space to separate the Golden Bear from the grass area.

Information about the development is located on the council page at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/tasman/projects/community-projects/shed-4/. For a time lapse update on the construction process (scroll mouse across the picture to see time lapse progress) see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/tasman/projects/community-projects/shed-4/#Progress.

Campgrounds

Highlights include:

  • Fearon’s bush (Motueka Top 10 Holiday park). The repurchase of assets has been approved by the leasee. Legal documentation is being prepared and settlement is expected soon. The financial performance of the asset for the year ending June 2015 shows: net profit $194,000 (revenue $233,000 less expenses $39,000).
  • Pohara beach (Pohara Top 10 Holiday park). Repurchase negotiations have started and are expected to be concluded in early 2016. The financial performance shows a net profit of $195,000 (revenue $318,000 less expenses of $123,000)
  • Collingwood (motor camp). Infrastructure failures (electrical, gas and plumbing) were completed in June/July for $40,000. The financial performance shows a net loss of $5,000 (revenue $198,000 less expenses of $203,000).
  • Riverview (Murchison). The new operators have delivered their development commitments and the debt write off of $49,000 has ocurred. The financial performance shows a net loss of $38,000 (revenue $38,000 less expenses of $76,000).

Forestry

The annual report was presented in the 28 August commercial subcommittee report (see link above). The financial results were positive and were presented to the corporate services committee as the “best financial result to date”. Net revenue was $318,534 (126%) above budget.

At first glance, TDC’s forestry looks in good shape. However, a detailed read of the annual report shows that the result was if anything a very fortunate one, and could be better described as a result of good timing and very pro-active management, operating in a downward (bear) market.

According to the annual report, the “excellent revenue results were realised despite dramatic drops in export pricing alongside softening of the domestic pricing”. An average market price fall of 16% is certainly dramatic. And like dairy, the collapse of the export market price, was to a large extent driven by the china crisis (and their glut of timber).

Further, given we also cut more timber than we had planned to harvest, revenue should have been above budgeted forecasts (volumes were 104% of budgeted harvest volume). Added to the mix was the fall of the NZ dollar which increased wharf charges, although off-set by more competitive ocean freight charges.

Added to all of these factors was timing (ie the harvesting cycle). This year, Rabbit Island logs were due for harvesting. Fortunately, Rabbit Island logs (which was all of the harvested logs for the year) produced a high density (premium) log. Apparently its high density being attributable to the sandy soils and fertiliser (or bio waste) that it grows in. Supplying premium high grade logs meant the price drops were much softer than they would have been, had TDC harvested lower quality logs.

In addition, much of the fall in export markets was softened by selling into the domestic market. Roughly 86% of the 22,000 ton of logs harvested were sold domestically. While the domestic market price also fell, it did not fall as much as the export market. According to the annual report, the “strategy for growing domestic customer base and market access has been financially advantageous for the TDC. A comprehensive understanding of wood quality and matching supply to market demand resulted in domestic log sale growth, which also minimised the exposure to export log price volatility”.

TDC’s financial performance can also be attributed (in part) to other domestic timber suppliers backing off harvesting, as they wait for better prices. This allowed TDC to sell its timber in a domestic market that was not over-supplied (so domestic prices remained higher than they might have been).

Yet, there is still a risk of harvests (and revenue) being lost. The annual report observed that in “November 2014, 0.6 hectares of 21 year old radiata was burned. There was potential for significant losses”. This loss was on Rabbit Island. Fortunately, health and safety performance was excellent this year (although there were 8 minor incidents recorded).

When all of these additional factors are taken into consideration (other than just looking at the net revenue), the picture for TDC’s forestry (going forward) is not necessarily as good as it first appeared. The long term future remains very uncertain. I do wonder if council should continue in this space, or dispose of its forestry rights.

Port Tarakohe

The new weigh bridge shows large volumes of trade entering the port that was not previously measured under the old system. The first seven months of operation (to June 2015) have been invoiced. All users have paid their charges, except Talleys, who continue to challenge the charging methodology.

A review of the methodology has been undertaken in light of the commerce commissions directions for the parties to reach a commercial resolution. Until the review by PWC is completed, no further action is being undertaken.

Occupancy has stabilised with: (1) moorings 100% (20 of 20), (2) marina 78% (31 of 40), and (3) pile berths 50% (10 of 20). The storage compound remains 30% full.

The financial performance of the asset shows a net loss of $106,000 (budget $154,000 profit vs 2014 $123,000 profit), with revenue $553,000 (budget $771,000 vs 2014 $486,000), less expenses $659,000 (budget $617,000 vs 2014 $610,000). The net loss is attributable to a drop in occupancy fees down $150,000 on budget, wharf income down $33,000 on budget, and boat ramp fees down $13,000.

Information services

The current plan strategic plan for information services is expected to be reset in 2016. The current plan has 4 strategic outcomes, with associated improvement projects to deliver those outcomes. Those outcomes are: (1) a customer focus that puts customers at the centre of processes, systems, and architecture, (2) active information management that provides easier access in a more transparent and useful way, (3) building better, more aligned processes, that reduce waste and improve efficiency, and (4) providing solid robust and resilient infrastructure that delivers that information.

Within these four aspirational pillars, a number of projects have been undertaken, including: implementation of an improved document management system (silentOne) and accounting software (MagiQ), digitisation of various manual paper based processes and forms (eg, resource consents, submission forms, etc) , and upgrading services (eg intranet, MS software, etc).

Setting the 2016-19 strategic plan is planned for the first quarter of 2016.

Treasury update

Councils debt (at 18 August 2015) was $151.5 million. The weighted average interest rate was 5.06%. Councils cost of funds (including interest and bank fees) was 5.15%.

As at 18 August 2015, council had $147.78 million of interest rate swaps in place (reflecting 86% cover of debt). In August, council undertook 4 swap extensions

A review of banking facilities resulted in $20 million of available credit facilities being cancelled. In light of the LTP’s forecasted debt levels, a further review of banking facilities will be undertaken and a reduction and consolidation of existing bank facilities is expected.

Standard and Poors credit rating review is expected on 8 September 2015.

The committee also resolved to extend the current swap policy requiring council authorisation from 10 years to 12 years. The reason for this change it to allow PWC to take up low interest swaps more easily (given the lowering of interest rates). In a fast moving financial environment, a delay of 6 weeks (being the length of time between council meetings) might prevent PWC taking up a good swap arrangement.

This resolution will come before full council for approval (as the corporate services committee does not have the necessary delegated authority). This is a good example, of the repetition of topics and issues that come before committees (and full council) and why I do not always feel the need to attend every meeting. A great deal of committee meetings either are dominated by information only updates, or require decisions to merely receive reports (hardly decisions at all).

My approach is to make sure that I do attend those meetings where I can actually make a meaningful contribution to policy outcomes, or where activities need to be challenged (or supported). This ensures my time is used efficiently – and I am not just attending meetings for the sake of attendance. In my mind its the quality of a councillors involvement (and the position they advocate), not just the fact they were at the meeting.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-03.

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