Full council meeting (10 September)

The full council meeting was held on 10 September 2015. All councillors were in attendance.

The agenda included: (1) treasury policy change, (2) capital carry-overs, navigation safety by-law, (3) public transport regional plan, (4) speed limits review, (5) unmanned aircraft policy, (6) Nelson regional sewerage business unit, (7) economic development funding agreement, (8) mayor’s report, (9) Waimea community dam, and (10) CEOs report.

Two additional late items were also considered in confidence: (1) audit subcommittee independent member appointment, and (2) Waimea water augmentation project. I’m unable to talk to these items at present, as they were discussed in committee and have yet to have their confidential status lifted.

Finally, two items were raised in public forum – with one raising a very interesting legal issue.

Public forum

Michael Croxford raised (and tabled) an interesting question regarding the treatment of development contribution levies by the council. By way of background, a developer (being the “consent holder” at the time the development is approved) will normally pay the council a development contribution. This financial contribution helps fund downstream infrastructural impacts from the development or proposed infrastructure that the development would benefit from.

In some instances council might decide not to proceed with implementing proposed infrastructural improvements. In those instances, council refunds the financial contribution to the consent holder (the original payor). In this instance, the Motueka coastal pipeline was removed from the long term plan requiring council to refund the development contribution. In some instances the original developer (the “consent holder” at the time) is no longer operating or has been liquidated. If it is a company it is normally removed from the companies register. However, removal from the companies office does not prevent a company re-registering.

Michael argued that the refund of development contributions, should go to the holder of the consent at the time it is deemed no longer required. Accordingly, where the developer no longer exists, the refund should go to the land owner as the subsequent holder of the consent. Essentially, his argument turned on whether the term “consent holder”, could import a wider meaning from examining other provisions of the Local Government Act (LGA) or Resource Management Act (RMA).

This matter was subsequently discussed during the Mayor’s report. The outcome of that discussion was that the council felt it had discharged its duty to determine (to the best of its ability) the legal position. That advice suggested that the “consent holder” was the payor (the original developer) and did not include the subsequent owner of the developed land. As Michael had not received a copy of the council’s legal opinion, it was felt that he should be provided a copy, so that he (and other residents) could decide whether they wanted to challenge the council’s legal advice.

Kit Maling spoke to the Waimea community dam update report (discussed below) and tabled a document outlining a resolution from the Waimea East Irrigation Company.

Waimea community dam

This item was a second (regular) project update for councillors. At this stage the project has been in slow mode (to avoid unnecessary expenditure) as discussions with WCDL progressed. The confidential briefing to councillors, updated much of what was stated in this part of the report. Once discussions with WCDL have been completed, planned work streams should move forward a little faster. The proposed work streams were outlined in my earlier post (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/full-council-meeting-30-july/).

Work that can be expected to re-gather momentum once discussions with WCDL have concluded are:

  • formation of a biodiversity technical advisory group (BTAG) to prepare a biodiversity management plan (a resource consent condition).
  • construction procurement process planning. It is being suggested that a two stage process (that comprises construction and design planning, followed by price negotiation and construction).
  • business structure planning. WCDL has been considering a variety of options (prepared by Northington partners). Staff will present a report to full council in October that considers the various issues.
  • preparation and review of pre-purchase agreements with landowners. These are agreements that hold open the ability to purchase the relevant land (at agreed prices), without actually entering into land sales. Effectively, the council avoids having to purchase land until there is agreement to proceed with a dam.

By way of background, WCDL acknowledged council’s recent offer to share the resource consent as joint resource consent holders (a 50:50 ownership arrangement). This is a change from councils original arrangement, where WCDL were contracted to secure the resource consent on behalf of the council and handing over the resource consent by a specified date or the formation of a CCO (which ever was earlier). WCDL has attached several conditions to this offer which council representatives have since brought back to council. Hence the confidential session.

I would hope that once all discussions with WCDL are completed, that relevant reports withheld under confidentiality are made public. I will certainly be advocating for this to happen.

So where to from here?

In my opinion, the process is at a critical fulcrum (or tipping point). I believe council needs to re-evaluate its relationship with WCDL. It has become very confusing and the lines between council and WCDL are very blurred. This has resulted in a great deal of uncertainty (and confusion) about who should be doing what, and who should be funding what.

At present council is both (sole) funder and service provider. Council is carrying all the risk (hence the growing concerns of council about the escalating write-off cost). Those roles need to be formally separated. Council should no longer be the sole funder and certainly not the main funder of a water solution that is being developed for the primary benefit of irrigators (who will receive over 2/3rds of the augmented water supply).

In my opinion, (as I have said repeatedly on this blog), WCDL needs to capitalise (as an investment holding entity for interested irrigators), so that it can take over this project as majority shareholder and funder of the dam. Like all investment vehicles, it needs start up capital to come from those investors who truly believe in this venture.

Once initially capitalised, WCDL can invest in developing a prospectus to secure more funding from potential investors to eventually invest into a Dam holding entity. The dam holding entity can then fund the services (and work streams) it needs to bring about the construction of a dam. Council can then evaluate whether it wants to invest in the venture or not. And can also compete against others, to provide project management services and technical expertise.

The parallel issue of water allocation and restrictions

Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating elements of the dam debate for me, is the confusion surrounding the water management (allocation and restriction) rules – which are set to change. Hardly anyone I speak to understands how these rules operate or how they impact on the way water is currently managed.

In my opinion council has done a very poor job in communicating the changing landscape of water management. This should have been communicated by council well before it began its conversation about water augmentation. Because this is “the” reason why council is having a debate about water augmentation solutions. Ironically, council were the ones who brought about these change in the rules, by way of a plan change a number of years ago.

However, the good news is that council has got its act together and is beginning to have this conversation. As part of the consultation process for proposed changes to the district plan rules, council will be hosting 2 open days for residents to meet and discuss the proposed plan changes. These are:

  • Wednesday, 7 October 2015 at Richmond Council Chambers (focusing on urban water supply), and
  • Thursday, 8 October 2015 at Seifried’s Estate, Redwood Rd (focusing on rural water permit holders).

Changes to water management rules

There are three changes to the water management rules.

First, water allocation is about to change. Basically, the amount of water people receive is likely to reduce. For example, people might have received a water allocation right of 10 litres, but only actually consumed 5 litres. This resulted in an over allocation of water. To correct this over-allocation, council will be reviewing peoples actual water usage. The review will re-calibrate water allocations so that they equal actual usage.

This re-calibration will also have an immediate affect on the impact of water restrictions on some water right holders. This is because water restrictions step down from the allocation right volume. If the allocation right volume was higher than real water consumption volume, the restrictions had no impact on water right holders. However, if the allocation right volume is the same as consumption, then restrictions will immediately affect the amount of water available for the water right holder.

For urban water users the allocation right volume is virtually identical to consumption. Effectively council has not purchased more water than it needs. Whereas, some rural water consumers have. This means any re-calibration of urban water will not result in any change.

The second change is the threshold for imposing water restrictions. The thresholds have changed (by way of an earlier plan change) so that they bite earlier (ie, at lower thresholds). These changes are even more severe for water users who will have their water allocation levels reduced to historical consumption levels (or use).

The third change (currently being consulted on) is the introduction of a dual water restriction system – one for those who are allocated water and are funding an increase in water supply (a dam funder), and one for those who are not. Those who choose not to fund an increase in water supply, will operate under the above rules (ie, the revised allocations that are equivalent to historical use, and lowered thresholds for water restrictions).

Those that fund a water supply increase, will effectively have a system that imposes water restrictions that take into consideration the additional water being added to the natural water supply. Effectively, using a different water restriction threshold, so that they can extract the water they have added to the river, before restrictions apply.

If council purchases water from the dam for urban users (estimated investment of $9 million) then they are less likely to see water restrictions. It should be noted that council has voted to provide $25 million towards the dam. With $13 million (of that $25 million) considered to be the environmental benefit contribution that will be rated across the whole district, against water club members (those people connected to a council provided water supply).

As I have said in earlier posts, I consider that the $13 million should be apportioned between the extractors (urban consumers and irrigators), rather than imposed across the district. Adopting an extractor pays approach would have resulted in council only contributing roughly $14 million towards water augmentation, rather than the $25 million that council has undertaken to provide in the LTP (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/long-term-plan-meeting-full-council-28-may/). In my opinion, the community should continue to put pressure on the councils (majority) decision to fund $25 million of the dam cost.

Speed limits

The council unanimously agreed to release for public consultation the draft consolidated bylaws on road speed limits for the district (see the “attachments” document at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-09-10).

A number of changes to road speed limits across the district are proposed. For example, Ranzau Road will have its speed limits reduced. Consultation is expected to begin from 14 September 2015 to 16 October 2015.

My advice for people wanting to a submission is to read the attachments document. This is because the attachment document highlights the proposed changes (via track changes), so that you can quickly identify any proposed changes. While the public consultation document will highlight if a speed has gone up or down, it won’t indicate the speed it has changed from.

The attachment document also includes very detailed assessments and reasons for why speed limits were proposed for changed (or not). Those assessments include a recommended speed (based on model), additional staff assessments (that consider aspects not included in the speed modeling), and the working party recommendations (being Crs Norris, Dowler, Higgins, Bryant, and Sangster).

In relation to school zones, the draft bylaw proposes a managed roll out of advisory signs. The only exception is for Brightwater, where the Brightwater school zone will have the benefit of a reduced speed limit. This was achieved by the mayor proposing a separate resolution that proposed a speed limit reduction for the main road in Brightwater. A number of councillors were upset with this move, as it appeared to give special treatment to one particular street (and school).

While, I could agree with those councillors, that this treatment was not fair, I nonetheless supported the separate resolution, as at least one school would benefit from the proposed speed reduction. However, I agree with those councillors who opposed the mayor’s maneuvering, that all other schools zones should have had similar treatment. No doubt those schools will be making a submission to council highlighting the difference in treatment and inviting council to lower speed limits on their roads.

Treasury policy

Council’s current treasury policy requires any interest rate swap arrangements that are longer than 10 years to be approved by full council (which meets every 6 weeks). The proposed change sought to extend the delegated authority from 10 years to 12 years, to enable staff to take advantage of the swap market (which is very fluid at present), without having to wait 6 weeks for approval. Both the full council and corporate services meeting unanimously supported the proposed change.

This item was brought to full council from the corporate services meeting (held on 3 September) as the corporate services committee did not have authority to amend the treasury policy. This item was explained in detail at para 9.4 of the corporate services agenda (see www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-03) and discussed in an earlier post (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/corporate-services-committee-3-september/).

Capital carry-overs

Due to the nature of capital works, some projects planned to be undertaken in earlier financial years are either not started, or are not completed in the financial year they were planned. Often delays are due to weather or the cascading effect of other projects being delayed. This means funds that were allocated in an earlier financial year have to be brought forward into this financial year to enable the work to be completed or started.

Council unanimously supported the carry forward of $14.853 million from the 2014-15 year into the 2015-16 year. This does not have a financial impact in the 2015-16 year, as the funds for these projects has already been raised in the earlier years that these projects were planned to be completed. In the previous financial year, council carried forward around $20 million of capital projects. The reduction in carry forwards this year would suggest that council has made some progress in catching up on the delivery of these delayed projects.

A list of the projects being carried forward is listed in the agenda at page 15 to 23.

Navigation safety

Council unanimously adopted the proposed “Navigation Safety Bylaw 2015” which comes into effect on 14 September 2015. The new 2015 bylaw replaces the old 2006 bylaw. All bylaws are located on the council website at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/policies/bylaws/.

The new 2015 bylaw is the result of a review of the old 2006 bylaw that began in December 2013 and involved public consultation during early 2014. During that consultation period council received over 212 submissions.

Since the consultation period the government has further simplified the law. This has meant that the new 2015 bylaw does not have to reproduce all the rules contained in the parent Act. Therefore, anyone referring to the Navigation Safety Bylaw 2015 should also consult the parent Act (the Maritime Transport Act 1994, see www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1994/0104/latest/whole.html), associated regulations, and rules.

Public transport

The regional public transport plan for 2015-18 was received and adopted by council.

I took the opportunity to reinforce the communities concerns that the regional plan is not used to drive (forgive the pun) further road widening projects (Wensley Road comes to mind). In my opinion, any expansion of the public transport network needs to utilise existing infrastructure not place additional financial costs on the community.

For example, a loop around Richmond that uses Hill Street, Hart’s Road, and Bateup Road (which is already earmarked for widening due to the proposed supermarket development) would be more appropriate roads to use as they have the capacity to take buses.

Unmanned aircraft

This topic was discussed in an earlier meeting (see www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-03).

Full council received and approved the interim policy on unmanned aircraft (also referred to as drones, model aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems, or UAVs). The policy should be read in conjunction with the civil aviation authority (CAA) rules (which came into force on 1 August 2015) and are located at www.caa.govt.nz/rpas/.

The council policy document is is located at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/policies/flying-drones-and-other-unmanned-aircraft-over-council-land/. Essentially, the policy prohibits use of unmanned aircraft within 4 km of identified aerodromes (controlled airspace), unless permission is granted by the council.

In contrast, council has provided general consent to use unmanned aircraft on all other council land, unless prohibited. Prohibited land areas include: council offices, libraries, forestry plantations, Mapua commercial precinct and wharf area, various public and memorial gardens (such as, Washbourn, Pethybridge, etc), cemeteries, Motueka sandspit, leased land to other parties (such as, bowling greens, tennis courts, etc). If on doubt contact the council.

This policy does not cover privately owned land. However, the CAA requires unmanned aircraft operators to obtain permission from a private landowner or occupier before flying over private land.

Nelson regional sewerage business unit

Council agreed to renew the Nelson regional sewerage business unit (NSRBU) memorandum of understanding and reappoint the joint committee that administers the NSRBU.

This item came before full council because both councils failed to enter into a renewed memorandum of understanding before August 2015, resulting in the deemed discharging of NRSBU joint committee. The council’s resolutions effectively corrected this administrative oversight.

Economic development funding

Council received and approved the EDA funding agreement with Nelson council. The agreement looks to fund destination tourism and economic development initiatives for the Tasman region at a total cost of $400,000 per annum. These funds come from general rates. Nelson council will use the EDA and NTT (or other appropriate vehicle) to provide these services (and outcomes).

I note that the Nelson council has begun a review of both organisations and is not proposing to merge both entities (see www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/71888656/Nelson-economic-development-and-tourism-merger-could-save-100-000-a-year). I certainly support a merger as I have stated in earlier posts (see my discussion about tourism at www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/full-council-meeting-5-december/).

The council also established a liason group (comprising the mayor, Cr King, Bryant and Edgar) to improve accountability arrangements for service delivery for the Tasman district. In my opinion, this is an important element of the new process. Unfortunately the council in the past has not provided clear targets or outcomes for the Tasman district and therefore has struggled to receive anything meaningful in terms of measuring its return on investment.

While attempts had been made to target the cost of destination tourism to the commercial community (being those who directly benefit), rather than general ratepayers, the tools available to council were rather blunt (ie rating commercial land), and in the end the council opted in the interim to continue to use the general rating system.

CEO’s report

Highlights of the CEO’s report include:

  • strategy and planning. Council’s LTP consultative document was judged to one of the top 8 documents in the country. Council staff are reviewing the winning entry (and the other 6 documents) to make improvements for future consultation documents. Planning for the next financial year (including how we will consult with the public) has begun. A workshop was held on 3 September that discussed several issues including enabling the finance team to focus on forecasting (for the future), rather than just reporting on the past.
  • annual report. The annual audit process went more smoothly this year, with the annual report expected to be adopted at the next full council meeting on 24 September 2015. Appointment of an independent member to the audit subcommittee was addressed in a confidential session with the appointment being made by majority vote. The person appointed was Graham Naylor.
  • rules reduction taskforce. The government task force concluded that there were few loopy laws with many grievances stemming from service delivery and process problems. My experience has been that the interpretation of legislative rules by central government agencies is also an area of concern, especially in relation to health and safety standards (and there over zealous application).
  • people. Council are currently seeking 3 staff replacements. Collective employment agreement bargaining concluded with the union in August. This resulted in a wage increase of 1.2% for most staff – which was “just” within budget. A high level review of councils existing health and safety systems and processes has begun, with a view to implementing an improvement plan. Under the new Health and Safety Act councillors and officers have a duty of due diligence (ie taking reasonable steps to ensure compliance), but cannot be prosecuted for non-compliance.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda, attachments, and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-09-10.

 

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