Full council (18 February)

The full council meeting was held on 18 February 2016. It was followed by the community development committee meeting and a workshop on the dam. All councillors (except Cr Sangster) were present.

The agenda included: (1) Waimea community dam – project update, (2) Motueka security cameras, (3) speed limit bylaw, (4) council charges, (5) CEO’s activity report, (6) mayor’s report, and (7) home insulation funding request. A confidential session (in-committee) was also held in relation to the sale of (1) council land in Tadmor, and (2) LGFA shares.

There were two speakers in public forum.

Public forum

Maxwell Clarke asked that council amend the speed bylaw recommendations by extending the 50kmh speed limit from the CBD out to McShanes Road. He also referred to the recent heavy rainfall bomb (the highest flow since 1957) and the likelihood of more such events affecting the construction of the Dam. Max also highlighted the Dam funding shortfall of $31 million. He suggested that irrigators needed to find $55 million and it was not councilors job to sort out WWAC’s problems.

Murray Dawson spoke about the saltwater intrusion issue and asked that the salt issue was put into perspective. He brought 2 containers of water with different levels of salt for councillors to taste. Murray also asked that his information requests of 9 February 2016 (in relation to figures for urban water supply), is addressed in a more timely fashion, as he was still waiting for this information.

Waimea community dam update

Council received an update on the Waimea Community Dam project. The big news was a possible funding gap.

Based on a estimated cost of $82 million for the dam, a potential funding gap of between $31 million to $19 million was forecast (depending on the financing structure, funding model, and level of cost certainty sought). The reports states:

… If the uptake sought by WCDL pre-Christmas is fully subscribed, we estimate there is a $31M funding gap, after taking Council’s funding into account, assuming the project costs $82.5M. … Our alternative to the WCDL model (which we believe Council could adopt) produces a funding gap of $19.92M at P50 and $22.12M at P95. …

On 20 January 2016, the Dam project steering group (PSG) was advised that WCDL aimed to get initial commitments of 2700 hectare equivalents from its consent holder survey. However, as I understand it, the Dam model requires a substantially larger commitment from irrigators (around 4500 hectare equivalents of a total 7,700 hectare equivalents).

The council was also advised that spending since 1 July 2015 was $254k against a budget of $1.459 million. This reflected the ‘slow down’ across all project work streams. However, preparation work for procurement and land access continued.

Mr McKenzie confirmed total project costs to date were in the order of $6.4million. This had been funded by Council, irrigators and the Crown. Staff advised that the  portion of these costs that would be an unfunded write-down (which the Council would need to cover if the project was not completed) was in the order of $2-3 million (this included the cost of the resource consent). A similar write down occurred when the Motueka stop bank project was terminated.

Version 12 of the proposed work timeline is illustrated below.

FullC-20160218-DamTimeline-V12

This timeline has since been revised. See below

DamTimeline2016-v17

Dam funding model

I also note the continued questioning of the councils funding position (ie funding 2/3rds of the environmental benefit portion). I agree with Mr Horn, who says in the Leader (25 August 2016) at page 6 that “on a proportionate basis (ie based on the water take from the plains) ratepayers contribution should be around $12 million, not the $28 million proposed”. In response, the mayor has said, “the council and Waimea Community Dam Co Ltd are still working on the funding model”.

I find the mayors statement very misleading. I have repeatedly asked that council adopt an extractor pays principle to the dam, and on every occasion, the mayor and other councillors (who support the mayor) have opposed it. In march 2016, I challenged the mayor to adopt an extractor pays approach for all of the environmental benefit portion, when he sought to lift the ratepayers contribution from $25 million to $28 million, and he declined. His argument was it was to late to change? In my opinion, the current leadership has shown no willingness to change course. And to suggest otherwise, is very misleading.

Leader (page 6). www.neighbourly.co.nz/e-edition/the-tasman-leader/6575?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=e-edition_the-tasman-leader_2016-08-25_6575.

Speed limit bylaw

A draft Speed Limits Bylaw 2016 was approved by Full Council for public consultation on 10 September 2015. A hearing panel of councillors comprising Crs Norriss, Higgins, Sangster, and Dowler met on 24 November 2015 to hear submissions.

During the hearing, staff recommend to the panel that several roads (ie Carlyon Road, Dehra Doon Road, Old Coach Road, Tasman View Road, Ellis Street, and Redwood Valley Lane) were withdrawn from the bylaw review and instead be included in NZTA’s Speed Management assessment in 2016. The panel agreed and recommended to council that several roads were not part of the review and would have no speed limit changes. Council were then invited to approve the bylaw as recommended by the hearing panel, approve it as amended, or decline it in full.

My own assessment of the hearing process, is that all staff recommendations were accepted and that no public submissions were accepted, unless they were consistent with the staff recommendations. In my opinion, it appeared to be a rubber stamping exercise. Especially when you looked at the submissions on Ranzau Road.

Cr Canton and myself sought to amend the bylaw in respect of lower Queen Street (which had multiple speeds over a short distance) and Ranzau Road (which was proposed to be reduced from 80km to 60km, yet residents had sought a 50km limit).

The reason why I sought to make an amendment to Ranzau Road was I felt the panel had not listened to the submissions. The report presented to the hearing panel is included below.

Ranzau Road

Posted speed limit : 70km/hr & 100km/hr

Requested speed limit: 40km/hr & 50km/hr

Submission numbers: 88, 89, 90, 91, 92 and 93

Recommended speed limit: 60km/hr & School zone 80km/hr

Description of road environment: The total length of road was assessed during this review. There are entrances and exits to fields and orchards along the length of the road. Ranzau School and Hope Community Church are both located along this road. There are several other small businesses along the road, as well as a couple of larger business where trucks enter and leave from. Tasman’s Great Taste Trail runs along the edge of the first section of road, then crosses the road and runs along the other side for the length of the road.

Speed warrant recommended: The speed warrant recommends a speed limit of 100km/hr for this road.

Staff Assessment: As part of this Speed Limit Review it is intended to remove 70km/hr posted speed limits from the network. This is intended to be a recommendation from NZTA in the updated Speed Limit Management Guidelines. The speed limit along this section would then be either increased to 80km/hr or reduced to 60km/hr. It is recommended to reduce to 60km/hr for the first 1km section of road (this incorporates the school and church). It is then recommended to increase the rest of the road to 80km/hr. This would provide consistency if adjoining roads were also reduced to 80km/hr. There have also been several requests for adjoining roads to be reduced in speed.

Staff Recommendation: Reduce the first 1km section to 60km/hr. Increase the last section to 80km/hr.

Working Party’s recommendation: The working party supported reducing the posted speed limit to 60km/hr on the first 1km section. The working party supported increasing the posted speed limit to 80km/hr on the last section.

In my opinion, the submissions were compelling. All 166 people who had made a submission (and signed the attached petition), supported the speed limit being lowered to 50km (rather than 60km). Petition signatories to the submissions included virtually every resident and every businesses on this road, as well as people who attend the Hope Community church. While they supported lowering the speed limit to 60km, they wanted it lowered a further 10km to 50km. Their main argument was one of safety.

Many submitters were concerned that children riding to school would be hit by trucks that frequently used the road. This argument was also consistent with staff advice – that reducing speeds improves the chances of survival. Truck usage is very high on this road. I know this because a resident on this road constantly complains about the regular noise he hears from the volume of trucks going up and down this road.

In my opinion, the panel recommendation gave to much weight to the need to provide “consistency” with the Speed Limit Management Guidelines. Surely safety should trump consistency? I also felt that reducing the speed limit by a further 10km was not detrimental nor a significant difference in speed from their recommendation. In my mind, provided there was signage, what significant difference did it make if it was 50km or 60km.

Accordingly, I proposed an amendment to the resolution (with Cr Bouillir seconding) to reduce the speed limit to 50km.

Strangely, staff then suggested that my amendment might compromise the validity of the bylaw. It was suggested that making further changes to the bylaw, that were neither in the original bylaw, or the amended bylaw, and had not been through the consultation process, would compromise the bylaw.

I struggled to understand this argument, given (1) staff had already suggested in the report to council that council could decide to amend the bylaw (option 2), and (2) the community through the consultation process had asked for a 50km limit, so this proposal had already been through the consultation process. Albeit rejected by the hearing panel.

Staff also said they would not support my proposed amendment as the amount of development in this area was not urban enough to warrant a 50 km limit. Again, I would have thought safety trumped any other consideration. That said, there are also a number of lifestyle homes down this road. While the area might not be strictly urban, nor is it strictly rural.

In my opinion, we are constantly reminded that lowering speed increases the chance of survival. I think it would be remiss of council knowing all this information, not to heed the warning of potential catastrophe with a child vs truck incident – and make every effort to lower the speed on this road to improve the chances of survival.

I also did not believe a court would strike down this change should it be challenged under judicial review proceedings (which I very much doubted would happen). This is because it is reducing the speed, not increasing it. The change is not material (or significant). And it is based primarily on safety – which I think trumps consistency. Appropriate signage should be enough to accommodate any consistency issues. Finally, the consultation process had considered a 50km submission, but had discounted it.

Unfortunately, my proposed amendment was lost. With only Cr Bouillir, Cr Canton and myself supporting it. Where were the other councillors or mayor? Surely it is for the community to decide what type of community they want and for councillors to support that vision, within the parameters of the law? In my opinion, this was just another example of councillors rubber stamping what was in front of them, and not having the courage to stand up for residents.

Cr Canton (myself seconding his amendment) sought to reduce the number of different speed limits staggered down lower Queen Street to just two (rather than three), by reducing the 60km limit area to 50km (and thereby merging and extending the existing 50km speed limit area). Again this proposal was not new, and had been supported by a number of submitters, but discounted during the hearing process. Again, the amendment was lost, with only Cr Bouillir, Cr Canton, and myself supporting it.

Motueka security cameras

The Motueka Community Board had requested that council enter into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Motueka Police to maintain and upgrade 20 street security cameras that have recently been installed in the Motueka business area.

Council (by majority with Cr Canton dissenting) declined to enter into a MoU or fund the street cameras. It was suggested that the Motueka business community (Our Town Motueka) should be approached to fund this maintenance.

In my opinion, this was a matter for the police (and central government) to fund, not council. The cameras were primarily for the protection of private property, not public reserves, which had their own cameras. In Richmond, cameras are funded by the business community (Richmond unlimited) or police.

Council charges

Generally, charges collected by council are either imposed by statute (eg liquor licensing or food safety) or by Council. These charges included fees for: water connections, trade waste permits, wastewater, building consents and permits.

In this instance, council was mostly proposing to adjust charges for inflation (2%). However, in some instances, charges were increased by 8-9%. Something I was quick to point out to staff. These larger increases were explained on the basis of closer alignment with Nelson council fees and the time demands placed on the consents team (as part of cost recovery). Staff advised that although these fees had increased more than inflation, they were still lower than Nelson council.

Overall, I was supportive of the increases. In my opinion it was also important that council benchmark their charges against other councils, in order to show we are not only competitive with other councils, but also ensure that we are able to fairly recover the cost of administering the RMA system that council is tasked with implementing, without asking ratepayers to subsidise that cost.

Home insulation funding

The Warmer Healthier Homes Steering Committee invited council to join the Warmer Healthier Homes Nelson Tasman Marlborough project by providing $50,000 towards the Healthy Homes insulation project.

Council chose to decline the invitation. The reason for declining was three fold. First, this was unbudgeted expenditure, and if there was to be any funding for this project, it should come from community grants fund or mayors discretionary fund. Secondly, while there were community health benefits from this project, health was a government responsibility, and priority for the current government. Council often complains about central government shifting costs to councils and this was just another example.

Finally, council already had a ‘Warm Tasman Rate’ available to ratepayers. This rate enables homeowners to apply to council for what is effectively a loan to allow them to insulate their homes and install an approved form of home heating. The loan is then repaid through their rates.

CEO’s activity report

The CEO’s report contained the following highlights:

  • Strategy and planning: A strategic planning workshop was held on 7 December 2015. This was an opportunity to provide direction on what kind of organisation we want to be, and how we want to do business. Four themes were discussed: (1) decision making (we need to be advisors), (2) customer service (we need to be customer centric), (3) engagement (we need to thinking like a customer), and (4) partnership (we need to be enabling).
  • Finance: External debt was $137 million. Capital expenditure was estimated at $50.166 million for year end ($8.748 million lower than budgeted). A surplus of $2.95 million for year-end was forecast.
  • People: Staff turnover for the December 2015 quarter was 3.75% or 8.8% for the calendar year. The number of full time equivalents (FTE) was 242.5, up by 0.4 from the previous quarter as a role in Engineering Services has gone from 0.6 FTE to 1 FTE. The headcount remained the same at 267.

Finally, the CEO entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakawau Coastal Resident’s Association in in relation to beach protection works along the Pakawau coastline. The MoU clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the council and association.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2016/2016-02-18.

Media

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75082540/Tasman-District-Council-to-increase-building-consent-fees

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76607897/Waimea-dam-Why-urban-residents-need-to-consider-the-proposal

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76306364/Waimea-Dam-water-needed-for-council-and-crops

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/76973015/What-happens-if-the-Waimea-Community-Dam-isn-t-built

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75830516/waimea-dam-too-big-cost-too-high-says-brian-halstead

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10606141/Ratepayers-have-say-on-Waimea-dam

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76677093/proposed-waimea-dam-funds-plan-has-gap-to-plug

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75870804/Waimea-dam-Time-is-right-says-Kit-Maling

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76312586/Smith-backs-dam-pushes-Southern-Link-and-disses-Hells-Angels

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63859029/time-for-pause-in-dam-process

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75434056/Waimea-Dam-The-growing-pains

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76451796/Waimea-Community-Dam-the-environmental-effects

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/78685491/Waimea-dam-almost-out-of-reach

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/opinion/71297692/rolls-royce-waimea-dam-blatant-bid-for-subsidy

Nelson Mail. www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/79218248/Nelson-City-Council-up-for-4-38m-in-dam-plan

Other documents

http://hydrologynz.co.nz/downloads/20071015-093149-JoHNZ_2001_v40_1_White.pdf

http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/235246/2/Bermeo%20paper.pdf

My new books

I thought I would take this opportunity to promote my new book – Tax Administration Law Made Easy, together with two other books in the series that I have also been involved with – namely, Goods and Services Law Made Easy and Income Tax Law Made Easy.

All books can be purchased online from LexisNexis in hardcopy or eBook format.

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