Hello, my name is Mark Greening and I am your Richmond Ward councillor for the Tasman District Council (TDC).
I am a local boy who grew up in Richmond, played rugby for Waimea Old Boys, and attended the local primary school, intermediate and college.
I hold a Masters of Law degree (LLM) and Bachelor of Arts (BA majoring in Public Policy and Administration). I also hold various management diplomas, and am a certified panel member (obtaining a B+ certification) for resource management hearings up to 2022. I am a member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors, and am currently a director of Nelson Airport.
I am a former adjudicator and publishing manager. I have over 18 years of business experience working in the private and public sector. I have worked for major multi-national corporations and large public institutions.
So why should you vote for me as your councillor?
I was elected to council in mid-October 2013. I was one of 2 new councillors elected onto a council of 13 councillors and a mayor (that had not changed much, over the last 9 years). In 2016, I was returned to council, albeit still operating in a much undisturbed old boys club.
When I joined council, rates increases were averaging around 6% to 7% (in order to support council spending), debt was also forecast to reach $175 million by the end of that financial year, and council was projecting to take debt levels (more spending) up to $300 million within a decade. This was all unsustainable and should never have been approved.
The 2013 term
During my first 3 years I delivered and supported a change of direction on council. This has included:
- reduced rates take and a new maximum rates threshold that ensures rates do not increase more than 3% (a first for council), but lets get it lower!
- reduced debt (council debt has fallen from a projected $175 million at the end of the 2013-14 year to $133 million, as at 30 June 2016 – with projected long term debt falling from $300 million to $109 million within the next decade), but we can do better!
- investment in storm water and water quality infrastructure (well overdue!), but we must do more!
- shared services with Nelson to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
- digitisation (online publishing and document management) of council documents, forms, and processes. Coming from an online publishing world, I couldn’t help but promote the efficiencies and cost savings that digitisation provides.
I also opposed wasteful spending, like Mapua’s Shed 4 development, and mayoral trips to China (which should be funded by the businesses that benefit from them, rather than ratepayers). This is because I believe in accountability and continue to believe in the underlying principle of “user pays” – where the beneficiaries, should be the ones funding their benefits.
I also changed the way the “parks and reserve” budget (RFC) was funded and spent. In the past, spending on “parks and reserves” was funded from forecasted revenue (which often did not materialise), to spending based on the income received in the earlier year (thus removing any risk of overspending or debt funding). I have also pursued changes to the funding of council publications. One change resulted in a savings of $35,000 per year. And I believe we can make further savings in this space.
The 2016 term
Last term (2016-19), I fought for:
- a Dam referendum, so you were heard, not ignored,
- a Dam funding model based on user pays, not subsidies,
- a left-hand turn into Queen St from the deviation, still fighting this one,
- a reduction in the rates cap, still fighting this one, and
- more shared services, standards and growth planning with NCC, to reduce costs and create efficiencies – good progress made here.
When voting, please think about important principles, like honesty, integrity, and ethics. These are principles that will be applied to every decision a councillor (or mayor) makes. Have prior councillors and mayoral candidates shown these principles, or have they trampled over them. Have their actions spoken louder than the words they use on their campaign.
For example, did they vote against a dam referendum, when they say they will listen to the community? Not only was council divided on the Dam, 80% of the submissions were against it. Given more than a quarter of TDC’s $200M debt cap, will be invested in the Dam, surely common sense dictates that council needed a mandate? The attitude of “I know best”, is not only arrogant, but fails to acknowledge that this was the time to listen to the community. I fully acknowledge other decisions can (and were) adequately managed by councillors.
The 2019 term
This term (2019-22), TDC has some big challenges. TDC is now ready to embark on digitisation, but the question is how can we afford it? The same can be said for other critical infrastructure, like stormwater, wastewater, and roading.
We are fast approaching our $200M debt cap? Priorities will need to be reset. Many around the council table (including our deputy mayor, and his supporting councillors) have been talking up increasing our debt cap – using the excuse that since CPI has gone up, so too should our debt.
If you want to prevent debt increases and you want a really responsive council, you need to change the leadership team and some of the old boys around the table. If you don’t, expect debt to go up, and the old boys club to continue to make decisions in their friends best interests, rather than the general public.
My ambition remains to reduce our debt and rates burden on our ratepayers. This is critical if we are to be prepared for natural disasters. Without sufficient debt headroom, we will have to borrow. Debt is not free. It comes at a cost. Any increase in debt, places pressure on credit ratings, and the total cost of the borrowing. Roughly, $200M of debt costs council around $10M per year – thats roughly two new libraries per year (six new libraries over a term)!
Lets get debt down, not increase it. Lets get Richmond moving, not congested. Lets protect our homes from flooding and stop deferring. Lets make it affordable. It’s about priorities!
I stand for:
- sensible spending decisions and priority setting,
- ensuring infrastructure (and protecting peoples homes) comes before the nice to haves,
- accountability and transparency,
- a council that puts the customer at the centre of everything it does, and
- a council that listens to your concerns and does something about it.
I continue to advocate for an organisational culture change, that moves council from a regulatory organisation (focused on telling customers what they can’t do), to a customer centric advisory organisation (focused on helping customers traverse the red tape and get to the best outcome). Its about putting the customer (the ratepayer) at the heart of everything council does.
As part of my drive for culture change, I have also ensured important decisions of councillors are recorded – so the public can see what councillors have voted for. Accountability is more than just turning up to a meeting, its about what you vote for (or against)!
I hope this year you will support some much needed new (and younger) blood on council. Having time on your hands is nota good criteria for council. We do not need councillors who have to ask the mayor which way to vote, or who keep changing their mind, because they have not read or properly understood agenda papers.
I bring to council: strong advocacy skills, an analytical mind, sensible judgment, and a friendly approachable manner.
Let me speak up for you.
A little more personal background about myself
I am an immigrant from the United Kingdom, arriving in New Zealand in 1973 (in those days you took a ship, so it was a long journey, passing through South Africa and Australia). My parents have told me that the choice was either the North Hebrides (somewhere north of Scotland?) or New Zealand. I thank my parents every year they chose New Zealand. We initially lived in Whangarei, before moving to Richmond in 1975. I was born in Brighton and grew up for a few fleeting years in New Haven (a small fishing port on the south coast of England). I am half Welsh, half English, and 100% Kiwi. I received my NZ citizenship in Richmond. I spent my formative years in Richmond and moved to Wellington to complete my education. I attended Victoria University and briefly Otago (where I was admitted to the Bar as a lawyer).
I have worked in many industries
I have worked in orchards fruit picking and apple thinning. I have worked in fish factories and have painted houses in Nelson. I have worked in start up companies, major multi-national corporations (Thomson Reuters) and large public institutions (the Office of the Chief Tax Counsel). I have written and edited technical books and written quasi judicial opinions. But there has not been a year that I have not come back to Richmond. This year I returned to Richmond to live so I could spend more time with my parents while continuing to commute to Wellington for work.
Life outside council
When I am not reading council reports, I am a tax author and advisor. I recently published 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.
Community service runs in my blood
My grand father helped establish the ‘New Haven Flake and Ice Co-operative’ to help the local fishers get better prices for their fish (avoiding the price fluctuations that the market delivered as a result of landing bumper catches) and enabling them to have a decent income to feed their families. A lesson in helping businesses, help communities, through co-operation. I have volunteered my time to community law centres. I have volunteered my time to represent people at employment mediation. I have volunteered my services to tenants who have been taken advantage of by landlords who do not know the law (and surprisingly this has included local councils). I have also coached junior football – which is great fun and incredibly rewarding.
Why am I standing for Council?
I have spent most of my life in Richmond and have seen it change dramatically over the years. And not always for the better. Council needs to be more transparent about the decisions it makes, and it needs to spend its resources wisely for the benefit of the whole community, not just a few. The usual suspects have been around for some time, and it seems to me that Richmond would benefit from a fresh perspective and the skills and experience I would bring to the Council table.
My aim is to be your voice on Council. Let me speak up for you.
What would people say about me?
I am passionate, positive, honest, fair, a hard and tireless worker (with a good sense of humour), and someone you can trust. I probably don’t sufferer fools easily, but I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I care about the health and well being of people and the community they live in. I am a good listener. I am not afraid to speak up and can be pragmatic when the occassion calls for it.
My former customers for over 18 years considered me someone they could trust to do the right thing, and deliver on my promises. I have always aimed to exceed expectations in what ever I set my mind too. This year you get the benefit of that experience and passion.
Richmond and Tasman is our environment. We have a beautiful inlet and fantastic green hills surrounding us. A healthy green environment makes people feel good and provides enjoyment and general well being. I deeply care about the environment we call Richmond and Tasman. A place we live, work, and play in 24 hours a day. Lets make it even better.