Tagged: Golden Bay recreation centre

Community development meeting (3 November)

The Golden Bay Recreation Facility (construction progress).

The community development committee meeting was held on 3 November 2016. Apologies were received from Cr Brown and Cr Hawkes. All other councilors were present.

The agenda included: (1) Chair’s Report, (2) Golden Bay Shared Recreation Facility Management Contract, (3) Appointments to Management and Other Committees, (4) Community Development Manager’s Report, (5) Action Sheet.

Declarations of interest

Cr Wensley declared a conflict of interest (due to her involvement with copyright licensing for writers) and took no part in the discussions relating to council’s draft submissions on the National Library Strategic Direction consultation document and the National Strategy of Environmental Education for Sustainability (Attachments 3 and 4 of the Agenda).

Public forum

Maxwell Clark spoke. He advised that council was still advertising public forum speaking times as 3 minutes, rather than the new 5 minutes – which he commended council for. He noted that grafitti was getting worse (particularly near Waimea rugby club, the skateboard park, and rifle club – all located in close proximity to one another). Mr Clarke also noted that the gravel road that runs from McDonalds (located on lower Queen Street) towards Jubilee Park (along the railway reserve) was in a dreadful state with numerous pot holes – these needed to be repaired.

Golden Bay Shared Recreation Facility Management Contract

Council resolved to receive the report and for council to enter into a management contract with with Golden Bay Shared Recreational Facility Committee Incorporated (see www.societies.govt.nz/), to manage the Golden Bay recreation facility on behalf of council. A similar management arrangement is used at other community facilities (eg Moutere and Murchison recreation facilities).

The above plan is noteworthy for the clear absence of the Grandstand. However, it’s also interesting to note the above construction progress picture, and in particular the large space between the old grandstand and the new facility (separated by a fence). Apparently the (northern) stairs were removed to allow the builders to work safely on the new building, as well as protect the public from the building activity. Yet the picture appears to show a fence between the two buildings – showing more than enough space for stairs and a safe working environment? I understand that the removal of the stairs for public safety is now justified on the basis of the grandstand’s uncertain condition.

In my opinion, council should dispose of the grandstand to the A&P Society – then it’s no longer a council concern (or ongoing cost). Yes, its presence might be unsightly, but what would you rather look out over – a carpark or a piece of history? Although, surely the most reasonable compromise is to move it – so its at least preserved. That way everyone is a winner (rather than just the lawyers). But perhaps thats just the mediator in me speaking?

Appointments

Council resolved to make the following appointments to community (based on the mayor’s recommendations):

Moutere/Waimea Ward

  • Brightwater Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr King

  • Dovedale Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara

  • Spring Grove Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara

  • Moutere Hills Recreation Reserve/Community Centre Committee: Cr Turley

  • Waimea West Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr King

  • Ngatimoti Hall Management Committee: Cr McNamara

  • Wakefield Recreation Reserve Management Committee: Cr King

  • Ngatimoti Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara

  • Equestrian Trust Board: Cr Maling

  • Wakefield Health Centre Board: Cr Bryant

  • Mapua Health Centre Board: Cr Turley

  • Pinegrove Trust: Cr King

Richmond Ward

  • Hope Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Maling

  • Keep Richmond Beautiful Committee: Cr Tuffnell

  • Richmond Unlimited Committee: Cr Tuffnell

  • Saxton Velodrome Working Party: Cr Wensley

  • Digital Enablement Plan Steering Group: Cr Wensley

Lakes/Murchison Ward

  • Murchison Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant

  • Stanley Brook Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant

  • Tapawera Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant

  • Lake Rotoiti Community Facility Committee: Cr Bryant

Community Development activity report

Highlights from the manager’s report include:

  • Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility: General work (including netball courts) was progressing. A draft archaeological assessment of the Takaka grandstand, and a heritage report covering human activities associated with the grandstand, along with council’s application, was sent to Heritage New Zealand. A “certificate of public use” was being sought for the new building to enable it to be used for the A&P Show towards the end of January 2017.

  • Golden Bay Museum: The Museum had raised funding and obtained all the consents for the Whalery building extension. Council is project managing the project for the Society. The building contract was around $90,000. Staff advised that there would be no impact on rates from the extension as the over expenditure was covered by increased income in the account. The contractor was also undertaking some building repairs at the site, including repairs to the roof to stop some leaks, provision of emergency lighting, and replacing the switchboard.

  • Nethui: A significant partnership occurred between Council and Internet NZ – the organisation responsible for the New Zealand Domain Name registration system. As a result, Nethui (the country’s ‘largest and most diverse’ internet event) was hosted in our region on 13 October 2016 – the first time the hui has been hosted outside a major centre.

  • Website: Usage for the website (1 October 2015 to 31 September 2016) remains strong. The website serves approximately 600 people per day and in the last year attracted nearly a third more users, with page views also up 7.49 %. GoShift building consent forms will be added to the site. Civil Defence website upgrade project work continues.

  • Reserves: For Richmond, (1) mountain bike track maintenance is being undertaken in the Dellside reserve areas, and (2) the Velodrome underpass and ramp installation has been completed, the lean to ride area is under construction and stage 2 of the main track is starting.

  • Growth strategy: Staff workshops are currently underway to determine future demand and supply for residential and business growth in each of our 16 settlement areas. Council workshops will be coming. The growth projections council selects (effectively a conceptual tool for planning) will have major implications for the long term plan (LTP) and its projected expenditure (which then has implications for debt and rates). I’d like to adopt a more conservative position – of moderate growth, given the level of uncertainty. While Tasman has experienced a degree of population growth, it appears to be tailing off, with most of the new growth coming by way of retirement (with often means growth for retirement villages). In my opinion, if growth occurs in this area, it’s likely to put far less demand on infrastructure – which would support a moderate growth forecast. However, I suspect that those supporting the dam, will want to see council adopt a high growth position, in order to inflate water demand.

  • Age care policy: This is under review to ensure alignment of age policies and initiatives with Nelson council.

  • RFID Installation: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology was installed across the libraries during October 2016. Service desk areas in Richmond and Motueka Libraries have been reconfigured to allow for the installation of self-service kiosks. Library users now have the option of issuing their own items.

  • Consultation on National Library Strategic Direction: Tasman District Libraries works with the National Library in a number of ways, either as a user of National Library services or as a consortia partner. Any changes to National Library policies or strategic direction could have an impact on our libraries.

  • Richmond call centre upgrade: An upgrade to call centre software was completed. The enhanced caller information, reporting dashboards and staff information is expected to improve service levels.

  • Takaka Service Centre: Staff move back to the refurbished building on 9 December. In my opinion, this should have been consolidated within the existing library building. However, it was explained by staff that the cost of special data cabling to the library would have been more than the cost of refurbishment. Another option was to rebuild – which was rightly rejected by council.

  • Richmond Aquatic Centre: Patronage increased from July to June 2016 by 3,277. An increase of 1,245 compared to the same period in July 2015.

  • The Enviroschools Programme: This continues to expand. Golden Bay Kindergarten recently became TDC’s 4th Enviroschool at the GreenGold level demonstrating more connections with their community in their practices and projects. However, in my opinion, I question whether council should be involved in this project given the ongoing financial pressure on council. And I wonder if it should be suspended, so that funds can be redeployed to more pressing infrastructure concerns.

  • Conflicts of interest: This was discussed. The CEO asked councillors to rely on the advice given through the councillor induction process. He said he would be concerned if councillors were overly cautious and declared a conflict of interest when it was unlikely that one existed or could be perceived, as that would limit their ability to contribute as a member.

For more information about “conflicts of interest”, see www.oag.govt.nz/2007/conflicts-public-entitieswww.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Resource-material-Our-Policy-Advice-Areas-Managing-Conflicting-Interests-in-Local-Government?OpenDocument, and www.iod.org.nz/Governance-Resources/Publications/Practice-guides/Conflicts-of-Interest-Practice-Guide.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/committees-and-subcommittees/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2016/2016-11-03.

Community development (18 February)

The community development committee meeting was held of 18 February 2016. This was a rather brief information update meeting requiring no decisions to be made. All councillors (apart from Cr Sangster) were present.

The agenda included: (1) chair’s report, (2) community development managers report, and (3) action sheet. I will highlight the main topics of interest for me.

Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility

On 2 February 2016, a ceremony for the placement of the mauri stones on the site of the new Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility was held. Approximately 60 people attended the ceremony. Nine mauri stones were placed by a range of organisations involved with the facility project.

Seismic Assessment of Community Development Buildings

During the Annual Plan 2014-15 process council allocated $500,000 towards the seismic upgrading of some of council’s community development buildings. To date repairs have been made to Motueka and Richmond Town Halls and Bainham Hall. The reduction in the Government’s regulations to only require buildings to be raised to more than 34% of new building standards has resulted in savings of $75,000 for repairs made so far.

Remaining buildings include: (1) Motueka Service Centre, (2) Motueka Community House, (3) Golden Bay Community Centre, (4) Onekaka Hall, (5) Golden Bay Museum, (6) Pakawau Hall, (7) Old Wakefield Library, (8) Dovedale Church, (9) St Arnaud Fire Station, (10) Stanley Brook Hall, (11) Waimea West Hall, (12) Kotinga Hall, and (13) Brightwater Fire Station.

Kina Boatshed Lease

Council staff have received a request to construct the first boatshed on one of the sites on the Council’s land at Kina. The current proposal provides for a boatshed which meets the maximum site coverage, and a water tank and landscaping which will occupy the entire 100 m2 land area available.

Aquatic and Fitness Centre

Patronage number between 2013 and 2016 are illustrated below.

AquaticData2013-16

Rabbit Island (Moturoa)

The Rabbit Island (Moturoa) Reserve Management Plan and the engagement process started at the end of 2015. Over 470 responses outlining people’s views and ideas on the RM have been recived. The engagement process closes at the end of February 2016. The next step will be to prepare a draft RMP for formal public consultation in March.

In my opinion, the number of submissions is a great signal to council of the importance of this asset to the community. My concern is that council will attempt to prevent people accessing the forestry areas. In my opinion, council can very easily manage the forestry in a manner that enables smart use of the entire island. Effectively restricting public access to forestry blocks that are being worked on while allowing access where no work is being conducted. Its about managing resources smarter!

Waimea Inlet Strategy

In 2010, Council became a signatory to the Waimea Inlet Charter, a document aimed at fostering commitment between a number of agencies to implement the Waimea Inlet Strategy. The Waimea Inlet Forum was established, as part of the process. The forum provides a vehicle for the interests and activities of volunteers, members of the public or organisations and statutory agencies such as councils and Department of Conservation (DOC).

For some time the parties of the forum have been considering how the activities of the forum members may be better coordinated. Initially, the group is concentrating on the governance arrangements and reporting functions. The development of a Waimea Inlet ‘steering group’ is being considered which would consist of representatives from the strategy’s signatories and forum chair.

The aim is to improve links with the activities of the Forum to the Tasman Environmental Trust (TET) and use TET to coordinate operations (where necessary), report to the Steering Group and coordinate funding. Delivery of activities would still remain with volunteers, DOC, councils and other agencies. The diagram below illustrates the proposed structure.

20160218ComDev-p16

Reserves and Facilities

In Richmond ward, new training lights are being installedin Jubilee Park. Staff are working on this project with Waimea Old Boys Rugby Club who are part funding this with Council.

Libraries

The completion of painting and plastering of the minor extension to the Motueka Library will see the project completed by the end of February 2016. The extension will be used as a storage facility and staff workspace. Other work undertaken as part of this project has resulted in an improved staff workspace and safety improvements to the main entry doors.

Digitisation

From 1 July 2015, we changed our processing of Land Information Memorandums (LIM) to being completed electronic processing and delivery. Corporate and Customer Services have now completed a review of how property information is managed between these Departments.

Land Information Memorandums (LIMs)

Staff processed 775 LIM applications in 2015, an increase of 96 over the 2014 year. 100% of applications have been issued within the statutory timeframe of 10 working days.

Health and safety

There have been two recent health and safety incidents within the Community Development Department. One was the incident referred to in the Motueka Library section above, which involved members of the public in the library. The second incident was a computer screen overheating and blowing up in customer services.

Staff are making progress implementing the recommendations of the security review undertaken on the Richmond Library and the Richmond Customer Services area. Some recommendations have been implemented with others underway.

Agenda and minutes

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

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.

Community development meeting (10 December)

IMG_1131

A $15,000 slide?

The community development committee meeting was held on 10 December 2015. Apologies were received from the Mayor and Crs Dowler and Ensor for lateness. All other councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) chair’s report, (2) community development activities report, (3) enviro-schools programme for 2014-2015, (4) community development action sheet report, and (5) an in-committee (confidential) report regarding Wakefield pensioner housing.

This meeting was a rather tense one – as I raised two issues that appeared to show staff acting contrary to the spirit of earlier discussions. The first related to the recording of minutes, and the second in relation to receiving approval to spend money on replacing playground equipment in Chelsea Avenue Park.

The minutes

Council was asked to confirm the confidential minutes of the 17 September 2015 meeting. You might recall from my earlier post of that meeting (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/community-development-meeting-17-september/), that I had proposed the addition of the following words to the minutes of the (in committee) agenda item relating to Rainbow Ski field (which was subsequently made public by resolution). The additional words I proposed were:

In response to repeated questions regarding the estimated cost of generating subsequent reports, Mr Tregurtha advised that the estimated cost of generating a report, similar to the one before council, would be approximately $10,000 per report.

After some discussion (and with the chairs support), the manager asked that my proposed addition to the minutes be deferred until the next community development meeting (being this one), so that the staff member (then on leave) could be consulted as to what was said.

However, at this meeting, the proposed minutes of the in-committee report stated something quite different. The minutes had now inserted the following paragraph (as written by staff):

In response to questions regarding the estimated cost of generating subsequent reports and administrating the loan, Mr Tregurtha advised that this would have been approximately $10,000 in the last year, including writing several reports, analysing the financial information and following up on the outstanding loan payments.

This was a subtle change from “$10,000 per report” to “$10,000 in the last year”.

I took issue with this change to the minutes. First, this was not what had been said. Secondly, the staff wording had jumped the que. Surely my wording had to be considered (and voted on by council) first. After all, I had deferred a vote on my proposed amendment to the minutes so staff could be consulted. Thirdly, there appeared to be no proposal to make this insertion by staff, other than the resolution to accept the minutes. Surely any change to the original minutes, tabled at the earlier meeting (or this meeting), had to record a change? Fortunately, this blog corrects that.

The response from the chair was that there had been no agreement on my proposed words and they had anyway been defeated? A position contrary to what had been earlier agreed – that my proposed words would be left on the table so staff could seek clarification for absent staff. There was also no record (in the minutes) of my words being defeated by a vote?

I found this to be an extraordinary position for the chair to take. Nevertheless, the chair proceeded to call for mover and seconder of the motion to approve the Minutes “as amended” (by staff). My dissent being over-ruled and ignored. The motion was carried (myself voting against it).

The lesson in all this, is get the formal motion seconded so it has to be minuted (before leaving it on the table) – and then invite staff to come back and seek amendment at the next meeting. Being flexible appears to leave you open to being taken advantage of.

Chair’s report – Chelsea Avenue park

During the chairs report, I took the opportunity to raise my concerns over the decision by Cr Edgar and Cr Higgins to approve spending of $25,000 on replacing play ground equipment in Chelsea Avenue Reserve Park (also known as “Harriet Court Park”).

By way of background, in early 2014, I had noted that the Richmond reserve financial contributions (RFC) account in the long term plan (LTP), proposed to spend around $54,000 on replacing playground equipment in Harriet Court Park. This expenditure was a carry over of earlier approval by councilors in 2011-12 Annual Plan, but spending it had been delayed, due to the storm event in 2011.

I thought this was a rather large sum and sought to investigate the park equipment myself. The Richmond RFC account is governed by the four ward councillors.

As an aside, I had noticed when I first joined council that the annual funds of the RFC account was spent on the basis of projected income (ie, the next years revenue from development contributions), which had regularly resulted in the account spending more than it subsequently earned (and having to borrow funds to cover the over-spending). In my mind this seemed poorly managed and I suggested that the RFC account would be better managed if it only spent money it had received from the earlier year, rather than trying to project funds from possible development activity in the future year. This is now how RFC accounts are managed.

In 2015, council agreed to carry over the 2014-15 budget into the 2015-16 year (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/community-development-meeting-17-september/). Staff had also reassured councillors that just because it was budgeted, did not mean it had to be spent. Ward councillors still had to authorise any RFC spending.

On inspection I discovered that the park equipment appeared to be in fairly good condition. I took some photographs (see my earlier posts) and sought clarification from staff over what equipment was proposed to be replaced. I was advised that the “rail track ride” was rusty and needed to be replaced, as well as the “turn style” as part of the normal replacement program. Apparently, equipment would normally be replaced when staff considered it had come to the end of its estimated useful life (EUL).

Leaving aside the fact “EUL” is a tax depreciation concept (not the actual useful life of an asset), I suggested that if equipment had to be replaced, a better approach would be to remove the offending equipment. If the community asked about any removed equipment, then we could investigate a solution (including replacement). If not, then we had saved some money. I also suggested that we should only be replacing equipment, if it actually needed replacing, and not because it had come to the end if its EUL. From my observations, the “rail track ride” was hardly used.

I again raised my concerns during the community development meeting on 29 October 2015 (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/community-development-meeting-29-october/).

In my opinion, the staff’s program of replacing equipment at the end of the assets estimated life was not good asset management. Just because the estimated useful life (EUL) had expired, did not mean it needed replacement. All it meant was the asset could no longer be depreciated. If the asset was still functioning (and safe), then it should be left alone.

It’s also worth noting that this “smarter” approach to asset management (based on “actual” life from real inspection, versus estimated life from a theoretical end of life) is also the new approach to asset management that the engineering team was now adopting for roading infrastructure.

Parks and reserve staff appeared unenthused with my suggestion of removal (rather than replacement), and sought to survey the local residents (to see if there was support for new equipment), as well as wait until the next maintenance report was received from the council’s contractor. In seeking to remain involved in any future decisions, I asked to be “kept in the loop”.

Apparently the survey (which I was only told about in late November 2015) asked for the following information: (1) age of children, (2) number of children, (3) items of play equipment that are enjoyed or would like to see within this development, (4) comments or any other improvements to the reserve in general, and whether they would they like to attend a site meeting.

In a subsequent discussion with staff, it appeared that the “rail ride” was no longer the problem and staff acknowledged that it probably just needed a coat of paint. I continued to monitor the park, to see if there was much use of play equipment.

On one occasion I had a chat with a group of young mothers about their thoughts on council spending large amounts of money on park equipment. They were quite taken back by the level of planned spending and suggested the equipment was fine, and the only thing that needed attention was the “turn style” ride, which needed some oil. Other than that, the equipment only needed “a slap of paint”. If equipment was dangerous it could be removed. In their opinion, there was already “more than enough equipment to use” and most children used the field (to kick a ball around) or the dirt mound. I agree.

Subsequently, I learned from staff that they had received approval from Cr Edgar and Higgins to spend $25,000 on replacing some equipment. Apparently this decision was based on the maintenance report, that had recommended replacing some at risk equipment.

As you might appreciate, I was a little disappointed in staff’s failure to contact me about their need for a decision on replacing some equipment, given my prior interest. Surely, it was not to difficult to email or phone me? But no such contact, before or after that meeting with Cr Edgar and Higgins, was made. I only learned of the decision, from following up staff on when they would be likely to receive the results from the community survey.

On learning of the decision to spend $25,000 on replacing equipment, I immediately raised my concern with management and asked that the decision be placed on hold pending discussions with the other ward councillors. Given nothing had been spent (or ordered yet), management agreed. I then asked for a copy of the maintenance report, so I could be informed over what assets were the subject of spending.

The report forwarded to me highlighted the following items:

Asset Survey date Age Condition Maintenance Recommendation Capital value Recommendation Comment
Spinner 08/07/10 20 years 3 (average) Bearing loose. Tighten fitting. Cost $50 $3,500.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3) Similar type of accident to Invercargill
See-saw 08/07/10 10 years 2 (above average) $3,500.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 4)
Module (small) 08/07/10 10 years 3 (average) Track ride, loose rattles. Deck bent. Post splintered. Slide entrapment. Panels loose. Secure track ride. Monitor bent deck. Plane off splinter. Fill slide entrapment. Provide spacer on panel. Cost $100. $30,000.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 4)
Springy 08/07/10 10 years 3 (average) Does not rock. $2,900.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3)
Swings 08/07/10 10 years 3 (average) $4,500.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3)
Surfaces 08/07/10 3 bark surfaces. Replenish bark. Cost. $257 +$1,320 +$257 $857 + $2,264 +$857

Consistent with the observations of the mothers I had spoken with earlier (see above), the spinner needed a bearing replacement (and probably some oil too). Cost $50. Also, the rail track ride did not appear in this report, consistent with earlier discussions with staff that the track ride was fine. In my opinion, this report did not justify any replacement work.

After digesting the report, I sought to raise this issue at the next committee meeting (which was this one). The ward councillors could then decide how they wanted to proceed.

After raising my concerns about the proposed spending and explaining why these assets did not need replacement, just because the EUL had expired, I was advised by staff that they had sent me the wrong maintenance report. Why I was not advised of this before the start of the meeting (perhaps via an email or phone call) was never explained.

Apparently the report I had been sent was for the earlier year. Copies of the “correct” report were immediately circulated around the committee meeting. Staff then went about talking through the correct report. I had always wondered what an ambush felt like, now I knew.

The correct report contained the following information:

Asset Survey date Age Condition Maintenance Recommendation Capital value Recommendation Comment
Turn-style 12/12/14 25 years 3 (average) Bearing loose. Tighten fitting. Cost ? $3,500.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3) Similar type of accident to Invercargill
Track ride 12/12/14 5 years 2 (above average) $15,000.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 4)
Module (small) 12/12/14 30 years 3 (average) Post splintered. Tunnel split. Fill slide entrapment. Plane off splinter. Re-secure tunnel. Cost $100. $15,000.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 2) Toggle entrapment, finger entrapment in deck, no slide run out, hard object in swing fall space.
See-saw 12/12/14 15 years $3,500.00
Springy 12/12/14 15 years 3 (average) Does not rock. $3,000.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3)
Swings 12/12/14 15 years 3 (average) $3,500.00 Replacement at end of life (rank 3) Finger entrapment in chains
Surface 12/12/14 3 bark surfaces. Nail in edge. Remove nail. $1,813.33 + $4,788.33 + $1,813.33 Replacement at end of life (rank 3, 3 and4).

Interestingly, there was little change between the two reports. Although its worth noting that this survey was done a year ago (14 December 2015), the rail track ride had now appeared in the report, and the capital value of the small module had changed from $30,000 to $15,000. Interestingly, bark depth (assessed in the 8 July 2010 report) was no longer an issue. Also, the spinner (now called a “turn-style”) had no cost estimate for the bearing and now recommended just tightening the fitting.

However, the main item of concern for staff was now a 2 metre slide fixed to a junior play equipment module (photo above). According to staff, the slide had to be replaced. This was because a playground safety standard specified that all slides had to have a 2 metre run off, and this slide did not. Unfortunately, given the age of the module (at the end of its EUL) a suitably sized slide could not be found, so the entire module would have to be replaced (a $15,000 cost). The report also noted that the module had come to the “end of the asset life”. For these reasons, staff supported the assets total replacement.

This was also the first time staff had raised the issue of the slide (with me). Which was rather perplexing, given I had been engaged in extensive discussions about the park equipment leading up to this meeting. And at no time had staff raised the issue of a slide? Rather it had always been the rail track and spinner (turn-style).

I did not agree with the slide replacement. In my opinion, if there was a safety standard that staff had to adhere too, then the most cost effective solution was to remove the slide. Replacing the whole module because of a single slide made no sense.

From my own observations, it appeared that very few children (if any) appeared to used the junior module or its slide (top picture). Instead young parents and children preferred to use the other larger module, which also had a slide (see photo below). Yes, this park has two slides.

 

IMG_1216

It subsequently came to my attention (on making further enquiries after the meeting) that the standard was not a mandatory standard. In effect, staff were not compelled to adhere to the standard. The fact the standard was not mandatory was not disclosed in the meeting. A rather glaring omission, in my opinion.

According to a guide on the standard (see www.playgrounds.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Playground-People-PinkBook.pdf), it states:

NZS 5828:2004 is not retrospective or, currently, as with previous standards, a legal requirement but represents “best practice” in the event of an accident claims. Their limitations should be recognised: mere compliance will not automatically create a safe playground. Like previous playground standards they are intended to be used intelligently.

If the standard is not mandatory (or a legal requirement), why are we blindly adhereing to it? Especially when there have been no reported incidents from having a short run-off on the slide? I suspect there is an element of over zealous risk management going on here.

In my opinion it would appear staff were running scared of the presence of a standard (or using it to justify replacement expenditure). I suspect staff reasoning was partially influenced by EUL and concern that if there was an accident, the fact we did not abide by a (non-mandatory) standard might expose council (and staff) to potential liability.

In my opinion, such an approach fails to take into account the fact that standards are generally evidentiary in nature, and this one was not even mandatory. As such, other evidence could be called upon to show risk was appropriately managed.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (at www.dol.govt.nz/publications/nohsac/reviewefficacy/008_content.asp):

Codes of practice ‘approved’ or otherwise officially ‘made’ under OHS legislation have a quasi-legal status. At a minimum, they are evidentiary, and legislation provides for their use as evidence in Court.

However, they are not legally binding. They provide guidance about an acceptable way (or ways) to comply with an OHS statute (or regulations), but there is the option to devise alternative ways of satisfying legal obligations. Voluntary codes and non-statutory guidance material are also flexible instruments that provide advice but they have a less formal status.

Adherence to a standard is just one aspect of establishing unreasonable risk taking (and that all practicable steps had been taken to avoid unreasonable risk). Additional evidence, like the playground (in particular the slide) not having any accidents, in its entire 25 year life, would (in my opinion) be a valid consideration. Remembering that this related to a slide run off (worst case, a sore bottom)?

When one looks at the slide (image at the top of this post) it’s fairly evident that staff are over-reacting to safety concerns from a short run off at the end of the slide. Leaving aside the fact that  the slide has no recorded accidents, and is not particularly long, so its doubtful a child could get up much speed to slide off the end with any force? One also needs to remember that the standard is not intended to be retrospective anyway? Which means it is not intended to apply to older equipment installed before the standard was released, only new equipment.

Staff also pointed to safety concerns of the “turn-style”. The initial report identified this required the replacement of its bearings and the fact it had come to the end of its life (ie EUL). Staff also highlighted that a child had been injured on a similar piece of equipment (in a similar condition) in Invercargill, and therefore it also had to be replaced. No other items were discussed or highlighted for replacement.

Again, the fact there had never been an incident on the Harriet Park turn-style (in its 15 years, and in its current state), was given no consideration. Nor the fact it would be repaired so that it would be in a different state to the one in Invercargill.

It was also not made clear if there was any liability for the Invercargill council arising from the accident (which I suspect there was not). Causation is hard to prove at the best of times, and accidents happen. In my mind, the turn-style should have been either fixed or removed, but not replaced. Again, I favoured removal (if there was any doubt).

At the conclusion of the staff’s presentation, Cr Dowler supported the staff’s recommendation. Pointing out several other features that he considered were unsafe (none of which had been identified in the professional report). In my mind, this was just another example of a councillor reverting to unsupportable arguments to support (and rubber stamp) their endorsement of staff proposals.

Cr Norris also became quite irritated that ward business had been brought to the committee table. I pointed out to him that it had been brought before the ward councillors at the earliest opportunity (as well as to alert other councillors about the possibility of unnecessary replacement spending occurring in their own Ward RFC accounts), and I was only too happy to discuss the issue at the conclusion of the meeting. Cr Mirfin supported this option.

However, the chair (Cr Edgar) did not, and called for an immediate resolution to support the staff’s recommended spending (as approved by herself and Cr Higgins). I voted against the resolution and lost (with no support from any other councillors).

Having spoken to a number of people at the park, on the occasions I have visited, it is apparent that the community do not want vast sums of money spent on the park and were open to equipment being removed if it became dangerous. In the opinion of one resident, the equipment did not need to be replaced, and “there was already enough equipment to play on”. Another resident thought it was an over-reaction and agreed other solutions (removal or soft padding near the end of the slide) should have been explored by staff first.

In my opinion, this is another example of wasteful spending, both initially proposed by staff, and subsequently endorsed by the majority of councillors. In my opinion, a number of councillors are out of touch with the community they are suppose to be representing.

Some people have suggested that not spending money on a park is more newsworthy than over-spending on a park. I disagree. Council had the opportunity to demonstrate it was working hard to save money. The items driving replacement of the entire module (ie the slide) did not need to be replaced. And if it did, the slide could have been easily removed. Instead council governance (and staff) choose to spend.

In my opinion, this reflects a culture of some long established council members, who are only to keen to rubber stamp spending. That culture needs to change. Perhaps it will only change if council is refreshed with new representatives and leadership.

One final point. While these RFC funds are held in a closed account, that does not mean they should be wasted. Funds saved now, can be used for other worthwhile community projects at a later date (for example, improved public toilets or more toilets). Its about getting the most from the assets (and funds) we have. Rather than spending it, because we have it.

[Update: At the time of writing this post, the small module had still not been replaced. Here’s hoping the decision can be revisited (or stalled by more sensible members of staff). Lets keep our costs (and rates) down].

Community development activities

The manager’s report highlighted the following activities:

  • Velodrome. The Saxton Velodrome trust had raised $250,000 of the $320,000 it had to raise (as part of its 20% share of the cost).
  • Golden bay recreation facility. The building contract was awarded to Gibbons construction with a completion date of October 2016. This meant that the tender panel (comprising Cr Edgar and Cr Norris) had also agreed that the in-kind contribution had been fulfilled. A condition of the approval was confirmation that the community could fund their portion of the constructions cost. Plans can be viewed on: www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/completed-consultations/2014-consultations/feedback-form-golden-bay-community-recreation-facility-concept-plan/.
  • Events. In Your neighbourhood (at Easby Park, Richmond) was held on 1 November 2015. The event was internally managed and cost $500 (flyers), plus $200 (port-a-loo), plus staff time (leave in lieu). The event show cases council activities (including cycling safety) as well as volunteer groups. Having attended the event, I thought it was a good way for council to engage with residents.
  • Mudcakes and roses survey. Staff conducted a survey about this publication. Less than 60 people responded. 55 liked the publication, 8 neutral and 2 didn’t like it. The publication has a print run of 3,500 copies (800 copies go to NCC and 150 to Nelson library). It is published every 2-months (6 issues a year). Print and production costs are roughly $8,700 per issue (roughly $50,000 per year). The net cost (after advertising and NCC grants) is around $5,200 per issue ($31,000 per year). The low feedback given the print run, suggests the publication readership is not high (and probably very marginal). The survey results (hardly within a margin of statistical significance) showed the events section was the most popular. This suggests that the events section needs to be migrated to another source (eg www.itson.co.nz and\or age concern’s own publication, and\or public notice boards). Given this publication did not get a lot of support during the LTP consultation (several submissions suggesting it should be terminated) would suggest its time to end this publication and save some money. I again stressed at the meeting that staff should consider terminating this publication. Other councilors were ambivalent. Staff advised that they will instead consider the survey results in order to develop a range of options for delivering information to older residents. In my opinion, more staff time wasted.
  • Contracts. A new management contract is currently being considered by the recreation centre committee. In my opinion, a standard templated contract approach is highly desirable, given the issues with council contracts in the past (eg the mayor signing a contract without specifying a price). Why the mayor never challenged such a contract is incomprehensible? Wellington city council have a series of standard template contracts (see www.wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/selling-products-and-services/WCC-Services-Contract-Template-July-2014.pdf), which appear based on government templated contracts (see www.business.govt.nz/procurement/for-agencies/government-model-contracts).
  • Online payments. A number of services are now able to be paid and received remotely via receipt of online payments (see www.tasman.govt.nz/services/make-a-payment/).
  • Aquatic and fitness centre. The September 2015 report showed patronage of 25,576.
  • Public engagement. Staff forecast that the number of engagement exercises is “only going to grow”. Staff are exploring new ways to engage with the public given public meetings as an engagement vehicle are diminishing in popularity.
  • Libraries. New online paperless registration process for new borrowers started from 1 December 2015. Around 195 new borrowers are registered each month. No trend reports were included in the agenda.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-12-10.

Community development meeting (29 October)

The community development committee meeting was held on 29 October 2015. All councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) chairs report, (2) community development (managers) activity report, (3) reserves and facilities work plan, (4) library (manager) activity report, and (5) customer services (manager) activities report. A presentation was received from the Moutere Hills community centre. A late item was also received, relating to the appointment of a hearing panel to consider Fearons Bush lease application.

Most of the reports were information only updates, with a decision required for the appointment of councillors to the Wakefield and Mapua district health centres and hearing panel. All rather straight forward.

There were no presentations from the public forum.

Minutes

While the open meeting minutes (for the 17 September 2015 meeting) were approved, I proposed the addition of the following words to the minutes of the (in committee) agenda item relating to Rainbow Ski field (which was subsequently made public by resolution). The additional words were:

In response to repeated questions regarding the estimated cost of generating subsequent reports, Mr Tregurtha advised that the estimated cost of generating a report, similar to the one before council, would be approximately $10,000 per report.

I proposed this addition because there was no reference in the in-committee minutes to the cost of reports – which was a material element in the (cost\benefit) debate about whether council should remit the outstanding loans. Usually changes to the minutes are accepted without much debate. However, in this instance they were placed on the wide screen for general discussion after returning from morning tea.

After returning from morning tea, I noticed that the words “repeatedly” and “per report” were removed from the above sentence. I noted their absence and was informed that: (1) the word “repeatedly” was not normally used, and (2) the manager disputed that it was $10,000 per report, but instead $10,000 for all subsequent reports.

My memory of the discussion, was the staff member was asked repeatedly what the cost of the report before council was, given he had suggested it would be the same cost for each of the subsequent reports. I also questioned that conclusion, because any subsequent reports would surely have leveraged off the report currently before council. However, staff remained adamant that their assessment of costs was correct.

With the chairs support, the manager asked that my proposed addition to the minutes be deferred until the next community development meeting, so that the staff member (currently on leave) could be consulted.

Chairs report

Golden Bay (Takaka) recreation centre

I do not usually discuss the chairs report as there is not much in them. However, I did want to take the opportunity to confirm if $400,000 of in-kind contributions were received, before the tender to construct the Golden Bay recreation centre was authorised. I had asked this question, as it did not appear to have been disclosed in any reports.

By way of brief background, the tender could not be approved until the community had secured an $800,000 contribution. At the last community development meeting, the committee had approved the receipt of a $400,000 in kind contribution (supported by written promissory notes).

The chair confirmed that a binding $400,000 in-kind contribution had been received in writing, so that the community had successfully met its total contribution of $800,000.

Councillor updates

Councillors were invited to provide updates of interest or other matters. I raised two matters:

  • New Zealand Initiative – creating regional prosperity. I advised the committee that I had attended the New Zealand Iniitiative’s launch of their report called “In the Zone: Creating a Toolbox for regional prosperity” on 19 October 2015 in Wellington (at no cost to ratepayers). The report made for interesting reading with one of the main recommendations suggesting the creation of special economic zones to promote growth in the regions. A copy of the document can be located at http://nzinitiative.org.nz/site/nzinitiative/files/In%20the%20Zone%20WEB.pdf (see also TV One’s Q&A item at www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0fQlI_gPjw).
  • Trans-Tasman Golf and Croquet Test Series. I advised council that I had been invited to attend the opening of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Golf and Croquet Test Series being held in Nelson on 20 November 2015. Another national event being held in the region, that has great potential.

Community development activity report

The report provided the following highlights:

  • Wakefield and Maoua health centres: The Wakefield health centre will be changing to an incorporated trust and the need for a council representative will no longer be required. Accordingly, at the time that the trust is formed Cr Bryant will no longer be a liaison representative. Cr Norris was reappointed the liaison representative for the Mapua health centre.
  • Aquatic centre: For the July 2015 period, number were down from the same time last year. Total patronage was 22,900 (including 5563 visits for the gym). I asked that comparative data for the 2014 to 2012 periods also be provided in reports, so that council can be aware of any trends.
  • Golden Bay recreation centre: Three design and build tenders were received. Tenders were subject to a weighted attributes scoring system. Gibbons Construction was awarded the contract subject to a few minor modifications. Construction is expected to start in February 2016.
  • Community relations: Christmas events are currently being planned. A guide to summer services is being scoped. An event was held at Easby park in Richmond (near Selbourne Avenue) as part of the “in your neighbourhood” pilot programme (see http://nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/11/neighbourhood-event-success/). I attended this event and had the opportunity to talk with a number of residents. As well as welcome a few new residents to the Richmond community.

I noted in the chair’s report that “all three tenders that were received were of a very high standard and within budget”. Accordingly, I asked the question, whether the lowest cost option per square metre had been selected by the tenders panel, or whether other considerations were taken into account?

I was advised that the lowest cost per square metre tender had not been selected as the successful tender, and that other weighted considerations (outlined in the tender document) were also taken into consideration when selecting the successful tender. In my opinion, council should have opted for the lowest cost per square metre option, and worked with the tenderer to make minor modifications so as to improve the layout of the centre. This would not have been hard to do. And if those suggestions had increased costs, they could have fallen back on the next best priced tender.

I also asked whether any savings from the construction project would be apportioned on a contributor basis (council contributed $3.2 million and ratepayers $800,000). I was advised that any savings would be apportioned on such a basis, should they arise.

Reserves and facilities work plan

The report provided a summary of the department’s work plan for reserves. For Richmond, this included: (1) new training lights at Jubilee park, (2) updated equipment at Chelsea Avenue park, (3) investigation of new toilets at Ben Cooper park, (4) new signage at Richmond cemetery, (5) new mountain bike tracks at Dellside reserve, (6) repainting of Busch reserve toilets, (7) Saxton field projects (including Avery toilets and the velodrome). Plus an upgrade of all reserve lighting to LEDs.

I raise my concerns over the replacement of the Chelsea Avenue park equipment. In my opinion, there did not appear to be any equipment in need of replacement (see photos below). However, if there was, then I suggested that the park was adequately provided for and that any damaged equipment should be removed, rather than replaced. I also asked staff to be kept in the loop in regard to any proposed work in this area. Staff advised that an audit report had identified issues. I requested a copy of the report, amnd and at the time of writing this report, I am still waiting for a copy. In the interim I have circulated photos of the park equipment to Richmond ward councillors. In my opinion, the equipment is fine and in the words of one local mother “all it needs is a lick of paint and some oil”. I agree.

Playground equipment is not cheap. In my opinion, council is very quick to spend ratepayer funds on upgrading equipment, when it does not need replacement. Similar problems were identified with the manner in which our roads were re-sealed or upgraded. Savings have since been made in the roads team, through smarter management of assets.

I also wonder if playgrounds (and their equipment) should be consolidated. Council spends a lot of money maintaining the numerous pocket parks council has acquired over the years. Some parks are only separated by streets. For example Norm Large Park is across the road from Ben Cooper, and Chelsea Avenue Park is a mere 3 min walk from Ben Cooper. Consolidating parks would enable funds to be used in the acquisition of larger parks or retire debt. Consolidating parks would also reduce maintenance costs.

Pictures of Chelsea Avenue park equipment

IMG_0927 IMG_0928 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933 IMG_0934 IMG_0935 IMG_0936 IMG_0937 IMG_0938 IMG_0939 IMG_0940

Library activity report

The report provided the following highlights:

  • RFID installation: A new issuing and stock management system (currently bar codes) will be completed by June 2016. The new technology will enable more efficient management of stock as well as the provision of new online services.
  • Personalised service:  A new service that offers one-on-one help for customers using library resources (mainly computer or online resources) has begun.
  • Events: September and october events included technology workshops and school holiday programmes.
  • Key statistics: visitor numbers (110,479)  were 2.7% lower in September 2015, than the same time last year (mainly in Motueka). Online visits continue to increase (5,943 visits) 10.4%, than the same time last year. Issued items (52,971 items) in September increased 2.4% compared to the same time last year. Total issues for the year (162,331) increased 1.9% compared to last year. Physical audio items increased 1.3% for the July to September period. Takaka and Motueka increasing by 3.5%, and Richmond decreasing 2.2%. Ebook and e-audio items (3,744) increased 39% for the quarter (and now comprise 2% of total library issues). Active members total 23,516.

Customer services activities report

The customer services team provide phone and reception counter support. The teams work for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 is illustrated below. This included converting a paper based system to a digital process (utilising Manymaps software for LIM reports).

Request for service and land information (1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015)

ComDev20151029-CustServ1

A recent review of the team structure and functions has involved a shift towards a more flexible work approach between normal customer service work and property (land information) records. This has resulted in team members from customer services team undertaking scanning work (for the records team) when they are not undertaking normal customer service duties.

Moutere Hills community centre

Council were advised that the addition of the community fitness centre (fully funded by the community) had exceeded participation expectations, with 119 active members as at 14 October 2015 (see www.mouterehills.org.nz).

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-10-29.

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.

 

The Annual Plan – Full Council meetings (30 May, 5 June, and 30 June)

A full council meeting was held on 30 May 2014 and subsequently carried over to 5 June 2014. There were no apologies for the 30 May meeting. However, apologies from Cr Canton were received for the 5 June meeting.  The annual plan was then finalised by full council at the 30 June 2014 meeting.

The 30 May full council meeting was the official meeting to discuss the final cut of the 2014-15 annual plan and any expenditure that would be undertaken (or not) during that year. And an opportunity to take on board feedback on the draft annual plan circulated earlier in the year to the community. The agenda was to consider the following big items: Motueka library, Golden Bay service centres, Golden Bay recreation centre, Tourism funding, and Cycle trail extension – as separate resolutions, with a single resolution for all the other items.

However, before this meeting, several workshops had already been held in the preceding weeks to consider submissions, debate the issues, reconsider positions, and provide the opportunity for like minded councillors (or blocks of councilors) to strike any deals. Therefore, this meeting was to a large extent a formality, but for some councilors like myself, it was also the last opportunity to convince others around the table to change their minds.

Day One – the debt grenade

The full council meeting on Friday (30 May) was to be the big day when we would confirm council’s expenditure program for the forthcoming financial year. Things began, as outlined in the meeting agenda, with the Motueka library proposal leading the discussion.

Motueka library

All councillors were in support of removing the $1 million refurbishment of the Motueka library from the draft annual plan. Why it was ever included in the draft annual plan remains a mystery to me – given the lack of support it had around the council table before the draft annual plan was released. Yet the majority of councilors still voted for it to be included in the draft annual plan. Yet here we were, listening to the same arguments and now agreeing to remove it. Was it’s inclusion in the draft annual plan (and eventual removal in the final plan) just a straw-man for something else?

I for one, thought it should have been removed form the draft annual plan (and deferred for consideration in the long term plan), in the same manner the Golden Bay recreation centre was. This would provide the community a transparent and clear direction from council about what projects were to be deferred, and importantly, why.

Generally, the argument around the table during pre-draft annual plan workshops was that a redeveloped hub in Motueka (that included a service centre, library, and other council services) in one location on Decks reserve, was the way to go. I certainly agree with that direction, as it consolidates overhead costs for a number of council services. But the archilles heel for the hub project was its cost. It was just too expensive, at a time when council needed to be taking stock of its debt position. In my mind, the time was not right to undertake such a project and the prudent step was to consider this project (and others, like the Golden Bay recreation facility) as part of a longer term strategy.

The alternative to the hub concept was to invest $1 million in a refurbishment of the existing Motueka library – that included minor expansion of space and earthquake strengthening. This was the proposal that eventually made its way into the draft annual plan. However, on the day, councilors agreed that this work was also not a good idea. It was felt that the earthquake work would not be required given the governments announcements that it was reducing the earthquake strengthening standard from 66% to 34%. Furthermore, some councilors around the table felt that investing any more funds into a building that was on leased land, was not desirable.

Rather it was better to invest any funds in a hub concept on land owned by council. Finally, it had been noted in earlier reports to council that book useage at the Motueka library was in decline and the use of web based services (eg ebooks) was trending upwards. In light of this trend it was unclear whether the pressure on space within the library was also in decline – and perhaps more time was required to see how this trend would impact on future spacial needs. Accordingly, it was decided to reduce funding from $1 million to $76,000 to allow for any earthquake strengthening work required.

In my opinion the inclusion of the $1 million refurbishment of the Motueka library in the draft annual plan (and its eventual removal in the final annual plan) was a $1 million straw-man for other items to be kept or included in the final annual plan (eg the Golden Bay recreation centre). This is because some around the council table considered that the removal of the library (and deferment of the service centre) gave them room to do other projects within the existing budgeted program of expenditure. And as observed above, the inclusion in the draft annual plan of a refurbished Motueka library had little support during earlier workshops.

If I had been forced to chose between a $3 million Motueka hub concept and $3.5 million Golden Bay recreation centre, I probably would have chosen the hub concept. Why? Because the Golden Bay recreation centre still had a number of years of good service left within it. If we could sweat our roads (eg, defer maintenance of roads in the annual plan), we could easily sweat a recreation centre for a few more years. Furthermore, during an inspection of the recreation centre we were told that the main concerns with the centre were access to showers from the visitor changing sheds (which currently involved a toweled walk to the showers) and the closure of the grandstand (on the roof of the centre) due to earthquake risk. Both minor inconveniences and costs. Finally, some in the Golden Bay community also did not support another recreation facility if it added more debt. In contrast, the Motueka hub concept provided service improvements and potential operational cost savings.

A debt grenade

After consideration of the Motueka library refurbishment, the finance manager was invited to make a presentation on our financial (and debt) position in light of council’s intended expenditure program. This was to be a later item in the agenda.

During this presentation, the finance manager informed council that due to the 2014-15 annual plan being the last year of the previous long term plan, all outstanding capital projects (eg work that had yet to start or had not been completed) would have to be recognised in the 2014-15 financial accounts. This would also provide a clear financial position when considering the next long term plan.

Basically, council had committed to $20 million of capital expenditure in earlier years that would be catching up with the council’s balance sheet in the 2014-15 year. In effect, around $9 million dollars of debt funded capital works that had yet to completed would be added to the 2014-15 financial accounts.

Some councillors were quite shell shocked by this apparent increase in the council’s debt position. Although others recognised that this was actually debt funded expenditure that council had already undertaken to spend in earlier years. At this point the mayor asked that the meeting be suspended until the financial implications of the debt could be analysed. Subsequently, the revised (and very real) debt position was reported in the media (see Waimea Weekly. see “Shock as $18M blow-out found” (4 June 2014) http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040614/1?e=1913941/8122090).

The reality was that the council’s closing debt position, based on forecasted opening debt (of $167 million) would be higher than forecast in the draft annual plan. However, due to the forecast of $167 million being higher than actual debt of $148 million, the increase in recognised debt meant that the forecasted closing debt position would remain close to what was forecasted (around $173 million).

The reality was that our debt was still going up. It’s just the forecasted increase from $167 million to $173 million (a $6 million increase) would instead go up from $148 million to $171 million (a $23 million increase).

In both scenarios, new debt increases by approximately $6 million. That’s the real figure to watch. As is the closing debt position – which will translate into increasing interest payments.

A figure we cannot afford. At a time when we should be trying to minimise debt funding so we can begin to turn the debt funding of council activities around. We already spend $8 million a year in interest payments. Thats three community recreation centres a year!! Thats why I could not at this time support any debt funding of assets that are not critical.

Sorry Golden Bay, but getting our debt under control has to come first, and saving $3.5 million is an easy first win that would have made a sizeable dent in a very large debt ship that we have to begin turning around. Adding $3.5 million of fuel to an “interest repayment” fire just makes no sense to me especially when we not under any real pressure to replace the recreation centre. Finally, in my opinion, more pressing issues (like storm water) required council funds before we could spend money on recreational facilities.

If anyone tells you we do not have a debt problem they are deluded. We have got to stop spending on the nice to have items to ensure we have the head room to turn around our dependence on debt funding, preserve our credit rating, and ensure we spend our money on the more pressing priorities (like storm water). That should have started now. Alas, its been kicked for touch till next year.

Day two – a fait compli

Council reconevened on Tuesday (5 June 2014) to move through the remaining items on the agenda. Apologies were received from Cr Inglis and Cr Canton. All other councillors were present. By this time, the shock of the debt had lulled and many councillors felt that it was just funds moving around on paper. But as I alluded to above, the reality is that council debt was increasing by a further $6 million.

Golden Bay service centre

The draft annual plan proposed adding just under $1 million dollars to the 2013-14 annual plan for a rebuild of the council service centre.

This building was a council services building used by council staff and for the public to make enquiries, pay rates, and obtain resource consent information. The building is located on crown granted land. If the land is not used for council purposes, it will revert back to the crown. Staff were removed from the building when it was identified as earthquake prone (eg, below the approved 66% earthquake compliance requirement). Accordingly, staff were shifted to a temporary building, opposite the back of the Motueka public library.

This left the council with several options: (1) refurbish the service centre so its 66% earthquake compliant costing $380k, (2) rebuild a new centre for no more than $1 million, or (3) relocate the service centre to another location – either the library or information centre. Added to the decision mix were several additional considerations. First, the council could receive additional insurance funds if it included a commercial space in any rebuild. Second, any relocation would require additional expenditure of expensive fibre for sending data to the service centre. This effectively ruled out relocation.

In terms of a rebuild it was argued that there was little financial difference in cost for a new build and any refurbishment that met the 66% earthquake standard. Especially if the new build would enable a commercial space to be added that would be partially funded by the additional insurance and future rental income.

However, there was a larger financial difference if the refurbishment was only required to meet a 34% earthquake standard. The expected cost would probably be something less than $380k. Given the government had announced a forthcoming change in the earthquake standard (from 66% to 34%), it was felt that the financial argument for a rebuild did not stack up, and earthquake strengthening to a 34% standard was the more cost effective option. Accordingly, the project was deferred to the long term plan for further consideration and no budget for a rebuild was required in the 2014-15 annual plan.

I think this was a very sensible financial decision. And one that perhaps preserves the heritage value of the building. And due credit also to the Golden Bay councilors (Cr Sangster and Cr Bouillir) moving the change to the draft annual plan. Although I also appreciate this was a tactical concession to get the Golden Bay recreation centre across the line.

Yes, it would mean that staff would have to continue to operate from a very small temporary space – but only for another year or two. In my opinion, there is also still scope for some functions (not all) to be moved to the library, so that only planning functions operate from the temporary building. This might alleviate in the short term some of the spacial pressure. However, that is for a future discussion.

Moving forward, the council will be investigating how much refurbishment work is required to meet a 34% compliance requirement so staff can return quickly to their former building.

Golden Bay community centre (or recreation centre)

This proposal sought the replacement (and upgrade) of the existing rugby clubrooms and squash courts. The upgrade also proposed the addition of net ball courts. The co ncept and plans can be viewed on the councils website (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/recently-closed-consultations/feedback-form-golden-bay-community-recreation-facility-concept-plan/).

I attribute its demise in the draft plan on the finance manager’s presentation to councilors on our debt position just before it was considered. And Cr Higgins vigerous support of that message. That presentation emphasised the cost of adding any more debt funded programs to the council books.

We also heard that there was no legal obligation on council to provide a recreation centre in Golden Bay. In effect, the inclusion of a new recreation centre was a luxury that we did not have to commit to in the next financial year. We could take a “tea break” and consolidate our financial position. Rather than rush in, we could take the time to improve our financial position before embarking on any more projects.

Shifting the recreation centre to the long term plan would also give the Golden Bay community more time to raise the necessary finance while signaling the project had not been forgotten. We just needed time to sort out the councils finances first. All very rational and prudent.

However, in my opinion, the reality was that the inclusion of the Golden Bay recreation centre (together with other items) in substitution of the Motueka library was a missed opportunity to reduce debt at a time when interest rates are going up. The time to spend on nice to have items (like recreation centres), is when interest rates are low or trending downward. Not when they are trending up or when the demand (and price) for builders and contractors will be high as the Christchurch rebuild gathers stream.

While I appreciate that the councils commitment was changed from $3.5 million to $3.2 million (a $300k reduction). It still commits council to debt that in my opinion was unnecessary to commit to, when were are also starring down the barrel of a Dam proposal, as well as a strain on our storm water infrastructure, as rainfalls are projected to increase due to climate change.

At this point I note a recent article in the Nelson mail on stormwater (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10236222/Flooding-battle-to-cost-millions). In that article it was stated that storm water and flood protection would mean more borrowing and more debt. In my opinion, this misrepresents the debate. The tension is not between addressing storm water issues and debt, it is between addressing storm water issues and spending money on other nice to have projects. Its a question of prioritising spending. Surely protecting peoples homes, comes before building recreation facilities?

As a community we band together to protect one another during a crisis. Mitigating the potential cost to the community of a major flood (not to mention the risk of potential insurance fee hikes or non-insurance, as well as litigation risk for council) surely warrants the investment. Not to mention removing the unnecessary worry ratepayers have whenever there is a major rainfall event. This is a political decision and the community need to speak up.

If Champion Rd can have Q100 storm water solution why can’t the other three or four hotspots in Richmond. For example, the Hart Rd\Bateup Rd intersection which receives rainfall from the higher Richmond south developments and was under water during the last three heavy rainfall events since 2011. Or the cemetery dam overflow (at the back of the Richmond cemetery), that nearly overflowed were it not for the valiant mid-night efforts or nearby residents removing flood debris from storm water grills – averting what could have been a major disaster for homes below the cemertery.

Finally, while the Golden Bay recreation centre will only add another $1 million of debt to the 2014-15 plan, the proposal is funded across two years. This means that council has already committed to the remaining $2 million of debt in the 2016-17 year. This places another road block in prioritising available funds on storm water in future years. And the overall increase in debt remains the same $3.2 million.

For the record, Cr Murfin and I opposed this expenditure. Cr Norris also voted against the amended resolution, although he voted against it on the basis it should have remained at $3.5 million.

Tourism

This issue has generated a lot of confusion – and it has not been helped by poor communication of what council (or at least some councilors) set out to do – which was to review the return on investment from tourism funding. I’ve discussed this issue in earlier posts so I will not revisit the debate. However, the outcome of the annual plan puts in place funding for destination tourism for the 2014-15 year, with some incentive for the relevant stakeholders to resolve future funding before the end of this year.

Great Taste Trail (or cycle trail extension)

This proposal sought to build the next planned segment of the trail beyond Wakefield. During workshops leading up to the draft annual plan being finalised, many councillors were opposed to this proposal on the basis of the ongoing operational costs council would be exposed too against the limited financial return it might offer Wakefield businesses. However, the Mayor suggested that if he could secure 50% government funding would councilors support the cycle trail being added to the draft annual plan. On that basis it got support during the workshops. However, between the workshop and the proposed resolution, the funding source got widened to include other third parties (potentially including institutions that might received council grants).

To reinforce councils commitment that funding the cycle trail extension was only on the basis of government funding, and not from another entity that might be indirectly funded by council grants, I moved that the last three words of the resolution be removed – namely “or another third party”. Unfortunately, I received no support for this amendment and it was defeated.

Everything else (including the Mapua development)

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the $1.2 million Mapua development was lumped into the fill-a-buster resolution – together with 70 other items for consideration.

As it was part of a single resolution, you had to either support the resolution or not. This meant that disagreement with one of the 70+ items meant you had to vote the whole resolution down, or note your dissent on any of the 70+ items being considered. For example, the $1.2 million Mapua development proposal.

I had thought given a number of residents raised concerns about this item, the level of general public interest, the size of the investment, and the fact the cycle trail (involving only $300k) had received a separate resolution, that the Mpaua development proposal would also have been separated out from the rest of the items, that were less controversial. However, the Mayor (who is responsible for setting the agenda) preferred to leave it in amongst the rest. However, as concession the Mayor allowed councillors to note their disapproval of any single item – which I chose to do – rather than seek to separate the item from the main resolution.

By way of a brief background, the Mapua development initiative proposes to build on the former acquarium site. Two build options were outlined by a WHK report. The first was a container option (similar to the one used in Christchurch) for around $100k. The second was a standard build for $1.2 million. This would be partially debt funded. A third option was to just lease the land and let a developer build and lease any new building.

In my opinion, its not for council to seek more equity from ratepayers in order to embark on new commercial activities. If ratepayers want to invest their money in new commercial activities they should not be compelled to do it through increases in rates. And lets be frank, thats what is being proposed.

I also do not believe it is for council to attempt to control what businesses operate in the Mapua precinct other than by regulations. That is for the market to decide. If there are undesirable businesses, they can be controlled through regulations, not buying up all the buildings so the council becomes the sole lease holder of the entire precinct. However, if councilors want to employ a strategy of ownership, then they should be doing it for the least cost.

In my mind the container option would achieve the desired outcomes in a more cost effective manner, as well as bringing back a buzz to the Mapua precinct, in the same way it has happened in Christchurch (see http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/49798/ and http://www.china.org.cn/photos/2011-12/04/content_24070673_3.htm). The added benefit of a container development is that it would reduce the lease costs for tenants while providing a very efficient space to operate their businesses from.

Arguments have been made around small space a container would offer, but the type of family businesses some councillors seek to retain in the precinct could easily operate from smaller spaces – as is the case in Wellington. Although I should add containers can be made into larger spaces (as the pictures of the ChCh precinct show). A container development would also allow more space for public seating which is at a premium in this area. After staff costs, lease costs are a major hurdle for start-up businesses, especially craft businesses. A container development would provide opportunities for new businesses to establish themselves. Surely this is a good thing.

An argument was advanced by staff that the $1.2 million should remain in the budget so that full council could at least consider whether the proposal had merit. If it was removed, council could not consider whether the proposal had any merit. In my mind, council should have nipped the project in the bud then rather than waste any further effort by staff. However, that argument found favour and the majority of councillors (but not all).

In my mind, expenditure of $1.2 million (or for that matter anything above $200k) that would require more debt funding, did not have any merit. Accordingly, I voted against it and noted my dissent on the item.

 Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes for the annual plan are found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-05-30 and http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-06-30.

Newspapers

http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/media-centre/news/minimising-the-impact-on-ratepayers-remains-a-major-focus/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10227950/Final-decision-on-rates-plan

http://nelsonweekly.co.nz/funding-cut-to-cycle-trail/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10018498/Tasman-to-tackle-debt-crisis

“Shock as $18M blow-out found” (4 June 2014) http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040614/1?e=1913941/8122090

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9828399/Tasman-rates-to-rise-up-to-3-5pc

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10236222/Flooding-battle-to-cost-millions