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).
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?
Council resolved to make the following appointments to community (based on the mayor’s recommendations):
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
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
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-entities, www.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.
The community development committee meeting was held on 21 April 2016. Apologies were received from Mayor Kempthorne, Cr Ensor, Cr Bouillir and Cr Mirfin. All other councillors were present.
The agenda included: (1) Chair’s report, (2) Tasman logo, and (3) Community development activity report. A confidential (in-committee) session was held in relation to (1) Wakefield pensioner housing, and (2) receipt of the Rainbow Sport Club (ski field) confidential presentation on their financial situation and the matter of their outstanding council loan repayments.
Tim Gladstone (on behalf of Target Shooting Nelson) asked for funding assistance for their proposed new range on Saxton field. The club have raised funding of $373,500 for this facility but have a total shortfall of $82,000 (including geotech work, contingencies and Nelson City Council/Development Impact Levies).
A new TDC logo
Council resolved to adopt and gradually roll-out (as equipment, signage, and vehicles are replaced) the new 2013 revised single colour (blue) TDC logo, as time, resources, and budgets allow. The council’s direction was to ensure the “lowest cost” roll out of the brand change.
The council currently has 2 logos that it uses for its signage and stationery – one multi-coloured version (developed in 2008) and the other being the single colour (blue) version developed in 2013 (at a cost of around $430), during my time on the now dis-established communications subcommittee. The purpose of the single colour version was to enable in-house printing of documents (and invoices), at substantially lower cost, than ordering pre-printed full colour letter headed paper (see earlier posts at www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/communications-subcommittee-27-march and www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/communications-subcommittee-10-december).
Community development activity report
The committee resolved to receive the report. Highlights from the manager’s report included:
- Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility. The contractor had to stop work a few weeks ago on the Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility due to a large soft spot being found under where the building is to be constructed. The contractor’s engineers have assessed the problem and identified a potential solution.
- Aquatic and Fitness Centre. Heating panels in the sauna failed recently. The panels have been overheating and scorching the timber behind them. Aquatic Centre staff have kept the sauna closed since this incident and have had the old panels replaced with a greater gap between them and the timber behind them. The suppliers advise that the panels only have an expected life of 5 to 6 years.
- Rabbit Island/Moturoa Reserve Management Plan. Staff completed work on the Draft Rabbit Island/Moturoa Reserve Management Plan (RMP) to be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Committee following the Corporate Services meeting on 5 May 2016.
- Fees and charges. Submissions on the Schedule of Fees and Charges closed on 31 March 2016. One submission was received in relation to increasing scrap metal charges at our recycling centres. No detail was included in the submission. Therefore, a hearing is not required and staff will be bringing a report back to Full Council on 12 May 2016 to adopt the Schedule of Charges.
- Solid waste (landfill). Following on from your decisions at Full Council on 3 March 2016, staff have established a joint venture project team and are currently working to establish the joint venture agreement for the landfill operations – including the structure and responsibilities.
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). During March TDC undertook a selection process to select a vendor for the installation of RFID in the libraries. The vendor selected was FE Technology (an Australian company).
- Health and safety. Contractors have installed the new security cameras in the Richmond Library. Duress alarms have also been acquired for library staff working front of house.
The committee resolved to receive the report. Highlights from the report include:
- Community Awards. The ceremony would be changed to an afternoon, on the same day as a council meeting, to facilitate and encourage attendance by councillors. However, only the Mayor, Cr Canton, Cr Inglis, Cr Higgins and myself attended?
- Richmond SmartWeek. This is being partnered with Tasman District Libraries, and will include a week of activities, seminars and workshops run across different venues in Richmond. I attended the opening breakfast session held at the Wooden Spoon cafe, and a workshop at the library. In my feedback, I suggested they run a session on Google docs as this might be a useful application for clubs and not-for-profits.
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/2016/2016-04-21.
The corporate services committee meeting was held on 11 February 2016. A workshop on the Rabbit Island Management plan followed. As well as a discussion of Richmond’s RFC (reserve financial contributions) spending. Apologies were received from Cr Mirfin, with the mayor appearing late. Some councillors subsequently left early.
The agenda comprised two items: (1) corporate services activity report, and (2) treasury report. Three presentations were received in public forum.
Tim Hawthorne (accompanied by John and Alana) spoke about their concerns over the disposal of the Mapua causeway. An information pack accompanied their presentation including: a letter from the Mapua & District Community Association (MDCA) dated 16 December 2015 outlining their concerns, an article by David Mitchel on the causeway that appeared in the Mapua & Ruby Bay Coastal News, and a summary memo on public access issues by Nelson lawyer Kate Mitchell. A copy of the information pack and memo can be obtained by emailing <email@example.com>.
Council were advised that a number of issues were being examined and that this had caused a delay in actioning the Councils earlier resolution to enter into public consultation over disposal of the causeway. Staff anticipated a report would be coming back, updating council on the issues.
Corporate services activity report
The manager’s report included:
- Department finances. While IT spending is above budget this is considered to be a timing issue that should be within budget by year end. Bank charges are under budget. Budgeted capital expenditure is lower than expected due to reduced (and delayed) earthquake strengthening work.
- Property services. Best Island access discussions are anticipated to continue after valuation analysis is completed. Earthquake strengthening work projects (including Richmond town hall, Motueka Memorial hall, and Bainham hall) have come under budget, due to a change in the legislation (ie now 34% of building standard, rather than 67%). Planning for the Takaka service centre strengthening and refurbishment has started. The Waimea community dam project focus is on provision of alternative legal and practical access to properties. Staff advised that negotiations are progressing (within one ongoing). A full briefing will be provided to full council. The Golden bay community facility has finalised the design. The Golden Bay A&P Assoc has donated land for the new netball courts. The Motueka aerodrome has received a request to erect an additional hangar at the southern end.
- Information services. The strategic plan will be updated in March. It will focus on using technology and digitisation to improve functions and processes for better customer experiences. TDC’s online submissions system (developed in-house) for the Long Term Plan will be shared with Nelson council from February (live March) – at no cost to TDC. In my opinion, this is a big endorsement of the system by another council. And the team should be congratulated for outstanding work. Hopefully this is also the beginning of more shared IT services between both councils (and perhaps with other councils, as part of a wider Local Government shared IT services initiative).
- Nelson seafood cluster. This group is being wound up and the remaining funds ($10,253) will be dispersed to a Marine museum and education centre initiative. TDC contributed 1.9% of the start up funds.
- Service requests. Generally these peak around quarterly rates invoicing. Cr Edgar reinforced the need to post FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) online – to reduce service requests. Something I have been pushing with all service requests, since coming onboard.
- Commercial property. The $1.4 million Shed 4 development was opened in Mapua. In my opinion, it is disappointing that the development (and landscaping) has taken up so much open space – that might have been used for night or day markets. Something that has proved extremely popular in Wellington. New parking initiatives in the Mapua precinct are expected to come online around mid-2016. I still believe a container development would have not only been cheaper (and more affordable for tenants), but would have provided more open space for seating and walking – as well as being a more exciting destination.
- Forestry. Tendering for forestry management has begun. Olsen’s is the current provider. Health and Safety issues for recreational activities near forestry are ongoing. In my opinion, council need to acknowledge that some forestry areas will be used for both commercial and recreational activities – which requires smart management of the areas as use changes.
- Port Tarakohe. Freight volumes are now being measured (see table below). Storage occupancy is averaging at 73%.
As at 21 January 2016, council debt was $142 million, with an average interest rate of 5.261%. The council’s total cost of funds (including swaps and bank charges) is 5.307% (compared to budgeted interest of 5.70%). Debt is forecast to be $164 million by 31 December 2016.
Council have $144.78 million held in interest rate swaps (or 102% debt coverage), with an additional $3 million of forward swaps yet to start. The slight over-coverage of debt is due to council retiring debt faster than forecasted at this time. Swaps are expected to equal 100% of debt by March 2016.
Council’s cash investments total $4.52 million held at an average interest rate of 3.01%.
|Bank debt||$22 million||15.50%|
|Private placement||$30 million||21.10%|
|LGFA debt||$90 million||63.40%|
The reserve financial contributions (RFC) account for Richmond had budgeted spending on a number of projects within the Richmond ward’s parks and reserves. The amounts listed below took into account funds brought forward from earlier years and reflected the amount actually available to be spent (rather than the funds staff wanted to spend). For example, the Long term plan (LTP) had budgeted $115,000 be spent on the Ben Cooper park toilets, yet the funds available in the RFC account had only reached $112,530 by the end of the 2015-16 year. This is because of the new regime of allocating RFC funds (ie the previous year’s income becomes the budget allocated to projects).
|Richmond Ward Projects||
Budget 2015-16 (available funds)
|Richmond – Waimea River Park||
|Transfer to District fund||
|Richmond – Security Cam||
|Richmond – Playground Equipment||
|Toilets Ben Cooper||
|Gardens General Capital||
|Loan principal repaid||
|Loan ASB Aquatic Centre||
|Loan Sutton Land||
|Loan Avery Land Development||
|Loan Cycle Trail 2012||
|Loan Sutton Land||
Importantly, all debt within the account had now been repaid, about to be repaid, or removed to its proper account. When I first joined council I ensured all loans still operating within this budget were paid off first, and funds not related to the Richmond ward were transferred out to the correct accounts (hence some transfers). Before this, the accounts were a bit of a muddle and spending was based on forecasted income, rather than income received.
A debate then occurred over spending some of the budgeted funds on the lane next to the Richmond Library. Essentially Cr Edgar wanted to replace the lane with a garden walk way. Her argument, was the project had been put on hold, but given the funds were now available, council should finish the job. All very pretty, but in my opinion, unnecessary at this time. The lane was not unpleasant and still provided access. And I had received no mention of this need from my walk-about visits to the general public in Richmond. Remaining as it was also allowed council to contemplate reopening the lane for parking or access should it need it in the future. Digging it up for a walk-way garden would remove these options.
In my opinion, funds could be better spent on other activities if they had to be spent at all. Rather than frittering away funds on small “gardening” projects, councillors should be thinking about building up funds for larger strategic assets that provided more substantial benefits to the community.
For example, exercise equipment (rather than just more children’s playground equipment), possibly in Wilkes reserve, a large destination playground (similar to one in Masterton’s Queens gardens), a decent sized skateboard park (similar to the one in Nelson visible from Queens drive), or a bmx track. Unfortunately, funds have to be used in the Richmond ward, which rules out use on Saxons field. However, land near the aquatic centre might be a viable site for any of the above suggestions.
In the end, Cr Higgins supported Cr Edgar in a compromise. Whereby some funds were spent on a library lane garden ($5,000), and some funds were spent on public exercise equipment for the not so young ($5,000) – as a trial. As they say, the art of politics is compromise?
I also raised some other suggestions from the public, including using RFC funds for: (1) fencing toddler playgrounds, and (2) fencing areas for dogs to roam freely (ie dog exercise areas). Dog exercise areas have been quite successful in Wellington.
I also suggested that council explore using low cost containers for toilets, rather than spend the budgeted $115,000 on a separate toilet facility in Ben Cooper park. In my opinion, a container toilet could be purchased for $15-25,000 from Boxman (see www.boxman.co.nz/_boxman/Library/Modification/07_Modification_ScarbroCons.pdf). These can be clad in timber, steel mesh for climbing foliage, or painted. Alternatively, the council could work with the existing Darts club at Ben Cooper park and develop a shared public toilet facility. A shared facility would be much cheaper than building a new separate toilet building and would enable the club to benefit also. A win-win option in my opinion. Any remaining savings could then be used for additional toilets or saved towards a larger project.
[Update. Given my concern that the $115,000 budget might be authorised by other councillors I began subsequent discussions with the Morepork Dart’s club. The end result is that TDC has decided to work with the club on a shared public toilet, at a substantially lower cost than the budgeted $115,000.]
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2016/2016-02-11.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
The community development committee meeting was held on 17 September 2015. A number of councillors were absent, including: the mayor, Crs King, Ensor, Mirfin, and Dowler.
The agenda included: (1) reserve financial contributions capital carry-over, (2) hall’s report, (3) Manager’s report, (4) reserves manager’s report, (5) chair’s report, and (6) Rainbow sports club remission of loan repayments. The last item was confidential, but was subsequently made public at the conclusion of the debate. The public forum received two presentations.
Due to the chair having a major engagement at 12 pm (the PM’s speech at the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce lunch at Siefrieds), a number of questions were taken off-line for staff to follow-up.
Outstanding Community Service Awards
Before I discuss the community development services meeting, I first want to take the opportunity to recognise the recipients of Tasman District Council’s Outstanding Community Service Awards. The awards event was held at the council chamber on 2 September 2015 with the mayor, Cr Edgar, and myself (and staff) in attendance.
The award winners for 2015 were:
- Hazel Bartlett (Richmond) was honoured for her work in guiding visitors and residents alike through her work with Richmond Information Centre, organising the Lions Club bus trips and raising money to open the Richmond kindergarten.
- Henk and Willa Visker (Golden Bay) for their work with Takaka Citizens Band, Golden Bay Orchestra, Kotinga Bowling Club, St John and the Wrinklies Bus.
- Crowther Reynish (Golden Bay) for his involvement with the Takaka Citizens Band, Golden Bay RSA and Takaka rugby.
- Dick Wenzel (Golden Bay) local veterinarian for his involvement with Golden Bay Orchestra, the Golden Bay High School Board, Wrinklies Express and numerous other clubs and committees.
- Graeme Miller (Golden Bay) volunteer firefighter for his 26 years with Collingwood Volunteer Fire Service as well as his work with the Collingwood Area School Board of Trustees, Collingwood Health Centre committee and rugby.
- Sue Netto (Golden Bay) for her long involvement as a volunteer for St John and fundraising for the rescue helicopter.
- Valerie Stuart (Motueka) former nurse, acknowledged for her work as volunteer supervisor with Playcentre, Soroptimists, Motueka Hospice Shop and the Motueka Hospital Trust.
- Mark Heine (Motueka) for his work with Motueka Idea Services and the Laura Ingram Kindergarten.
Two highly successful local businesspeople were also acknowledged for the contribution that they have made to their communities – not just in the business arena, but also through their leadership and philanthropy – Peter Goodman and Peter Talley.
I would like to congratulate all award recipients for their time, energy, and passion, in making the Tasman district a better place to work, play, and live. Thank you.
Penny Griffiths (Golden Bay\Takaka Museum) gave a brief update on Takaka museum activities. This included: (1) a long term tenant had been found providing much needed financial security, (2) the whale project was getting good exposure although funds were still needed to complete the project, and (3) retired IT equipment had been provided to the museum by council.
Penny also raised concerns about the need to use council accredited builders for work on the museum building and the impact this had on getting competitive quotes for work. Apparently there was only one accredited builder in Takaka at present. Staff advised that the museum could get quotes from as many builders as they wanted. Although they could only use an accredited builder (someone who has shown council they have health and safety certification).
Andrew Smith emphasised to council that the ski club operating at Rainbow ski field was “asset rich but cash poor” and that “working capital was tight”. Although he also acknowledged a reserve cash fund (roughly $40,000) had been built up.
Reserve financial contributions capital carry-over
This is the second capital carry-over request council has considered in the last week. The last one was in relation to engineering projects (discussed in an earlier post).
By way of background, reserve financial contributions (RFCs) are charges that are generally imposed on property developers when they create subdivisions. These charges are then used to purchase land for public reserves (usually within the development), capital improvements and maintenance of assets on public reserves, or any other growth related projects. For more detail see www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/plans/annual-plans/annual-plan-2013-2014/draft-annual-plan-2013-2014/part-3-accounting-information/reserve-financial-contributions/.
Similar to engineering, a number of planned projects did not occur in the 2014-15 year, were only partially completed, or were deferred until the 2015-16 year.
Council approved the proposed carrry-overs. The totals for the respective wards were: (1) $21,695 Moueka, (2) $580,466 Golden Bay, (3) $310,288 Moutere, (4) $100,124 Murchison, and (5) $349,513 Richmond.
I raised a number of questions (both during the meeting and afterwards) in relation to the reporting of the deferred projects for Richmond (listed in this report), as they appear to be different to what was agreed to be carried forward in an earlier May 2014 memo. These issues were raised with staff and they have since responded. I have enclosed my email, and their response (shown in italics) below:
I am just following up from my questioning of your report at the last community development meeting.
I restricted my questions for brevity, but thought I would also question some other changes from the 20 May 2014 memo.
In the May 2014 memo it was agreed what specified projects and amounts (see extract below), would be deferred and carried forward.
This only totalled $226,916, yet the September report asked to carry forward $349,513? This seems a large difference? The $226,916 was funding from 2013/2014 financial year to be carried forward to the 2014/2015 financial year. The $349,531 is the funding from 2014/2015 carried forward to this financial year. It does contain some funds from previous years.
The list contained in your September report had several differences from the May 2014 memo. These included: (1) reduced Dellside to $26,933, This was reduced as most of the work was carried out by volunteers so we didn’t require the full amount.
(2) added two new items (inlet walks $16,251 and General 16,251), These two amounts are for left over from the 2014/2015 walkway budgets original amounts of $25,000 each.
(3) inflated training lights to $87,000, this is a typo as you mentioned the original amount is $86,113 which we will round down to $86,000
(4) added waimea river park $15,885, this is a carried forward from the 2014/1015 financial year from a budget of $22,239
(5) reduced security camera’s to 30,000, this I rounded down to $30,000 to take off the inflation
and (6) increased Ben Cooper toilet to $111,193. This is the amount was in the 2014/2015 budget to be deferred to 2015/2016 we need to keep it on the books so it isn’t lost.
I mentioned training lights at the meeting. This was a typing error and we will make that change
I am happy to agree with any changes that have reduced carry forward amounts, but can you please explain the increases (and the new items).
I am also worried that other wards may have also carried forward more than they originally agreed too. I will check the other wards for similar issues.
I included this email in full (with staff comments in italics), because it not only answered my questions very succinctly (as well as making council more transparent), but it shows that while the odd mistake is made in reports to council (which is all very human), generally staff are quick to acknowledge any error and fix it. In my opinion, it’s the putting right that counts!
This draws me to another point. I consider that an important element of my role as a councillor is to help foster and develop the culture (and attitude) of this council. As a member of the public, you can also influence an organisations culture, by making sure that council actions that you like, are acknowledged (ideally to senior management or councillors). Only speaking up about the bad stuff, will only make an organisation fearful of making mistakes. If we want council to be innovative, we need to be prepared to experience the odd glitch. But at the same time, the organisation needs to have the confidence to acknowledge that it has made a mistake and will put it right.
My aspiration, is to have a council that is: transparent, honest, trustworthy, and open (its why I do this blog), provide enabling advice (rather than just restating the rules, and why you cannot do stuff), leading edge, innovative and embracing of change, acknowledge mistakes and put things right (or explain promptly why they cannot), and put the public (as a customer) at the centre of everything it does. A customer centric business is always a happy and successful one.
Various unbudgeted repairs and maintenance work has been identified by staff. These included: (1) Hall fire alarm upgrades (price between $1,500 and $6,000 per hall), (2) Motueka memorial hall stage repair and handrails ($15,000), (3) Collingwood roof repair ($10,000), Pakawau roof repair (no estimate yet), and Golden Bay community centre flood protection ($10,000).
Councillors were somewhat surprised that these issues were not identified for inclusion in the long term plan (LTP). Staff advised that there was a surplus of $54,000 in a special purpose capital account that was agreed to be carried forward at the 10 September full council meeting. Although use of these funds would mean that they could not be used for other purposes or retiring debt. Council agreed with the staff recommendation to fund the identified repairs from the special purpose fund.
Council agreed that a pragmatic approach should be taken with the roll out of upgraded fire alarms. The problem being that some alarms were not appropriate for the hall size and their maximum capacity. Staff suggested that an assessment of a hall’s historical usage should help direct whether upgrades were necessary (or not).
However, in my opinion, numbers using the affected halls should have been limited to the constraints of the fire alarms, until planned maintenance occurred. I saw no reason to accelerate upgrades from new sources of funding. If we are to get council finances back on track, we need to be prepared (at least in the short-term) to be a little more reactionary. I also raised questions of upgrading halls that might subsequently be disposed of. For example, council is considering disposal of some halls in the Golden Bay area, as part of funding the new community recreation facility building.
I consider Motueka hall stage should be repaired (as it was an unexpected discovery that would impact on immediate future use, as well as raising health and safety issues), but questioned the need for any new hand rails. Expenditure should only be for repairs or maintenance of existing assets.
- Rifle club. The small bore rifle club currently resides in Nelson and is proposing to move to Saxton field. They have made an application for funding assistance through the contestable community grants scheme after making a public forum request for funding assistance.
- Aquatic centre. The June period experienced a drop in casual swimming numbers. Total patronage visits in June (including the fitness centre) was 20,133 visits.
- Golden Bay museum. The 6 monthly report for the period ended June 2015 was submitted. The board are currently seeking a new treasurer who recently resigned. Casual staff (termed “volunteers” in the report) over the holiday season accounted for $7,670. The board are again seeking 20 casual staff for the forthcoming holiday season. The 5 year strategic plan was reviewed in May 2015. The annual accounts showed an operating surplus of $14,337 and a net surplus of $9,294 after depreciation. Total income was $75,137 that comprised: a TDC grant of $47,000, fundraising of $9,000, donations and rental income of $5,000. Staffing costs are $37,348 and power $5,081.
- Charges and fees. Moutere hills community centre (see www.mouterehills.org.nz) has increased some of their hire charges for the NBS sports hall by adding a “plus GST” component.
- Libraries. Richmond library has partnered with Nelson Bays Community laws service to present “law for lunch”. This has proved very popular with topics including: powers of attorney, wills, estates, and relationship property. Richmond library has also been running a “stepping up” computer course.
- Grants. 170 grant applications (totaling $423,610) were received by the grants committee, with $218,000 available in this round. Minor glitches with the online forma are being addressed.
- Publications. The summer events guide (“Hummin”) has been reviewed by staff and will now be published in a joint venture with Nelson council. This change sees a $21,000 saving (formerly cost council $30,000 per annum and will now cost $9,000).
- Health and safety. A number of recommendations have been made in relation to a recent incident at Richmond library. Recommendations included: reinforcing existing protocols, improved training (including customer vs customer conflict training), examining use of panic alarms and security camera systems.
Reserves manager’s report
Key project activity in the last 6 weeks included:
- Richmond. Velodrome construction has begun with completion of drainage work. Avery Oval (Saxton field) toilet construction has begun. Washbourn gardens roses have been replaced with old fashioned roses donated by the Rose Society. Recent planting locations include: Sanderman road reserve, Hope hall, and the Inlet walkway.
- Moutere. Richmond rotary club has constructed shelters over 2 BBQs on Rabbit Island reserve. Faulkner bush walkway was completed. Dovedale reserve has had new playground equipment ordered. Recent planting include: Dominion flats and Hoddy estuary park.
- Motueka. Keep Motueka beautiful has revamped the shrubs near the public toilets at Motueka beach reserve, completion of a concept plan for a reserve in Stephens bay, paths completed at Sportspark Motueka, and training lights installed at Goodman park. Recent planting include sanctuary ponds.
- Golden Bay. Lanscaping continues at Ligar bay, and new paths created at Takaka memorial reserve.
- Murchison. Recent plantings include Hotham St walkway.
Highlights from the chairs report include confirmation that the working party would complete the digital enablement plan (by the deadline of 18 September) that was bidding for government funding to extend broadband internet and mobil access across the Tasman district. The government has committed $210 million for the extension of the UFB programme.
In my opinion, these future information highways (are like roads), and will be important to the future potential development of this region’s economy, if it is to become less dependent on agricultural commodities (and the low wages associated with agriculture).
Another highlight was Tasman council being selected as one of eight finalists short listed (from 44 entries) for its new look long term plan consultation document. A big achievement considering the resources of other councils.
Rainbow sports club remission of loan repayments
This item was held in confidence. However, at the conclusion of the debate it was resolved to make the matter open to the public. This was a great move and councillors should be congratulated. Perhaps council is slowly coming around to greater transparency in its decision making?
By way of background, the Rainbow ski field is located outside the Tasman district. Some years ago the club got into financial troubles and sought financial assistance from 3 councils (Nelson council, Marlborough council, and Tasman council). The 3 councils have each provided an interest free loan of $90,000 to the club (totaling $270,000) to be repaid over 7 years in annual installments of $12,857 per year from 1 February 2010. Each year the ski club asks the councils to forgive that years debt obligation. In some years councils have declined that request. The relevant financial position for each year is outlined in the table below.
|Year 1 (2010)||
|Year 2 (2011)||
|Year 3 (2012)||
|Year 4 (2013)||
|Year 5 (2014)||
|Year 6 (2015)||
|Year 7 (2016)||
To date, the ski club had received $25,714 of ratepayer funds by way of forgiven loan repayments and the council had received $38,571 of the $90,000 loan it had provided to the ski club. With $25,714 outstanding (for 2015 and 2016 years).
Earlier this year council had the opportunity to consider the Ski clubs financial position for the 2013 year and at the same time view the 2014 accounts (pre-audited). In light of the financial position in 2014, council declined the club’s request to forgive the repayment of the 2013 installment.
On 11 August 2015, the club submitted its audited 2014 accounts to council and asked for remission of its 2014 and 2013 installments. In justifying its request for remission of its 2014 installment, the club informed the council that it needed $100,000 in cash reserves to open for the following season, and considered that its “slightly improved financial position” in 2014 should not have impacted on council’s assessment of its 2013 position. I disagree.
Council had every right to examine the financial position of the club at the time it considered remitting loans. At that time (2014), it was evident that the club was in “more” than a slightly improved financial position. It had made a profit of $116,319 and had built up a cash reserve fund of $40,000. Interestingly the 2014 accounts had not included the remission of the TDC loan, which would have increased their profitability. It had also increased its net assets from $369,841 in 2013, to $486,241 in 2014. Major assets had already been acquired (ie Groomer, Quad bikes, Hilux) between 2006 and 2008 and had an estimated useful life of 12 years. Replacement of these assets could not be expected for some time. A Toyota Prada and Van had been acquired in 2012 and 2014.
Examining the assets register showed replacement rental equipment expenditure was in decline (roughly $25,000 in 2012, and $10,000 in 2013). This equipment was fully depreciated within a year of purchase. Rental equipment levels had been built up over time, and the decline in purchasing new rental equipment appeared to reflected replacement rather than expansion.
The reducing investment in capital assets could also be seen in the overall decline in depreciation costs, from $88,812 in 2013 to $69,116 in 2014. Remembering that depreciation is treated as an expense and so comes off income, their financial position looked quite healthy going forward. Including depreciation, net operating surplus was a $223,547 loss in 2013 and a $35,960 in 2014. Excluding depreciation, operating surplus was a $133,735 loss in 2013, and a $105,076 profit in 2014.
Given the $40,000 in cash reserves, the forgiveness of 2014 installments from Nelson and Marlborough councils, and the indications the club would only need a $100,000 for the next financial year, it appeared that it could afford the $25,714 council was asking for (of which $12,857 had already been recognised in the 2014 accounts).
Council was asked to consider four options, although it pretty much came down to two options. Option 1, declined a remission in the 2013 and 2014 year, but remitted the outstanding loans in 2015 and 2016 (totaling $25,714). Or Option 3, declined a remission in the 2013 and 2014 year, and consider the 2015 and 2016 loans in the future when they come due.
Effectively, the issue councillors were being asked to debate was whether council should forgive the 2015 and 2016 loan installments.
Staff recommended option 1. Their reasoning was based on the costs incurred in assessing the remission of the 2015 and 2016 installments. When pressed, staff considered that the total cost of preparing the report (that was before council) was $10,000. And that this was a good indicator for future report costs.
I found this an extraordinary estimate, and I noted that no such estimate was included in the report itself. In my opinion, the cost of assessing the 2015 and 2016 installments would be much lower, as much of the report had already been written, and merely required numbers to be updated. It was a simple process of reviewing the financials and indicating if the ski club could afford to pay $12,857 (or not). I would have thought that this would not take much time at all. And certainly not incurring the hours that had been spent on the report before us (which only raised other issues).
Cr Bouillir made a compelling argument for remitting the loans on the basis of the community benefit that the club provided. She was concerned that not remitting the loans would risk the club again getting into financial trouble, and the use of the ski field being lost forever. Emphasis was also placed on the fact that the loan was seen very much as a grant when it was first provided.
In my opinion, I did not see such a risk, having viewed the clubs financial statements and the financial trends in its accounts. The reality was that this was a loan (which had been interest free) and the club could now afford to make repayment. The dire circumstances it was in several years ago had passed, and it was steadily building up its asset base and cash reserves.
If option 1 was supported, the council would have gifted (remitted) over $50,000 of ratepayer funds to the ski club, that could not be used for the benefit of another organisation, that might also require community support. While I could see that remitting $25,714 to avoid the risk of an additional $20,000 of council report costs, was a sensible risk management decision, I could not agree with staff that the cost of preparing two reports (in 2015 and 2016) would cost $20,000. I suspect some other councillors did not agree either.
In my opinion, the club was well run and fiscally prudent. It had shown a willingness to dispose of assets to raise cash when needed. Something it could not do a number of years ago. The club now had a good asset base. Although I note, that it appeared the club was not willing to leverage its assets to raise debt. While the council had provided financial support to the club through a difficult time (which was the purpose of the investment), that was no longer the case.
A division was called. By majority (Cr Edgar, Bouillir, Canton, and Bryant), Option 1 was carried, with the casting vote of the chair. Councillors Norris, Higgins, Inglis, and myself, dissenting.
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/2015/2015-09-17.
2015 ski season a successful one (Nelson mail). http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/72692451/sun-slush-and-snow-for-cup-competitors
The corporate services committee met on 12 February 2015. All councillors were present.
Earlier in the day, the public forum received a very comprehensive presentation from Michael Rea on the Motueka harbour and coastal works account, which I will discuss below.
The agenda comprised the following items: (1) the Motueka harbour and coastal works account, (2) corporate manager’s report, (3) financial report, and (4) treasury report.
Motueka harbour and coastal works account
The Motueka harbour and coastal works account (the “Motueka works account”) was established in 2012. This followed the dis-establishment of the Motueka harbour endowment fund, following a December 2009 High Court decision, which resulted in the funds and assets (originally held under a closed account), becoming general funds of the council.
In 2012, the council resolved that the Motueka works account would be managed on a commercial basis and the 2012 policy document covering the fund’s management policy would be reviewed in 2013.
The revised 2013 policy proposed to reformat the former policy document so it was consistent in layout with other council policy documents, revise the title of the policy by adding the word “reserve”, include a definitions section (to clarify the fund is not a restricted reserve fund), and clarify any other points of confusion. In all other respects, the revisions were not intended to make any other changes to the meaning, scope, and application of the 2012 policy.
The 2012 policy provided that the assets or funds of the Motueka works account were to be utilised for a prioritised list of activities within the designated area of benefit, including other uses approved by council.
Use of the funds by council is subject to two conditions. First, the capital assets in the account must be considered surplus to the ability to meet the other three priorities, and secondly the Motueka Community Board has to be consulted on any such proposal from council.
In addition, the capital assets will be managed with the intention of increasing the value of the assets held in the reserve fund. For example, the funds might be held in a bank account or invested, until such time as they are required to be applied to the priority activities. Use of the funds, other than for maintaining the assets held in the Motueka works account will be subject to a separate business case that outlines the advantage of the investment. Again, the Motueka Community Board has to be consulted on any such business case.
The 2013 policy continues this approach.
The council resolved to accept the 2013 policy (as amended, during the meeting). The amendments sought to clarify: (1) the area of benefit (by including a map), (2) making consultation a standard paragraph to add greater weight for the need to consult with the Motueka Community Board (rather than a “note”), and (3) removing any confusion around the words “any use of the funds … other than for the costs of maintaining the assets” which could be interpreted very narrowly – and appeared contrary to the stated ability for council to apply the funds for other uses (eg investing the funds in a bank, or other investment).
I also raised questions about the ability for council staff to charge the fund for their time, give staff wages were already a sunk cost of council. In my mind “asset stripping” of this nature was outside the intended use (and restrictions) of the fund as outlined in the policy.
It is worth noting that funds from the Motueka works account are already earmarked for “investment” in the Mapua development. Had the Mapua development been less expensive (eg a container development), the commercial insurance payout would have met all its costs and the need for funds from the Motueka works account would not have been required.
The financial results for the half year period ending 31 December 2014 is a favourable variance of $157,000. Key contributors to this were an additional contribution from the treasury function, which was partly offset by higher staff costs and the timing of maintenance payments. The variance in maintenance costs is primarily a timing issue from the IT area. Staff costs are influenced by full staffing levels, additional unbudgeted costs in relation to the Waimea Community Dam project and managed exit costs.
Year to date, TDC have processed 1,241 Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) rates rebate applications worth $719,000 for the 2014-15 year. This compares with 1,733 applications worth $985,000 for the 2013-14 year.
The LIM process review project is progressing well and the new digital process is currently proposed to “go live” at the end of April 2015.
A major upgrade TDC’s internal webpage for staff only (also known as an “intranet”) will be launched over February-March 2015. This will bring together new applications such as the LIM processing tool as well as improved options for internal staff communications, initiatives and project planning.
As part of the 2014 telecommunications tender renegotiation, the Council network is adding diverse connections at the Main Office, Motueka and Takaka Services as well as the District Library. The main Richmond office second fibre connection is expected to be completed by the end of March 2015.
Maintenance work at the Motueka Library (to the value of $72,000, as budgeted in the annual plan) is expected to be completed by 30 June 2015.
The Local government fund (LGF) provided its quarterly financial report ended 31 December 2014 (see agenda pages 33 to 57). The fund is used by council for borrowing. Details about how council debt is managed can be found in the treasury report below.
Audit NZ has started their initial 3 week work programme.
At 31 December 2014, the net financial position of council is an accounting surplus of $1.085 million, against a budgeted surplus of $2.898 million. Income was $3.977 million below budget, and expenditure was $2.164 million below budget.
This variance has three key drivers: (1) the write down of interest rate swaps (-$5,001,000), (2) lower than budgeted income from subsidies and grants (-$677,000), and (3) lower than budgeted maintenance expenditure ($1,975,000).
The underlying operational result was a favourable variance of $2.649 million, once the impact of development contributions, vested assets and interest rate swap movements have been removed from the accounting result.
Capital expenditure for the year is $14.636 million against an overall budget of $48.435 million. A re-forecast of the capital expenditure programme is planned for February 2015.
Total debt is $149.1 million. This is in line with the projected year-end balance of $171.9 million provided the capital programme is completed.
Council’s working capital position at 31 December 2014 was ($3.737) million compared to the year-end projection of ($9.616) million. The major reason for this is a lower current debt balance at the end of December 2014.
At 31 December 2014, council’s debt stands at $149 million, with an average interest rate of 5.228% (June 2014 5.4%). Council’s actual weighted average cost of funds at 31 December 2014, including interest rate swaps, bank margins, and line fees at 5.337% against a budgeted rate of 6.10%. TDC’s cost of funds is illustrated below.
At 31 December 2014, Council had $147.78 million of interest rate swaps in place, equal to 99.2% cover over existing debt and 85% over forecast 30 June 2015 net debt. The recommendation from Council’s treasury advisors has been to increase the fixed rate percentage of the 12 month forecast debt to 85%.
Council’s funding maturity profile indicates how council has spread the risk of refinancing its facilities and loans. TDC’s funding and liquidity risk position is illustrated below.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-02-12.
The community development committee met on 12 February 2015. All councillors were present, except for Cr King and the mayor who arrived after the start of the meeting.
The public forum received a very comprehensive presentation from Michael Rea on the motueka harbour and coastal works account. This topic was discussed at the corporate service committee meeting, held immediately after this meeting. A summary of the council’s deliberations and my thoughts are included in my post on that meeting.
The agenda included the following items: (1) Tapu Bay bach removal report, (2) community reserves expenditure program report, (3) various managers reports on the following topics, including: the aquatic centre, community events review, library usage, new online LIMs process, and a new online submissions process.
I will highlight the main items of interest for councillors (and myself) below.
New internet developments
In my mind, this was the big theme of the agenda. And no doubt will play out over the coming weeks as a good news story for the council. As it should be.
Many readers will already know I am very keen for council to automate many of the manual processes using online solutions that ratepayers (and other customers) can access from the internet. This improves council service levels and timeliness for customers, and keeps the increasing pressure on staff wages, down.
In my opinion, council is making some good first steps on utilising technology to generate efficiencies and improve service levels. I can only congratulate the IT staff on their latest effort and look forward to more initiatives.
The new online “submissions form” process is a great example of the new technology culture that is beginning to flourish. This new online form has an excellent user interface (UI) and will make it easier for ratepayers to make submissions, track progress, and receive active reminders of hearings.
From council’s perspective it removes all the manual work required to enter the hardcopy submissions into databases for sending letters and arranging times to attend hearings. This is a substantial cost (and time) saving for council. Staff also advised that the system is a modular (drop and play) system and is therefore easily transportable to other networks.
In my opinion, this is a piece of technology that could (and should) be shared with other councils (as well as its development costs). For example, Nelson City Council (NCC). This is a great win-win for everyone. I note that Wellington City Council (WCC) has already expressed interested in developing co-operate arrangements with other councils over the development of apps and other technology (see http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=74752). Perhaps its time to talk with WCC too.
Note! For those who are not on the internet, or do not have email, or choose not to use the new online submission form, they can still use the post. I should also note that the new online changes are only in relation to communication from ratepayers to TDC – after TDC has first notified the public of a submission process (eg for the annual plan, special consultation, plan change, or consultation document). Initial communication notifying the public of a submission process (what ratepayers receive first) will remain unchanged. This will continue to be done primarily via hardcopy media (eg local newspapers and newline) – and including the TDC webpage.
Another IT development is the new online LIM’s and resource consent process. Staff have advised council that the new online LIM process has reduced processing of LIMs by one day’s worth of time. With much of the remaining time now taken up with checking data for accuracy. Clearly further improvements can be made and I look forward to seeing these come online.
Tapu Bay bach removal
In March 2011, the council established a policy on “private structures on esplanade reserves” which effectively provided that privately owned buildings, occupying council owned esplanade reserves, had to be removed by 31 March 2014. This policy has been consistently applied across the district, except for one instance, where an owner of a Bach was granted a life time license to occupy reserve land that they had donated to the council.
More recently, two baches at Tapu Bay were notified of the policy, with one owner removing their bach, and the other owner requesting they be permitted to stay on the reserve for the remainder of their life time. This owner, had been granted permission by the council in 1984 to occupy the esplanande “at the pleasure of the council”.
The bach had occupied the land since the 1930’s. Staff advised council that the Bach was built in 1894, but did not have any heritage protection and was unlikely to receive any.
The question before the council was whether there were sufficient grounds to grant an exception to the esplanade policy. The short answer was there was not. Accordingly, there was little support for the mayor’s proposal to grant an exception to the policy on “compassionate grounds”.
In my opinion, the policy was known to the community for some time and had already been widely applied. In some instances, people had already removed homes (where they had lived) from esplanade reserves.
In this case, the owner had not donated the reserve land on which their bach was located, and did not live in the bach. Rather, the bach was a family holiday home. While the owner may have donated their time and energy to community service, or was elderly, these facts were insufficient to award an exception on “compassionate” grounds. To do so would have set a very low bar (if any).
On the basis of fairness and consistency, and in the absence of justifiable compassionate grounds, the council had to apply the policy without bias or favour. The council had to be seen to be objective and neutral in its decision making. The rule of law had to be applied. To do otherwise could set a dangerous precedent for the application of other policies and rules.
Voting on this decision is recorded in the minutes of this meeting. The committee’s recommendation will now go before full council for approval. A question that was not addressed (or asked) at the meeting was whether the policy was fair (eg, that it required revisions).
Community reserves expenditure program report
Richmond ward councillors have been providing feedback on proposals for the community reserves expenditure programme for the next 20 years as part of the long term plan discussions. This outlines how money for public art, playgrounds, public toilets, and sports grounds will be spent and when. Two major changes to the reserves fund has been made. First, rather than spend anticipated income, expenditure will be based on what was received in the earlier year. This avoids overspending. Secondly, some of the fund is now allocated to the repayment of debt. For details refer to the agenda (pages 23 to 24).
In 2014, the patronage for the aquatic centre was 20,737 people (less 5,916 for gym membership and casual use or from concessions). This compares to: 22,687 (2013), 23,426 (2012), 20,935 (2011), 17407 (2010), and 17489 (2009).
Unfortunately, the aquatic centre continues to require council subsidisation. In my mind, to make the aquatic centre self sufficient, pricing concessions may have to be confined to residents, through the presentation of library cards or rates invoices.
The Skatepark tour has been run by council for several years. Staff now consider that it is now possible to hand the event over to community groups to run, allowing council to focus on establishing new events. I certainly welcome this indicated change.
The Jazz in the Park event was held in Washbourn Gardens in Richmond and was attended by nearly 3,000 people. In my opinion this is clearly a well supported event and one council should continue to support.
Cricket world cup kicks off from 16 February (including 19 February and 5 March) at Saxton oval. In my opinion, Tasman council support appears to be poorly promoted in contrast to NCC. I understand that the commentators allocated to the match for 16 Feb are: Michael Atherton, Ian Botham, David Lloyd, Alan Wilkins (all England), Ian Bishop (West Indies), and Russel Arnold (Sri Lanka).
The Trust power community awards open for submissions on 2 March and close 1 May. Awards will be made on 29 June.
Use of the libraries online resources show strong growth with use up 60% (26,119 downloads) from the same time last year. The tables below illustrate (1) the strong online growth trend from 2008, and (2) the general usage trend of the libraries in Motueka, Richmond, and Takaka since 2005.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-02-12.
The community development committee meeting was held on 19 June 2014. Apologies were received from Cr Higgins and myself.
The meeting agenda received various managers reports as well as an update on the Ecofest expo. I have organised these various updates under topic rather than the manager providing them.
Golden Bay Service centre
A decision on funding for the centre was made in the annual plan. However, council were asked to convene a hearing panel to consider changing the classification of land behind the centre from reserve vested land to local purpose reserve land. This was to ensure the use of the land could have a wider civic purpose. Crs Edgar, Sangster, and Bouillir were appointed to the hearing panel. The council noted the Golden Bay Community Board’s recommendation for up to $30,000 to be allowed for seismic testing.
Tapawera and Brightwater reserve lease hearings
Crs Bryant, Norris, and Edgar were appointed as panel members to consider the publicly notified reserve lease applications of: (1) the Tapawera Menz Shed Group, who sought to renew a lease of reserve land that the former Scout hall building was located on, and (2) the Wanderers Rugby Club who sought to extend their building over reserve land. However, if no public submissions are received, then hearings would not be required.
The council has advised those parties wishing to lease parts of the Kina reserve of any restrictions council has sought to impose on the use of the reserve. We await a response.
The agreement between the council and the sanctuary trust over the council’s financial contribution towards the pest proof fence was signed. This completed the earlier contribution from council towards completion of the fence. In my opinion, without the second installment, the earlier contribution would have been wasted. It is also noted that half of the trusts financial members come from the Tasman region so this was an activity where a sizeable proportion of the community had skin in the game. As discussed in earlier posts, the trust had reassured council that no further requests for funding would be forthcoming.
ASB Aquatic centre – water treatment
Staff advised council that the option of purchasing an ultra violet (UV) treatment system to destroy chloramines (that would improve the pool atmosphere and reduce water waste), would be prepared for consideration in the 2015-2025 long term plan (LTP).
LTP workshops for councilors were being prepared for late June and July, and these would feed into formal proposals for consideration. Generally, I have found workshops are a great opportunity to wrestle over the issues, although they do not always provide the opportunity to think outside the square.
Crs King and Bryant were respectively appointed as liaisons for the Waimea and Murchison youth councils. Crs Canton and Bouillir were respectively appointed liaisons for the Motueka and Golden Bay youth councils.
Grants close on 31 August and are allocated to organisations that run activities that support the councils community outcome goals. Applications can be made and submitted online. See http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/grants-funding/available-grants-funding/community-grants-grants-from-rates/.
Staff updated the committee on the Ecofest event and sought (and obtained) approval to hold an additional Ecofest event in Motueka in 2014. Staff would continue to work with nelson city council (NCC) staff on a branding and support partnership for the main Ecofest event proposed to be held at Founders Park. Staff budgeted a total contribution towards both Ecofest events at $20,900. The Motueka event is projected to cost $15,000 with $3,000 already spent. For information on the festival see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/recreation/events/ecofest/.
The committee approved a new policy that provided a more consistent approach to charging for hire of the portable seating for commercial and non-profit events – including new criteria for reducing or waiving hire fees. The new policy is intended to ensure that the portable seating becomes self-funding (ie, has a neutral financial impact), instead of continuing to operate at a loss. Details of the policy can be found at pages 29 to 38 of the agenda – see link below).
The policy delegates decision-making on applications for hire fee reductions/waivers to the Chief Executive Officer or delegated officer. A report on the outcome of these applications will be submitted to the community development committee on an annual basis.
Briefly, the Council purchased 3000 portable seats in 2007, as part of the council’s contribution towards the upgraded Trafalgar Park. Generally, it takes 2 weeks for the seating to be assembled into the grandstand configuration and 2 weeks for it to be dismantled.
When not in use the portable seating is stored for free in a purpose-built shed at the Nelson A&P Association Grounds in Richmond. In return the A&P Association use the seating for free during show weekend each year. Good Sports Motueka has maintained and repaired seating between uses.
In recognition of this work, seating has been provided to this group free of charge. However, no formal agreement governs this arrangement. See my earlier posts for additional background information.
Mapua reserve land
Approval from the committee was sought to commence a publicly notified intention to declare a small land parcel of land owned by Council (see page 43 of the agenda) be a reserve and subsequently be amalgamated with existing adjacent reserve land. This would ensure an adequate connection to the existing reserve land is provided for from Aranui Road. The developer of land on the corner of Aranui Road and abutting this proposed strip of reserve land agreed to fund the notification process. Costs to council would only be future maintenance of the reserve strip.
During May 2014 all public internet computers and printers held in libaries were replaced as part of our partnership agreement with Aotearoa People’s Network Aotearoa (APNK). New and upgraded software was supplied with the computers.
Visitor numbers for May 2014 totaled 39,989. Active members at the end of May 2014 totaled 24,366. Visitor numbers for the year to date are 5% lower than last year. Most of this reduction appears to be happening in Motueka, with vistor numbers in Richmond and Golden Bay generally remaining constant since 2010. Items issued during May 2014 totaled 55,523. Issues for the year to date total 599,502 which is 3% lower than last year. Use of the library’s online resources shows continuing growth. Session numbers and downloads for the year to date are 10,563 or 46% higher than last year. In my opinion this is a significant trend.
When you look at the falling visitor numbers in Motueka and the growth trend in online usage, council need to tread carefully when it comes to spending decisions on new library buildings. In order to make an informed decision on any future investment in new library buildings, I would suggest that it would be prudent of council to defer any such decision towards the end of the long term plan (LTP) – perhaps 2020.
For some great visual aids on library statistics see pages 56 to 57 of the agenda.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2014/2014-06-19.
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.
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.
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.
“Shock as $18M blow-out found” (4 June 2014) http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040614/1?e=1913941/8122090
The communications subcommittee meeting was held on 27 March 2014. Councillor Bryant submitted his apologies. All other subcommittee members (Cr Edgar, Cr Bouillir, Cr Dowler, and myself) were in attendance.
The agenda for the meeting included: (1) a broadening of the councils engagement policy, (2) various reports from staff in relation to online and communications activity, (3) the completion of outstanding action items (including a simplified logo that council printers could use), and (4) the disestablishment of this subcommittee.
An expanded engagement approach
Council staff had proposed broadening its engagement policy. The underlying reason was two fold. First, there is a statutory requirement to have a consultation policy incorporated within the TDC’s Governance Statement. Secondly, the council anted to improve its engagement with the community. As such, the proposed policy statement went “beyond” the current legislative requirements. I think the word “beyond” was possibly a poor choice of words to describe what is intended, and perhaps words suggesting a “smarter” approach to community engagement would have better described what was intended.
For me the fact the policy was intended to go “beyond” current legislative requirements raises concerns over cost. The last thing council want at this time is a widening of council activities which invariably invites staff to ask for more resourcing due to their expanded role. However, staff reassured the subcommittee that was not the intention. To explain what was intended by going “beyond” the current legislative requirements, staff gave the example of a resource consent decision notice. Under the legislation, the notice only has to state that a decision has been made and for whom it was made for – barely a paragraph on a single page letter to affected parties. What council sought to do was take the opportunity to use the rest of the page to explain what the decision meant for affected parties. It was suggested that this would not take much more time to prepare and would not result in any additional costs for council. While the Community Development manager could not reassure the subcommittee that costs would not increase for other departments (eg engineering), as she was not responsible for those departments, it was felt that operating “smarter” should have no increased costs for council.
Communication and online activity
The council reports provided a very strong indication of the increasing use of online media both in utilising the council web site and also in the use of online library media (ie, digital books, newspaper and magazine access, and database resources).
Councils publishing programme
Four Newsline and one Mudcake & Roses publication were produced in the first quarter of this year. By way of additional background it is worth noting the cost of these publications.
Mudcakes & Roses is a 2-monthly publication aimed at those that are not so young in our community. It costs the council approximately $5,207 per issue (or $31,242 per year) to produce. These costs include discounting from advertising revenue (currently $1,900 per issue) and Nelson Council financial support ($1,600 per issue).
Generally, Newsline is a two weekly publication. In 2012, there were 23 issues plus a special annual plan issue. Newsline costs the council approximately $9,753 per issue (or using a rough estimate of 24 issues per year, approximately $234,072 per year). This is offset by approximately $800 of advertising per issue (or $18,400 for 23 issues, as no advertising appears in the special annual plan issue). Apparently, Newsline is suppose to offset the need to advertise council meetings and other statutory requirements (excluding resource consent notices, as these are paid for by the applicant) in local newspapers. I have been advised that the cost of publishing public notices is between $200 to $600 per notice placement in local papers. But from what I have seen, this does not appear to be the case. Rather, I have seen the same council notices that appear in Newsline appearing in many of the local newspapers.
Council also publishes two other annual publications. Namely “Hummin” (costing approximately $29,874) and “Boredom Busters” which is a quarterly holidays programme for kids (costing approximately $10,362 per issue, or approximately $41,448 per year).
As you can see, council has a very large publishing program. In my opinion, the publishing budget could easily be reduced. For example, Newsline could contain less pages and\or be published less frequently. Mud & Roses could also reduce its frequency or be cancelled altogether.
At present, there seems little political will to do so. However, I hope that through the annual plan submission process, more pressure from the public is placed on council to reduce its publishing budget to give other councillors the confidence to make the cuts that need to happen.
A simplified logo
One other item of interest to me was the simplified Tasman logo that will be used on the new internally printed letter (so we do not need to acquire printed letter head stationary). We were advised at an earlier meeting that it would only cost a few hundred dollars to do. I was advised that that the final cost was approximately $430.
The last meeting
The disestablishment of this subcommittee was a significant item and one that I welcomed. As reported to in earlier posts this subcommittee had been asked at its last meeting to consider a diminished role. The subcommittee pushed back on that proposal and in my opinion, if the subcommittee could not take a significant role, I really had question why it existed at all. Further, much of what is reported to the communications subcommittee could be, and is, presented to the community development committee. Thus, this subcommittee’s function was somewhat redundant. Credit to staff and the chair in pushing for its early retirement.
Finally, I wish to note how pleasurable it has been working with staff and councillors on this subcommittee. Credit must go to Cr Edgar’s chairing role and to the informal and friendly manner of member councillors. If there was one benefit that comes from subcommittee’s it is the opportunity to get to know fellow councillors a little more.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting can be found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/commerical-subcommittee/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommercialSubcommittee/2014-02-28.