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 engineering services committee meeting was held on 13 August 2015. It was followed by a 2 hour workshop on the proposed storm water infrastructure for central Richmond, and the opening of the new recycling centre (picture of recycled plastic bottles above). Apologies were received from Cr Canton, otherwise all councilors were in attendance.
The agenda was very brief and comprised: (1) the chair’s report, (2) the minor improvements plan for 2015-16, (3) the engineering activity report, and (4) a presentation from engineering form MWH. I will discuss the main items of interest.
Before addressing the agenda, the public forum received two presentations.
The first issued concerned the shared use of footpaths in Brightwater. Garrick Batten raised concerns over the heightened risk of being hit by cyclists on the main street and wanted the “shared footpath” sign between the Domain and the shops removed. He suggested a new sign should read “cyclists shall walk”.
The second issue related to erosion of a road next to a river in Murchison that provided sole access to three residential homes (and forestry land). Cr Bryant, read out a letter from Rob Landau, that raised concerns over how council was responding (or not responding) to the problem. He felt the council should be proactive in resolving this problem and pointed out that part of the road was on reserve land. He felt council had a moral obligation (ie social justice) to do something, given council had authorised development along this road. The mayor indicated that a council delegation would investigate the issue further.
The report sought council approval for 8 engineering projects that were discussed at an earlier workshop held on 2 July 2015. I was unable to attend that workshop, but did have the opportunity to read the supporting workshop documents.
The workshop documents outlined 21 potential minor improvement projects that were assessed against various criteria (eg, safety, risk, and community demand), so they could be ranked. Some of these projects were already on hold, pending further consultation (for example, Motueka’s signalised pedestrian crossing, Salisbury Road mid-block crossing, and four others). Of the 21 projects, the workshop documents provided additional detail of the 9 highest ranked projects (that were not already on hold).
By way of background, the NZTA had already approved council’s request for $2.97 million under minor improvements in the 2015-18 period under the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP). This comprised: $966,000 (for 2015-16), $991,000 (for 2016-17), and $1,017,000 (for 2017-18). This funding was NZTA’s contribution towards the total cost of proposed minor improvement projects. The NZTA contribution provided 52% of the total cost of a qualifying project, with the council funding the remaining 48%.
The 9 projects considered at the workshop are outlined below.
|Project||Description||Total Cost||TDC Cost|
|Wallace Street pedestrian crossing, Motueka||The speed limit on the street was 50km and there had been 3 incidents at the intersection (one was a car vs pedestrian incident) in the last 10 years. The project involved relocating the crossing an additional 3m east from the intersection and constructing a new kurb layout that reduced the street width near the intersection.||$40,000.00||$19,200.00|
|Whakarewa Street intersection||This was was a cross road intersection with a speed limit of 50km. There had been 10 incidents (2 serious) in the last 10 years. The project proposed sought to widen the turning area (that would allow a round-about in the future), improve line of sight, and cut back the existing traffic island.||$100,000.00||$48,000.00|
|Mapua Drive footpath||The speed limit along this road was currently 60km. There were no reported incidents in the last 10 years. The area was being developed for residential use (previously apple orchards). The project proposed a new foot path from Higgs Road intersection to Aranui Road.||$200,000.00||$96,000.00|
|Mapua Drive round-about||The speed limit was 60km and there had been 1 incident in the last 10 years. The project proposed a round-about (with four entrance roads) at the intersection, that would be co-funded by the developer, whose development would enter the round-about from a new road (Mapua Rise). Council were contributing up to $250,000 (50% of the expected costs).||$250,000.00||$120,000.00|
|Lower Queen Street widening||The speed limit is 70km and 1 incident along this part of the road had been reported in the last 10 years. The project proposed piping the 120m open drain near McShane Road. This would allow future widening of the road along this part of Queen Street.||$150,000.00||$72,000.00|
|Motupipi Street (Meihana Street) intersection (opp Fonterra factory)||The speed limit is 50km and there have been no reported incidents in the last 10 years at the “T” intersection. The project proposes removing the existing traffic island, adding a new traffic island in Meihanna Street, providing a right turning bay into Factory Road, and realigning the roads.||$120,000.00||$57,600.00|
|Whiteside bridge widening||The speed limit is 100km and there has been 1 incident in the last 10 years. The project proposes widening the box culvert by 3m to improve visibility when approaching or leaving George Harvey Road.||$65,000.00||$31,200.00|
|Upper Moutere footpath||The speed limit is 50km and there had been no reported incidents for the last 10 years. The project proposed a new foot path (100m) along the Moutre highway between Supplejack Valley Road and Sunrise Valley Road.||$175,000.00||$84,000.00|
|Flett Road intersection, Moutere||The speed limit on this bending part of the road is 100km and there had been 2 incidents in the last 10 years. The intersection had two entrance points (a “Y” intersection) and the project involved changing them to a single “T” intersection.||$250,000.00||$120,000.00 *|
* less the developer’s contribution of $69,000, under a consent order (of which the developer had paid $60,375).
Given possible legal issues around whether the Fleet Road project should proceed (or not), council resolved to defer the Flett Road project until legal advice and other solutions were considered.
Of the remaining projects, I raised concerns about: (1) Upper Moutre footpathing, (2) Lower Queen St piping, and (3) the Mapua drive footpath. I will discuss my reasons for challenging these projects below.
I also raised a broader question around the need to widen and rework so many roads. At the heart of this question was whether council needed to be investing so much into “minor” improvements. Something I had also raised when we were setting the long term plan. In my mind, just because we get a subsidy should not mean we should be throwing money at projects. Especially if they are minor.
By way of analogy, its like going into a retail shop sale and spending money during the “sale” event, because you have been able to receive a discount. The reality is that you still have to spend money to get the (perceived) saving.
I accept that the contribution does add value to council’s asset base – but the reality is that we cannot dispose or leverage those assets like in a private business.
The real question that councillors should be asking is do we really need to do this work and spend ratepayers money in this space. Is the work really needed now. And do we need to be doing so much work. Why can’t we spread these projects over a longer period, so they are affordable for ratepayers (the ones having to fund these projects). Why the urgency?
So many in the community question why council has to widen so many roads. It is seen as an unnecessary expense, at a time when the community cannot afford such rate increases. While the average rates increase across the district might be capped at 3%, the reality is that residential ratepayers rates increases are 1-2% above that mark.
It’s just not affordable when incomes are not increasing as fast. Rather, council need to be pulling back on its expenditure, in order to reign in rates increases to a more sustainable level. Minor improvements are seen as a luxury, that provide very minor benefits to a small part of the community. Rather, the money should be spent on major improvements – stuff that really needs to be done.
Unfortunately, some councilors did not appreciate me re-litigating discussions that had been had during the earlier workshop (or long term plan) – with accusations of “grandstanding” being made. I reminded the councillor that decisions were not made in workshops – a point the mayor had vigorously made in the newspapers some months earlier. Nor was my absence at the workshop, a license to not enter into a debate. The whole point of this public meeting was to debate the issues. If that meant items were re-litigated (from a private meeting) in the public forum, so be it. This was hardly grandstanding.
Further, while I appreciated I had lost the debate about the funding of minor improvements in the long term plan, I felt it was appropriate to raise the issue again, given we were now being confronted with the detail and reasons for these minor improvement projects. In my mind, council needed to take stock of the reality, and really ask if this work needed to be done.
Given the mood around the table was hardly embracing an examination of the proposed projects, I focused on the three projects that I had the greatest difficulty supporting. Namely, Upper Moutre footpath, Lower Queen St piping, and the Mapua drive footpath.
In my mind, the staff report did not provide enough evidence for me to see the justification for the Moutere footpath project. While there was mention by a councillor of safety issues for school children walking to school (a sensible justification), no mention of this reason was made in the report for justifying the project. Nor was there any mention of how many children (or adults) used this part of the road, or how many vehicles used the road at the same time?
If speed was the issue, then had alternative measures been deployed first? Was this a safety issue, or was it just a request to have a footpath by some residents because one it would be nice to have? Interestingly, the speed limit was 50km and there had been no reported incidents on this part of the road. The lack of any evidence to support a safety justification for the work, made it look like a luxury project – and I was not going to support a nice to have project. More information was required.
Fortunately, this argument found favour with the mayor and Cr King, and with their nod of approval it found favour with other councilors. Cr King also suggested that a footpath was unlikely to prevent a speeding car hitting a pedestrian and he suggested a driver feedback sign be deployed while further information was being gathered.
In my mind, the lower Queen Street piping project was another road widening exercise. More road widening for the sake of widening roads in anticipation of more vehicle use. Having visited a number of residents, one complaint that came across from residents when talking about road works was the perception of the council undertaking quite unnecessary work, which they had to fund. It is a message that was also clearly conveyed in the recent residents survey. The message I tried to convey in the council chamber was that the community did not want any more roads widened.
Unlike the Moutere project (which had no road incidents), there had been one incident along this road, which had involved a vehicle going into the open ditch. Having driven down this road many times I was left wondering how someone could drive into the ditch? It was not clear in the report if it was the road or driver error that caused the incident. I suspect it was the later. Given it did not result in a fatality, was quite rare (one incident in ten years), and involved just 120 metres of the road, I could not see why we would want to pipe this part of the road, at this time. Put to the vote, I was the only one who did not support this project.
Mapua Drive was another footpath project. Those who have driven down this road (the old road to Motueka via Ruby bay), will be aware that the old apple orchard at the top of the hill has been replaced with a new residential development. A few houses have begun to appear already and a new round-about is about to be installed at the Higgs Road intersection.
The project proposed a footpath from the proposed roundabout down the hill towards the old Mapua Tavern on the corner. The justification was it would be used by new residents wanting to walk to Mapua, and in particular, the local school. In my opinion, the road in question was already very wide and provided sufficient distance from traveling vehicles to make walking on the edge of the road fairly safe (especially in comparison to the Moutere footpath project). In my opinion, people would probably want to walk down Higgs Road, rather than Mapua drive. Was council footpathing the wrong road? Further, the Motueka bypass had removed a number of vehicles (including heavy vehicles) off Mapua Drive.
In my mind, the project anticipated use, rather than responding to demand. If we are to reduce costs (and rates) “minor” projects needed to react to need, rather than anticipating need. So often council over invest in the wrong areas based on misinformed assumptions. Surely, the better approach was to defer this project to another year (or two), to see if there was such a need? What if all the residents were retirees? There was simply no evidence to justify this project. If it was a safety issue, then it should have been a “major” project, and more information around safety provided in the report – but, there was none.
In my opinion, we should be doing half of the minor projects we were proposing to do each year. And this was another nice to have, aesthetically pleasing, (minor) project, that could have waited.
Again, I was voted down.
Engineering activity highlights include:
- Gladstone Road traffic lights. These are to be monitored by new cameras and once installed (by July) will allow NZTA’s traffic operations centre in Wellington to manage the lights more effectively during peak hours. Effectively, automation over-ride by a central control room. Other minor adjustments will also be made around the same time to improve traffic flow.
- New ice lights. These have been installed on Koere-Tophouse Road, Kerr Hill, Motueka Valley Highway, and Riwak-Sandy bay Road.
- New LED lights. 100 LED lights have been installed during July.
- School campaigns. A back to school print and radio promotion was run in term one to remind drivers to slow down and expect children around schools. Another campaign was held in June to “look out” for kids crossing roads.
- Rubbish. Illegal rubbish dumping (fly tipping) has occurred in the Waimea. Electronic surveillance has been deployed on one site.
- Rivers. River maintenance expenditure (2014-15) was $1,385,000 ($605,000 under budget). These funds will be carried forward into the next financial year. River classification “Z” funding is 50% subsidised by central government. There were only two applications for funding of River “Z” work (in Murchison). Waimea river hydraulic modeling will be undertaken to measure current performance of mitigation measures and aid future modeling.
- Jackett Island. Sandbags remain in good condition, although there appears to be some erosion to the north.
- Marahau boat launching ramp. The steel walkway to the timber jetty has been reinstalled.
- Ruby bay revetment wall. The repair of steps from Tait Street to the foreshore have been deferred until storm water outlet repair work has been completed.
- Solid waste. The new recycling service is now up and running. In my opinion, this has been a very well managed transition to a new service and staff should take some satisfaction in its implementation. Feedback from residents I have spoken to so far (I’m doing a mid-term walk about in Richmond), have nothing but praise for the new service. Of course, there will be glitches, but its the putting right that counts. And in case you were wondering, your recycling bin has an average life expectancy of 10-15 years.
- York Valley. Work also continues on a regional landfill agreement (at York Valley) with NCC. In my opinion, this is a no brainer, and it surprises me that NCC councillors have not been more supportive of the initiative. No doubt NCC’s review of the proposal (by Deloitte) will show this is a good proposal for the region. And hopefully the start of a few more joint service initiatives that save ratepayers in both regions money (and rates).
The presentation was intended to introduce key members of the MWH engineering team to councilors. The presentation outlined the international experience of the company and their areas of expertise (see http://www.mwhglobal.com).
MWH had been an established provider of engineering advice to council for 15 years. For example, MWH were currently engaged to provide storm water modeling advice to council.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2015/2015-08-13.
Recycling centre – opening
Finally, after the meeting was closed, councillors were invited to attend the opening of the new recycling centre. Crs Mirfin, Norris, Dowler, Higgins, Sangster, and myself attended with the mayor.
It is an amazing operation and will be of real benefit to Tasman (and perhaps Nelson) region in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills (and the cost of operating landfills). And that has to be good for the environment (and the ratepayers pocket).