Tagged: Queen street

Engineering committee meeting (14 April)

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The engineering services committee meeting was held on 14 April 2016. Apologies were received from Cr Mirfin, and for lateness Cr Bouillir and Mayor Kempthorne. All other councillors were present.

The agenda (88 pages) included: (1) Richmond car parking survey 2015-2016, (2) Chairman’s report, (3) Water services – options for service provision – s 17A review, (4) Water and wastewater reticulation – Mapua, (5) Rivers works – options for service provision – s 17A review, (6) Rivers contract extension and procurement of new contract, (7) Severe rain event update, (8) Road safety update, and (9) Engineering services activity update.

Public forum

Mr Maxwell Clark spoke about the new funding model for the Waimea Dam. He considered the revised model was good because it made it clear that the irrigators needed to pay their fair share. Something they were not currently doing.

Mr Graeme Dick (a property developer) spoke about the development of Mapua and the major restrictions relating to water supply. He urged the Council to create urgency (as it was not in the LTP) and to fast track the supply of new water to the Mapua area. He suggested a water pipe to Mapua would cost approximately $6 million and that 140 new sections would cover that cost. From development levies.

Cr Sangster spoke about the recent Takaka flooding and the issue with water ponding at the wastewater treatment plant. He urged the Council to include gravel removal from the Waingaro River (near Duncan’s bank) as a matter of urgency.

Richmond Car Parking Survey

A powerpoint presentation developed by Ben Norrish and Dylan Waghorn (engineering summer students) was presented to the committee by staff. This presentation was subsequently followed up with a council workshop on car parking strategies.

Chair’s report

Highlights included:

  • Fluoridation. The mood of councillors was that the cost of fluoridation should fall on those who made the decision to fluoridate (ie the DHB) or central government, not TDC. Staff were asked to provide a report on the central government’s water fluoridation proposal including expected timeframes, costs, and the proposed legal framework.
  • State highway liaison meetings. Councillors discussed the frequency and timing of these meetings. It was agreed the meetings should continue, but perhaps less often.

Water services review and procurement

Council resolved to: (1) receive the report, (2) not to undertake a s 17A review, and (3) proceed with tendering for procurement of water utilities operations and maintenance services. Council also instructed staff to develop a s 17A service delivery review programme in the relevant Activity Management Plan (AMP) for the Long Term Plan (LTP) 2018-28.

Generally, a local authority must review the cost-effectiveness of current arrangements for meeting the needs of communities within its district or region for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services and performance of regulatory functions (under s 17 of the LGA). However, a local authority is not required to undertake a review if they are satisfied that the potential benefits of undertaking a review do not justify the cost of undertaking the review.

In this case, the expiry of the water utilities service deliver contract has triggered a s 17A review. However, there are potential benefits and efficiencies from deferring a future service delivery review until the review aligns with the water utility contract renewal at Nelson council (NCC). In effect, a major shared services alignment on water services with Nelson council.

Water and wastewater reticulation – Mapua

Council resolved to: (1) receive the report, and (2) approve the use of up to $300,000 for a feasibility study for water and wastewater options in Mapua in 2016-17, funded from activity balances for water ($200,000), wastewater ($50,000), and transport ($50,000). Council also requested that staff report back to council on the process to be followed, including: potential stakeholder engagement, and a breakdown of the budget prior to commencing work on the feasibility study.

Private developers have been exploring alternative water supply proposals in Mapua to either boost the council’s system capacity or create new schemes. Recent investigations into interim water supply solutions for Mapua confirm that the Council’s water network is at capacity and cannot accommodate more growth above the water already allocated. The wastewater network is also at capacity and must be upgraded before it can accommodate growth beyond the developments already consented in Mapua.

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Under the current Long Term Plan, water and wastewater works to renew the water main and provide substantial additional capacity for growth won’t be completed for approximately 12 years. Ongoing significant water pipe breaks are threatening the delivery of an acceptable Level of Service (LOS) to residents. These are not yet at a level that justifies early intervention.

However, staff are concerned that either growth demand or excessive pipe failure in the future could warrant action before upgrade works are currently programmed – or adequately planned. Hence, staff propose to advance a feasibility study in 2016-17 that will allow the selection of a preferred design option, sizing, and programming, for both water and wastewater. The study will consider whether works should be brought forward in the future (if needed).

Rivers work review

Council resolved to: (1) receive the report, (2) not to undertake a s 17A review, and (3) proceed with tendering for procurement of water utilities operations and maintenance services. Council also instructed staff to develop a s 17A service delivery review programme in the relevant Activity Management Plan (AMP) for the Long Term Plan (LTP) 2018-28.

Generally, a local authority must review the cost-effectiveness of current arrangements for meeting the needs of communities within its district or region for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services and performance of regulatory functions (under s 17 of the LGA). However, a local authority is not required to undertake a review if they are satisfied that the potential benefits of undertaking a review do not justify the cost of undertaking the review.

In this case, the expiry of the river works contract has triggered a s 17A review. However, there are potential benefits and efficiencies from deferring a future service delivery review until the review aligns with the water utility contract renewal at Nelson council (NCC). In effect, a major shared services alignment on river works with Nelson council.

Rivers contracts

Council resolved to: (1) receive the report, and (2) approves the extension of the rivers maintenance contract C840 with Taylors Contracting Ltd until 30 September 2016.

Council currently has a contract with Taylors Contracting Limited to provide physical works in “X” and “Y” classified rivers. This is a 5-year contract (3+1+1 years) which expires on 30 June 2016. Staff sought to extend the current contract by 3 months to enable a review and develop contract documents for the new tender process. If approved, the current rivers contract would expire on 30 September 2016.

Severe rain event

Council resolved to receive the report.

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A severe storm event (across the whole district) occurred on 23-24 March 2016. Over 24 hours 250-350mm of rainfall fell across the northwest ranges and Kahurangi National Park area, and 150-200mm about the Richmond Ranges.

Location

Total Rainfall (mm)

Aorere at Collingwood

298

Anatoki at Paradise

376

Takaka at Harwoods

267

Takaka at Canaan

336

Riwaka at Takaka Hill

254

Waimea at Appleby

124

Brook at Third House

145

Lee at Trig F

174

Nelson at Founders Park

105

 

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The largest flood occurred in the Riwaka River. The flow in the South Branch tributary peaked at 96 cumecs and the flow in the North Branch tributary peaked at 94 cumecs, which was the second highest flow since records began in 1982.

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The Takaka River catchment also experienced significant flooding. The upper catchment rivers reached flows corresponding to around 15-30-year flood events and the mid catchment 5-10-year floods events. The upper Takaka River at Harwoods flow site recorded the second highest level since records began in 1975.

Location Records Start This Event (rainfall mm) Previous Highest (rainfall mm)
Collingwood Repeater 2012 298 178
Takaka at Harwoods 1988 267 265
Riwaka North at Littles 1995 227 186
Tui Close (Motueka) 1998 179 140

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Road safety

Council resolved to receive the report.

Tasman District has always had a relatively low crash history. Generally, around 70 people annually are hurt when using the road network. In 2006 and 2007, numbers were higher than normal.

In 2006, there were 3 fatal and 7 serious crashes on our road network. A further 50 minor crashes and 97 damage only incidents also occurred. In 2007, there were 2 fatal, 24 serious and 91 minor injury crashes, and 119 damage only crashes. Since 2010, there has been a steady decrease in the number of people injured on our road network. In 2015, there were no fatal crashes.

The first graph shows the fatal and serious reported crashes from 2006 to 2015. A trend line has also been added to show the reduction over time.

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The next graph shows all injury crashes from 2006 to 2015.

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The last graph shows the above data as well as non-injury (damage only) crashes.

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The graph below provides crash data from 2006 to 2015.

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The graph below shows the traffic growth (vehicle kilometres travelled) across the District from 2006 to 2015.

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Engineering services activity update

Council resolved to receive the report. Highlights from the managers report included:

  • Finances. Overall operations income and expenditure is within or ahead of budget. A total year to date operating surplus of $5.8 million is recorded. The capital works programme is behind budget overall. We are still struggling to commit all the carry forward work from the last financial year and initiate all the new capital work in the current year.
  • Health and safety. Water main excavation work vs power line (11kv power cable) incident resulted in an arc touching a digger bucket. No injuries were reported. Downer began an investigation on the morning of the incident. Immediate action has been to change their procedures.
  • Planning. Staff have developed a 2016 activity planning business plan. The plan does not outline all of the team’s work, just priorities for 2016, and indicative priorities for 2017. Transport plans include: Tasman Speed Management Plan, and District Car Parking Strategy Review. Stormwater plans include: Richmond Catchment Management Plan (CMP), and Secondary Flowpath Management. Other projects include: Regional Water Supply and Demand model, Water related TRMP changes, Water Allocation Principles and Practice, and the Joint Land Development Manual.
  • Asset database. Since the last update, 3,474 utilities asset features have been added, edited, or deleted, based on new subdivision works, repairs and council contracts are received. Progress has been made in reviewing and improving the drains data set with 138 new assets added, 34 amended and 10 features removed (added in error or superseded by piped systems).
  • Developments. Three subdivision engineering plans have been received and approved since the last update. Council’s legal advisers are preparing a deed for an area in Richmond West which has a deferred residential zoning and has the potential for an additional 500 new dwellings. It is proposed that the area will be serviced by a new wastewater pressure sewerage system draining to Headingly Lane. Residential developments (future 60 lots) off Pitfure road in Wakefield are extending into residential zoned land; discussion with the developer’s agent is continuing. Pre-application discussions on future developments in Richmond south are continuing. The Hart subdivision (33 lots) on the corner of Hill street and Hart road is nearing completion. The Mapua Joint Ventures development is continuing with the next stages (24 lots) which will see the upgrades of the Seaton Valley Road and Mapua Drive frontages to the subdivision. Stage three (36 lots) of the subdivision in Grey Street Motueka is nearing completion.
  • Stormwater. Secondary flow paths protected by easements in new subdivisions continue to be blocked by fences/gardens and enforcement may be required to maintain these flow paths. Work is underway to remove a number of willow trees and place rock protection in Reservoir Creek, Richmond. A programme of hazard identification at water utilities sites has commenced, starting with an assessment of stormwater inlets. Staff will be using iAuditor software on site which will ensure that data is entered electronically directly into the system in a consistent manner.
  • Tender Portal. TDC now have our own portal for Tenderlink (www.tenderlink.com/tasman) which is linked to the Council’s website.
  • Waste. Recycling tonnages continue to track above 2015, with year to date tonnages 24% above last year. Resource recovery centres have been busy over summer and total waste volumes are tracking 6% above budget.
  • Roads. March has seen the completion of a 300 metre aggregate overlay and associated drainage work on Korere–Tophouse Road. This has remediated a section of road that suffered severe stress due to the logging activity along this route. The gravel section of Old House Road at the intersection with Central Road has been sealed as a safety improvement. Focus was also put on replacing, extending or installing a number of culverts including at Herring Stream Road, Tadmor-Glenhope Road, Hursthouse Street and the Motueka Valley Highway. Pavement repairs to various roads in Richmond included: Bateup Road roundabout at Wensley Road, Churchill Avenue and Hill Street Rip and Remake.
  • Lighting. The conversion of street lamps to LED is on track for completion by June. Also planning is underway to convert Parks and Reserves lights which will also be completed by late June.
  • Other work. Members of the Richmond’s Men’s Shed have recently completed painting (stain) the seats and gate in Sundial Square. Site Services re-cut a new track in the road reserve extension at the end of Hill street that connects to Hill Street South. Members of the Men’s Shed have also been involved in some of this work with clearing and cutting grass and they will also be constructing a short section of shallow steps.
  • Cycle trail. A funding application has been submitted to MBIE for $223,481 for: Pomona and Marriages Roads off-road trail, Coastal erosion protection (Fittal Street), and estuary boardwalk and signage. The next focus for development will be: Wai-iti Domain to Quail Valley Road via Tunnicliff Forest, Nelson Forests Limited and Ewing Poultry; and South of Spooners Tunnel to Norris Gulley Picnic area.
  • Jackett Island. Jackett Island has experienced two medium storm events since the last inspection on 7 September 2015. There are no reports of any damage to the sandbag wall. The sand bag wall was inspected on 21 March 2016 and is generally in good condition. A further quarterly survey of the sandbag wall and beach profiles was undertaken in March.
  • Rivers. Expenditure for the river maintenance related work year-to-date was $657,000. This is $622,000 or 50% under the even monthly proportional year-to-date expenditure budget.
  • Storms. Total costs to date for road cleanup and reinstatement from the storm event on 17-18 February 2016 is $60,000, which has been funded from existing maintenance budgets. This excludes costs to repair Tasman’s Great Taste Trail.

Projects

Enclosed below are a series of you tube video’s showing the development of a number of engineering projects council have started during my first term on council:

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2016/14April2016.

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Full council (31 March)

Queen Street Reinstatement and the Dam

The full council meeting was held on 31 March 2016. Apologies were received from Crs King, Bouillir and Sangster for lateness. All other councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) Tasman speed management plan, (2) Development contributions policy review, (3) Richmond infrastructure – Queen Street reinstatement project, (4) Special grants funding, (5) Waimea Community Dam – project status report including council response to WCDL funding proposal, (6) Mayor’s report, (7) Chief executive’s activity report, (8) Machinery resolutions, and (9) Action items from previous council meetings. In-committee (confidential) items included: (1) Land and access in the Lee Valley for the purposes of the Waimea Community Dam Project, and (2) Procurement and tendering process. I will highlight the main issues for me.

Public forum

Presentations were received from Maxwell Clarke and Murray Dawson.

Mr Clark spoke about the Waimea Dam. He was concerned that decisions taken today were being made without informed public consultation. He believed it was not the ratepayers’ responsibility to fund the dam – it was the responsibility of the irrigators. He was concerned that the council was undertaking decisions that would have huge financial consequences on ratepayers beyond this term of council. Waimea East Irrigation company was a large extractor of water (extracting directly from the river), who sold that water to irrigators. He suggested that the environmental flow was not really councils problem – it was the irrigators problem.

Mr Dawson spoke about the environmental flow provided for with the proposed Waimea Dam. He also spoke about the provision for future demand with the dam model. Mr Dawson suggested that council cannot justify the current level of expenditure based on urban supply detracting from river. This was because the urban extractions were minor, in comparison to irrigators, and had very little environmental impact. He asked that council pause and reconsidered weirs as an option. He asked for a workshop on the issue.

Tasman speed management plan

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) made a submission to the Council on the draft Speed Limit Bylaw in October 2015. NZTA staff were concerned that the Council’s process for reviewing and setting speed limits may not be in harmony with NZTA’s new Draft Speed Management Guide (Guide) which was released on 1 September 2015.

The draft Guide provides a framework and a toolbox to help manage speed on road networks. It will help Road Controlling Authorities identify where the risks are, where effort should be prioritised, and exactly what interventions (if any), are needed on what roads.

On 18 February 2016, the Council agreed to develop a Tasman Speed Management Plan (Plan) together with NZTA. Council and NZTA staff consider that the Tasman Regional Transport Committee is an appropriate governance body to oversee and consult on the development of the Plan.

Development contributions policy review

Council received the report and instructed staff to commence a full review of the development contributions policy.

In 2015, the Development Contributions Policy was reviewed as part of the Long Term Plan (LTP) 2015-2025. Council also received a number of submissions on the issue. Unfortunately, it was not considered practical, due to time and resource constraints, to undertake a full review of the catchment approach used in the Policy. Consequently, the Council maintained the single catchment approach to calculating development contribution charges.

In 2015, Mapua Joint Ventures (MJV) lodged an objection to the development contributions notice issued by the Council for wastewater and stormwater. Most of their objection related to the Council’s Interim Development Contributions Policy. This was the first such Development Contributions objection heard by commissioners under the new legislation.

The commissioners’ decision upheld the Council’s assessment of development contributions, finding that none of the objection grounds were met. However, in their decision, the commissioners also made observations on the Council’s Interim Development Contributions Policy, as they are permitted to do so under clause 9 (5) of Schedule 13A of the LGA. Specifically, they were critical of the single catchment approach, noting that the LGA explicitly stated that “the district-wide approach for grouping assets should be avoided”; that it was odd that “vastly disconnected spatial communities should be somehow connected through a financial mechanism”; and that on this matter the Development Contributions Policy “fell short of expectations”.

Following the commissioners’ ruling, staff sought legal advice from Simpson Grierson concerning the Council’s approach to catchments. Simpson Grierson shared the commissioners’ concerns with the district-wide approach to catchments and they advised that the Council consider moving to a multi catchment approach in future.

Staff intend to seek legal and professional advice during the review and preparation of a new Policy. Staff estimate this cost to be in the order of $20,000. Staff propose to consult on the revised Policy concurrent with the Annual Plan 2017-2018.

Staff also intend to review the way growth expenditure and revenue are accounted for in our systems. This will ensure the Council can properly attribute development contribution revenue to growth costs, ensuring the Council knows when growth projects have been paid for, and when they should no longer be listed in the Development Contribution Policy.

Richmond infrastructure – Queen Street reinstatement project

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The upgrade of Queen Street is part of the 5-year Richmond Central Infrastructure programme to replace pipework and improve stormwater management around Richmond. This work on Queen Street will renew aging infrastructure and improve stormwater management. The above picture is what Queen Street looks like now. And the following picture illustrates what it would look like after reinstatement.

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The concept design promotes a slow-speed environment where pedestrians have more space to sit, shop, linger and meet. A narrower road (3-metre wide traffic lanes) will assist in moving through traffic onto the ring road and change driver behavior to encourage lower vehicle speeds.

The wider footpath allows a 2-metre wide route of travel with no obstacles and improves accessibility for all. The continuous asphalt surface is a low cost material, easy to maintain, providing a very smooth surface for accessibility. Some colouring may be considered during detailed design to enhance the aesthetic of the street.

Overall the design provides for the needs identified by the community without extravagance and can be achieved within the existing budget. The budget for the Queen Street upgrade is $9.8 million which includes: replacement of stormwater, wastewater and water pipes, lowering and replacement of the road, and renewal of the footpath.

Key features of the designed street include:

  • Road profile: The road profile will be changed (from concave to convex), and the street layout from shop front-to-shop front will be a continuous surface, with no kerb and channel. Asphalt will be used to provide a smooth surface, with the exception of a 700mm wide buffer zone. The 700mm wide buffer zone will be exposed aggregate to clearly delineate the footpath and carriageway. Street lighting, traffic signs and other street furniture will be placed here, keeping the footpath clear of obstacles.
  • Footpaths: A 4-metre wide footpath will ensure a 2-metre wide continuous accessible route of travel along Queen Street can be provided. The additional space in the footpath area will enable people to have space to stop without obstructing the line of pedestrian travel, provide seating and other requirements for the community.
  • Parking: Parallel parking will be on both sides of the street. The car park width will be increased to 2.3 metres. This will provide more space to park and enter/exit the vehicle. This results in a loss of around 5 car parks from 112 spaces available today. By design, the car park spaces can easily and cost-effectively be converted to provide flexibility of their use (such as car or bike parking, outdoor seating or other business or community purpose).
  • Pedestrian crossings: The current raised crossings will be replaced with two zebra (legal) crossings located at the Mall entrance and Sundial Square. Crossings facilities will remain at the roundabouts. The change to the road geometry along the length (narrower road) will make it safer for crossing at any point along Queen Street as a result of the lower speed environment.
  • Bus routes: These will change. The current bus stop will be removed from Sundial Square to the mall entrance. There will be one or two stops, subject to the final agreed bus route which will be confirmed in detailed design.
  • Landscaping: More shade, trees and greenery has been requested from the community. Trees and seating will be used to provide areas with shade for pedestrians to stop and rest at intervals across the length of Queen Street.

I raised a question about the location of cyclists on the narrowed road. As vehicles would not be able to pass cyclists, and nor would cyclists have much room to allow cars to pass.

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Timeline

Action Timeline
Development of detailed design for reinstatement April – May 2016
Planning and discussions with businesses on construction methods and timing, prior to work April – July 2016
Report back to the Council with final detailed design June 2016
Procurement June 2016
Construction works commence on Queen Street August 2016
Construction works expected to be completed August 2017

See also TDC’s webpage on the Queen Street Reinstatement Project and the You Tube video.

Special grants funding

Council approved (with the mayor making a casting vote), the allocation of $50,000 towards a Special Grants Fund. The fund would be a one-off cost to council and would carry-over to the following year if not used. It would be used to fund large one-off community projects that the current community grants fund was unable to grant sufficient funds. Only applications for a minimum of $10,000 would be accepted. This was to clearly differentiate the fund from the community grants fund, and convey the message that it was primarily to support large events.

Criteria for the new special grants fund are:

  • align with Council’s community outcomes,
  • raise the national/international profile of Tasman District,
  • deliver an economic return to the Tasman District,
  • professionally develop the local event sector,
  • utilise facilities that Council has invested in, and/or build on the unique natural environment of Tasman District, and
  • address an identified community need.

My concern with the proposal was two fold. First, I held concerns that the community grants fund was not a sufficient check on the merits of allocating such a large sum of funds. In my opinion, full council should be deciding on the merits of such an application. Accordingly, I put forward an amendment (Cr Canton seconding) that read:

3b. that the Full Council make final decisions on recommendations from the Community Grants Subcommittee on applications made to the Fund.

Unfortunately, on a show of hands, the vote was 3/9 against my amendment.

Secondly, while I appreciated that attracting large events to the region was beneficial, I considered that council had more pressing need for $50,000 (ie stormwater). Surely it was more important to protect peoples homes first, before entertaining them. Further, TDC already funded the EDA, and that organisation already had capacity to fund large events. I voted against the fund.

Waimea Community Dam – project status report including council response to WCDL funding proposal

This was a significant report that updated council on progress and also invited the council to pass resolutions that: “confirms its commitment to fund up to $25M towards the project costs while noting that Council’s contribution (50%) to the sunk costs remains in addition to the $25M”. And also resolved “confirms that its position on funding the environmental capacity in the dam remains unchanged”

I took issue with both these resolutions (which I discuss in more detail below). First, I saw no reason to pass the resolutions, unless the purpose was to lift councils contribution from $25 million, to $28 million (ie $25 million plus $3 million of sunk costs). Secondly, I considered that an an extractor pays approach to the environmental benefit portion would result in council reducing its financial commitment (not increasing it) – and that given the opportunity, we should revise the environmental capacity funding model, rather than confirm it. In my opinion, the earlier council indicated a different approach, the fairer it was on those irrigators who were seeking funding for the dam.

Council also resolved to confirm its earlier advice to Waimea Community Dam Limited (WCDL) that the WCDL funding model was not acceptable to the council for the reasons set out previously.

Council’s preference was a model that:

  • allocates costs to beneficiaries in proportion to design capacity,
  • limits debt at p95 (95% price certainty) in the JV to around $10 million (this being consistent with the council’s funding commitment),
  • places the balance of the debt to fund the design capacity for the beneficiaries with the proposed joint venture partner(s), and
  • is based on p95 cost estimates and provides for equitable allocation of project cost over or under runs.

Update report

Following on from the Council’s December 2014 consultation, and decision that the project could not be fully funded from rates, WCDL undertook to try to raise the money to fund the irrigator capacity in the dam and to develop an initial investment proposal for consideration by Council.

That proposal looked something like this:

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WCDL and Council representatives met on 2 December 2015. That meeting was to discuss WCDL’s proposed funding model and the assumptions they had made about the appropriate project cost estimate to use and about the additional debt that would need to be held in the JV vehicle. Some limited work had been done by WCDL to address the concerns raised by Council in September 2015 over their funding model as originally proposed.

The Council’s concerns with the WCDL proposal were about:

  • the robustness of the numbers proposed,
  • WCDL’s ability to meet its obligation to the proposed joint venture, and
  • the fairness and equity in how capital and operating costs are allocated and funded.

WCDL and Council representatives agreed that:

  • the overall CCO structure for the JV was acceptable,
  • irrigators and related extractive users (WCDL) would accept a structure where they do not hold 50% or more of the JV shares, and
  • council negotiators would prepare a modified proposal that identified issues for presentation to WCDL in January 2016.

On 20 January 2016, a modified funding model was presented to the Project Steering Group (PSG). As a result of discussions at the PSG and as requested, staff developed a revised proposal. The key changes from the original proposal were:

  • debt above $10 million being held in WCDL with interest costs met by irrigators,
  • industrial water users and high-use industries (“wet industries”) having Water Supply Agreements (WSAs) with Council, as this demand is included within the 1400 hectare equivalent of dam capacity assigned to urban water supplies, and
  • the balancing item for the higher project cost was NCC/Central Government funding. That has increased to $11 million.

In my opinion, leaving some debt in the Dam company (that is jointly owned) is sensible move as it allows any interest costs to be deducted against any potential revenue. Its a tax thing. As long as the debt is shared equally there is minimal risk for council (unless the other shareholders evaporate). Hence why I also did not want to see the Dam company completely debt loaded by the irrigators. Any irrigator debt should be held in an irrigator controlled investment holding vehicle.

On 18 February 2016, council held a workshop that considered a background paper on “Council’s Response to the Waimea Community Dam Ltd Funding Model”. A copy of the workshop paper was provided to WCDL and following that workshop, the Mayor communicated council’s concerns and position to the WCDL directors.

Subsequently, WCDL advised council that certain high level elements of the model were agreed, but it was also clear that there were affordability challenges, and a lot of detail to resolve before the model could be agreed.

The proposed model has the following characteristics:

  • retains the 50/50 JV structure (voting rights) but provides for an unequal capital contribution (TDC 34.4%, NCC 5.3% WCDL 60.3%),
  • is a CCO therefore has access to the Council’s Public Works Act (PWA) powers,
  • allocates costs to beneficiaries in proportion to design capacity,
  • assumes that NCC will be an “extractive user” and fund the design capacity and operating costs assigned to the regional supply,
  • limits debt at p95 in the JV to around $10M (this being consistent with the Council’s funding commitment),
  • places the balance of the debt to fund the design capacity for the beneficiaries with the JV partner, and
  • overcomes the unfairness in operating cost allocation.

The proposed structure and funding model for a $82.4 million Dam is illustrated below:

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The revised structure is preferred because it allocates dam project costs based on the design capacity assigned to each stakeholder group. The former model merely divided costs based on an environmental benefit portion and current and future water supply need. In the revised approach the funding required to be raised by irrigators is $41M. This is considerably higher than that proposed in the original WCDL model.

By way of comparison, the funding model for a $74.6 million Dam is illustrated below:

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Its quite evident in the above illustration, that the $3 million sunk cost was very much part of the $25 million contribution towards a $74.6 million dam. In my opinion, treating the sunk cost as additional to the $25 million in the revised funding model, subtly increased council’s funding to $28 million (and incidentally maintained the magic 1/3rd funding of the Dam by ratepayers).

The revised design capacity approach also allocates operating costs (including finance costs) in the Joint Venture to extractive users, based on the design capacity, not on the initial uptake. This is a positive of the model and reduces ratepayer exposure to ongoing operational costs – which in my opinion are likely to be around $600,000 per year based on similar sized Dam operations down south.

The proposed dam at 13.4 million m3 (or 7,765 ha of designed irrigation capacity) provides more capacity than is need to meet current and expected demand out 100 years. While Council can fund its 100-year requirement for industrial and urban water supplies (1400 ha), the irrigators, based on the WCDL proposal, only proposed funding 4,500 ha, out of the 5,850ha of designed irrigation capacity, allocated to irrigation.

If irrigators subscribed to 4,500 ha the funding gap is around $22 million ($18 million if NCC purchase 515 ha). However, at the time of the report, it appeared irrigators had only secured funding for around around 2,700 ha. On this basis there appearers to be a substantial funding gap for irrigators. Clearly the government would need to be contributing more than $8 million in loans.

The funding model approved under the Long Term Plan (LTP) provided $25 million in total funding for the $74.6 million project. That funding model allocated $3 million for a CCO (and its work streams), $14 million for two thirds of the environmental benefit/public good capacity, and $8 million for the urban water supply capacity.

No reference was made to sunk costs, and many councillors had rightly assumed that the $25 million contribution, included all (investigative) sunk costs. However, based on a revised project cost of $82.4 million and a revised funding model (based on design capacity) the allocation of total project costs (of $28 million) would change to $11.9 million for the urban water supply, and $16.5 million for the environmental benefit (less $3 million for the already funded sunk costs).

Interestingly, the report notes that in the LTP, the Dam project already caused council debt to peak, and servicing the funding costs would also put a lot of pressure on the 3% pa limit on rates increases. Therefore, in my opinion, its been no surprise that the mayor has been very motivated in the last 3 years to get debt down – so that he has the head room to spend it.

The Project Steering Group (PSG) meet on 16 March 2015. John Palmer attended (as Nick Patterson’s replacement) and WCDL’s project director. Murray Gribben who is the Chair of Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd also attended. John Palmer and Mike Drummond met again on 22 March to discuss some WCDL thoughts on the Council’s proposed model that they verbally commented on at the PSG meeting.

The PSG also agreed that the procurement process must be carried out jointly. The procurement process has three stages. The first stage is to invite expressions of interests (EOI) from the market; the second stage is to invite proposals from shortlisted contractors and the third stage is to select the preferred contractor. Stage one was scheduled to begin at the end of March or early April.

Because the JV can’t be constituted as a CCO until after a proposal to do that is consulted on (assuming that is the outcome of the consultation) some form of interim contractual arrangements between the council and WCDL were needed to jointly run the procurement process. What was contemplated (and approved by council) was a formal agreement to jointly carry out this work, to jointly fund it and to jointly share the risks and benefits. It is likely that the cost of the process including finalising the design will be around $1 million. It was considered imprudent for council to carry this funding obligation and the risks alone.

As at February 2016, council had $2.015 million in outstanding loans in relation to the project. Of these loans $684,000 is held by the Urban Water account and relates to expenditure from 2008 to 2011. The balance of $1.33 million relates to current work streams and is part of the $25 million budgeted in the LTP. In addition to these costs that have been loan funded, there are costs related to the project that have been charged to other operational budgets. These total an additional $431,000 including $161,000 charged in the current financial year.

As at the end of February 2016, the council write off should the project not proceed for outstanding loans used to fund the work streams since 2008 is $2.015 million. This write off will quickly escalate as the procurement and land acquisition work streams are ramped up.

Councillors queried whether Council would meet the control tests required under the Public Works Act if the Council was only funding around 34% of the project. The CEO said what was important was that council had the construction under its control – either through Council or through the CCO. Legal advice that he had received confirmed that the funding and structural model the Council proposed met the control tests.

A second test was the obligation to be ‘financially responsible’ for the project. He said that there was no legal precedent for ‘financially responsible’, but by having at least a 50% shareholding in the CCO the council would be financially in control, even if the council was not funding the majority of the cost of the project. It was also important that council not disclaim financial responsibility.

Councillors also discussed the irrigators commitment to the project (ie how much skin they had in the project). Councillors noted that the estimate hectarage paid for by irrigators had dropped back from the original estimate. This gap immediately created a funding gap. They also expressed concern that the irrigators’ uptake may not increase over time. Mr Drummond confirmed that this would result in an increased cost to the other irrigators.

I was generally supportive of the revised design capacity funding model as it showed a much clearer picture of the amount of water (1400 ha or 18% of total dam supply), council was asking for and the very clear disconnect between what council was getting (18% of water) and the amount it was paying (34% of dam cost).

However, I did not support treating the $3 million as a prior sunk cost. In my opinion (and given the reaction of councillors around the table to what was being proposed), the $3 million was always considered to be part of the $25 million (not that I supported that figure either).

Accordingly, I moved an amendment to resolution 2 to remove the words “while noting that Council’s contribution (50%) to the sunk costs remains in addition to the $25M”. Effectively excluding the sunk costs from the $25 million contribution. Unfortunately the amendment was defeated, with only Cr Canton, Bouillir and myself supporting the amendment.

I also raised the question about the heavy loading on ratepayers. Around 70% of the environmental benefit portion of Dam funding is being paid for by ratepayers. In my opinion, this is inequitable and unfair. At present, 30% of the dam cost is funded by the environmental benefit portion (around $24.75 million of an $82.4 million Dam). One-third (33%) of the environmental benefit portion is calculated on an extractor pays basis (TDC extracts 15% of allocated water, so the funding portion would be around 15% of 8.25 million = $1.24 million) and the remaining 2/3rds is fully (100%) funded by TDC (around $16.4 million). Thus ratepayers are being asked to fund a total of around $17.7 million ($16.4 million + $1.24 million) for the environmental benefit portion of the Dam cost.

In my opinion, if the whole (100%) of environmental benefit portion was funded on an extractor pays approach, TDC would only be paying 18% (roughly $15 million) of the Dam cost, not 34% (or $28 million). The loading of the environmental benefit portion on ratepayers, is what is inflating the ratepayers contribution. That’s not a fair deal in my book.

If TDC only paid for what it consumed (18%) we’d probably only pay $15 million (+ $3 million already spent). A total of $18 million (rather than $28 million). This is my preference. It is also a similar price for what we would pay for a Plan B option.

During the debate, I put it to councillors that this was an opportunity to revisit how the environmental benefit portion was allocated.That this was an opportunity not to increase the ratepayers level of contribution from $25 million to effectively $28 million (ie $25 million + the $3 million sunk cost). But instead take it down. After all many councillors had stated in the papers that they did not support any increase of the $25 million contribution to the Dam. In my opinion, it was also better to review funding now, rather than further down the track. Those irrigators seeking funding would want certainty over how much they needed to raise now. Leaving it till later was also not fair on them.

As an alternative, I also suggested that if councillors did not accept an extractor pays approach to the environmental benefit portion, then it could consider reversing the 2/3 (100%) loading on TDC, so that only 1/3 is fully funded. If this was done the net result would be that TDC would then only be funding $21.15 million (rather than $25 million). Thus, if council wanted to treat the sunk cost of $3 million as separate from the $25 million contribution, this revised calculation would result in a a total contribution to the Dam of $24.15 million (ie $21.5 million + $3 million).

Interestingly (at para 6.4 of the report, at page 51 of the agenda), it is noted that “the current council commitment to fund up to $25M may need to increase”.

I put all of these numbers to the council. Unfortunately, none were prepared to listen (although I could see some were looking rather uncomfortable with what they were hearing). In response to my argument, the mayor suggested it was to late to change now. And a few other councillors chipped in with similar comments, suggesting council had already decided how the environmental benefit portion would be carved up.

I disagree. In my opinion, council could change its mind. It was never to late to change direction. In my mind, council had to change now (if it wanted too), so that irrigators supporting the Dam knew what funds they needed to raise. Clearly the task would be bigger, if ratepayers would not providing as much of the funding. However, none of the other councillors were prepared to enter into debate on the issue. Nor was anyone prepared to second my intention to put a motion to change the environmental benefit portion.

Due to the ongoing uncertainty over whether the irrigators could raise the necessary funding, Cr Bouillir and myself put forward a motion that read: “That the Full Council requests staff to limit future Waimea Water Augmentation Project spending pending the funding gap issue being resolved.” This resolution was unanimously supported.

Finally, while I was supportive of the new funding methodology (design capacity), I could not support lifting the contribution to effectively $28 million. I called for a division (recorded vote) so that residents could see what councillors voted for in comparison to what they had said in the papers. Only Cr Bouillir, Cr Canton, and myself voted against the resolution. Everyone else supported what was an effective $28 million contribution to the overall Dam project.

I strongly advise readers of this blog to read the Morrison report (page 53 of the agenda).

Chief executive’s activity report

Highlights from the CEO’s report included:

  • Financials. Council had an accounting surplus of $8.5 million, an operating surplus of $1.6 million, and capital expenditure was $24 million below budget. External debt was $142 million (against a budget of $168 million) – with external debt forecast to reach $155 million by year end (June 2016).
  • Golden bay recreation centre. A large soft spot was found under the proposed site of the recreation centre. Work had stopped to assess the problem. Subsequently, a solution was found and work recommenced.

Mayor’s report

At the end of the mayor’s report councillors are asked if they have any issues. I raised the following questions. First, I asked if the mayor would be following up with residents at James Place in Richmond over their stormwater concerns. Apparently it had been several years since they had last heard from the mayor and they had been reassured at that time he would be keeping them informed. Given the planned improvements I felt it proper for the mayor to again make contact with those residents and reassure them something was being done. He agreed.

Secondly, I disagreed that council should get involved in the local government excellence programme. In my opinion, LGNZ would be looking to establish credibility about its objectivity and TDC was not yet in a good state of health. I also thought the $20,000 fee could be better spent on other issues.

Thirdly, I asked about what was happening with the Takaka Hill road issue (ie access to homes on a DoC road that was proposed to be closed). The mayor advised that residents did not appear interested in resolving the issue (ie part funding a solution) and it had not progressed any further. Finally, I noted that Barcelona had declared that it would no longer use Glyphosate spray in public parks, and perhaps it was time for TDC to consider a similar stance?

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2016/2016-03-31.

Media

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

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

www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/83719555/urban-water-users-dont-need-dam-says-council-candidate-murray-dawson

www.stuff.co.nz/national/80048283/expert-warns-of-safety-risk-from-golden-bay-recreation-centre-sinkhole

www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/78448275/Suspected-sinkhole-on-Golden-Bay-construction-site-just-a-hole

www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/79599843/Soft-spot-at-Takakas-recreation-park-a-swamp

www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/16617-barcelona-bans-glyphosate-in-public-parks

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.

Dam disclosure: full council meeting (22 October)

The full council meeting was held on 22 October 2015. Apologies were received from Cr Mirfin. All other councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) Reserve classification of Rabbit Island, Rough Island, and Best Island, (2) Queen street reinstatement project, (3) Tasman historic wharves, (4) Krammer occupancy update, (5) Surplus treatment, (6) Tourist sign application, (7) Mayor’s report, (8) CEO’s report, and (9) Waimea community dam project status update report.

This was an eventful day. With one member of the public being asked to leave the council chamber under police escort, and council deciding at the last minute not to exclude the public from the Waimea community dam update deliberations. I will start with the public forum.

Public forum

Maxwell Clarke questioned the purpose of reserve park classification and suggested that the process was part of a wider arrangement (agreed 8 earlier) to swap Rabbit Island for land needed in the construction of the Waimea community dam. He asked the mayor to confirm if this was the case (or not). He also suggested that weirs could have been constructed for the amount of money already spent investigating the viability of the dam. Mr Clarke stated that a report written by Fred diCanzo for the TDC had observed that the decline of the Waimea aquifer was because: (1) tree’s along the river prevented the naturally wide flood plain being fully used to replenish the aquifer, and (2) the lowering water table had caused deep channels in the river, which further reduced the river’s ability to recharge the aquifer.

Reg Turner (“an award winning accommodation provider of 41 years”) responded to the report at page 67 of the agenda. He disputed the contents and accuracy of the report (addressing a number of paragraphs in the report). Mr Turner also tabled an application letter from him to TDC (dated 23 July 2015), on paper displaying the logo of his accommodation business. I will discuss the report and Mr Turner’s presentation below.

Unfortunately, Mr Turner was not allowed to complete all of his presentation. This is because the speaking time for the public forum is only 5 minutes, and the mayor did not permit Mr Turner to speak any longer. On being asked to sit down, Mr Turner refused (stating he only needed an extra 2 minutes to complete his speech), the mayor then asked the CEO to remove him from the chamber.

In my opinion this was an unfortunate situation and was handled poorly by the mayor. There was no reason why Mr Turner could not have been provided more time, as there were no other presentations in the public forum. Further, he had come considerable distance (and at some cost) to present his case before the elected representatives of the community. As other councillors left the chamber, Cr Bouillir, Cr Higgins, and myself remained to hear the remaining 2 minutes of his presentation (along with two members of the public). A typed copy of his presentation was also tabled.

The media has since published a story on the event. I agree with Cr Bouillir’s comments in the media article. Mr Turner should have been allowed to finish. It’s why I stayed to hear him out (see http://nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/10/manthrowntdc-meeting/).

Waimea community dam update

The council resolution for the Waimea community dam project status update report originally proposed to exclude the public from deliberations. However, the resolution did not receive the support of council and therefore the report was considered in public.

The report focused on two items: (1) the recently acquired resource consent (for the Dam), and (2) WCDL’s proposed financing and governance structure for a proposed Dam company. A highlight of this report for me was council doing a u-turn on gifting $300,000 to Waimea Community Dam Ltd (WCDL) under a loan arrangement that was unlikely to be recovered if the dam did not proceed. See some of my earlier posts on the dam (www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/long-term-plan-meeting-full-council-28-may/www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/full-council-meeting-30-july/www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/full-council-meeting-10-september/)

Resource consent

On 10 September 2015, the council considered a late confidential item concerning Waimea Community Dam Ltd’s (WCDL’s) refusal to handover a resource consent it had obtained under a prior funding and support agreement (dated 3 October 2014) with council.

Under that agreement, the council undertook to provide funding to WCDL to secure a resource consent (for the proposed Dam) for the council. This was because the council could not apply for a resource consent itself, and WCDL was a vehicle that was already formed, that could be used to test if a resource consent could be obtained for a dam. If a resource consent could not be obtained, then the dam project would be parked, and other water augmentation solutions explored. Using WCDL, avoided the need for council to form a company itself. To protect ratepayer funds, council entered into a funding and support agreement with WCDL, whereby WCDL agreed to handover the resource consent to council by a specified date, or on formation of a CCO, whichever occurred earlier.

Unfortunately, WCDL considered that this was not what was agreed, and refused to handover the resource consent to council on the specified date (in the absence of a CCO being formed). WCDL argued that a CCO had not been formed, and that they would only hand the resource consent to the entity choose to form the dam (not council).

In my opinion, this was an extraordinary position for WCDL to adopt. They had obtained a resource consent, funded totally from ratepayer money, and had signed a written agreement that set out the conditions for the handing over the consent to the people funding the exercise (council).

Council was faced with two options. It could proceed to court (more legal costs to enforce the agreement), or it could negotiate a solution that avoided such an outcome. Council’s preference was for a negotiated solution to be explored first. A suggested solution, was to both hold the resource consent – but without compromising councils legal rights to the consent (and the money spent to secure it). In my mind, if the dam did not proceed, the resource consent would be worth very little to council. Hence council were, in reality, giving up very little.

Accordingly, council resolved to instruct the CEO to “take necessary measures to have WCDL meet its obligations” under the funding and support agreement. At the project steering group (PSG) meeting (of 24 September 2015), the proposal for “joint holder status” was put to WCDL to avoid escalating the issue (on a without prejudice basis) to the courts.

Under this new proposed arrangement (to register WCDL as a joint holder of the resource consent), WCDL would hold the councils interest in the resource consent (as a trustee) under trust (with the council being the beneficiary). This meant WCDL could not use, transfer, or encumber the resource consent in any way. For example, it could not use the resource consent as security to raise funds for irrigators or sell it to another party. This also meant that WCDL could not ignore that fact that the value of the consent remained councils (as it was not theirs). Council also undertook not encumber or transfer the consent.

As part of this new arrangement, council would continue to advance $70,000 of water levy funds (that council could levy water users under its legislative powers) to WCDL, but would not advance $300,000 (as originally proposed in the LTP). The removal of the $300,000 grant was a good outcome. As some readers will be aware (from earlier posts on the LTP), I was opposed to council giving ratepayer funds to a private company – as was Cr Canton and Cr Bouillir.

However, at this meeting it was clear that WCDL continued to advance the argument that they did not want costs council had incurred up to now, to be considered to be part of councils final contribution to the dam. Accordingly, I was at pains to emphasise to WCDL (and councillors), that joint holder status should not be confused with joint ownership. By registering WCDL as a joint holder it could be perceived that we are giving WCDL half the value of the consent (like registering someone on the ownership papers of a car).

I was at pains to emphasise that if council thought it was doing this, then it should not support joint registration. If WCDL thought council was doing this, then they needed to think again. Rather this was an arrangement formed under trust law – whereby the beneficial interest was not given up. And council would continue to treat the cost of the resource consent as part of its financial contribution to any dam construction.

WCDL’s proposed structure

The report advised that the PSG had met with WCDL in late August to hear about WCDL’s proposed business model for dam construction. At that meeting WCDL proposed a preferred joint venture businesses model that would enable the formation of a CCO that would then enable the CCO to utilise the Public Works Act. The PSG undertook at this meeting to brief council of WCDL’s suggested business model at this meeting.

The report outlined the key structural elements of the proposed joint venture structure. Which is illustrated below.

DamCo-Sturcture-OptionB

The key structural elements were:

  • 50:50 ownership of co-operative company called Dam Co – thus holding the status of a CCO.
  • Dam Co construct, owns, and operates the dam.
  • Dam Co enters into water supply agreements with TDC and WCDL.
  • WCDL enters into water supply agreements with irrigators.

The key financial elements of the proposal were:

  • Dam costings use P50 pricing model (estimated to be $65 million).
  • WCDL and TDC invest $20 million each.
  • WCDL’s $20 million would include a $8.7 million loan from CIL.
  • Dam Co raises $17 million debt. This would appear to be paid off (funded) by subsequent irrigator uptake. However, liability for the debt (and servicing interest) would appear to be the responsibility of the current shareholders (and apportioned according to the shareholding at that time).
  • Dam Co received $8 million of grants.

Understandably, council had concerns with a number of the financial elements of the proposed joint venture structure. These were:

  • Pricing methodology (use of P50 over P95 pricing estimates).
  • $20 million equity from WCDL (for a $65 or $75 million dam).
  • $25 million from alternate sources (possibly $35 million if the dam is $75 million). In particular, debt funding of $17 million (and top up grants of $8 million).

Pricing methodology

A P95 estimate provides 95% certainty of pricing. A P50 provides 50% certainty over price. Commencing a project with a P50 rather than P95 pricing estimate increases risk of cost over-runs, without clarity over who will fund the over-run. Under a normal joint venture (50:50 ownership) both parties would be equally responsible. Any investment of council funds would have to have P95 security level.

WCDL’s initial investment

While this fits with the appearance of a 50:50 ownership model, 66% of dam water is intended for irrigators, and the total cost of the dam is $75 million (or $65 million under a P50). At the start, council is expected to take up irrigation for 1400 ha of land (this figure includes current and future users) and irrigators 2600 ha (expected to increase to 4500 ha). At a very simple level the numbers do not add up to legitimately justify equal ownership.

In my opinion, the drive for equal ownership appears to be an attempt to fit the proposal into the legal requirements for a CCO under the Local Government Act and the Public Works Act. To be a CCO, council must have control over the objectives of the organisation (either through 50% ownership of the entity, or control of the board). Such control must be “real” and effective. The Public Works Act requires the council has control over the construction of the works. This requires that the council has financial responsibility for the works. A CCO model might do this if the control is real and the financial contribution is real.

In my mind, a potential problem is the works will cost $65 or $75 million, yet councils commitment is only $25 million at best. How can council have “real” control or real financial responsibility for works (or even half the works), when the financial contribution of council will never add up to even half the cost of the works? The same could be said of a model that contemplates shifting subsequent ownership to irrigators as more irrigators come on board – which the ownership model already contemplates.

Debt funding of $17 million

At a simple level, joint ownership of the company holding the debt would mean council would be liable for half the debt (and the interest payments). At present, council have only committed to a $25 million contribution. So any additional liability (half the $17 million debt) would be outside any authorised investment by council. Arguably, this could be mitigated by wrap-around-agreements, whereby WCDL underwrite the council’s debt liability (and interest liability).

However, questions then arise about WCDL’s ability to undertake and honour that liability. Not to mention WCDL’s history of not honouring agreements. For example, the recent resource consent funding and support agreement. There is also a question about the debt being used to enable the “appearance” of 50:50 ownership model, when the “real” ownership arrangement is more likely to be less than 50:50 for council. Especially if any debt is underwritten by WCDL (or associated parties).

Moving forward

In my opinion, council is rapidly running out of time to put in place a solution that protects urban water consumers from the new water allocation (and restriction) rules. If a dam cannot be financed under a satisfactory model, then council needs to quickly undertake development of Plan B water augmentation solutions.

WCDL acknowledged in its presentation that there were effectively two options. The first was their proposed joint venture proposal, and the second was a private ownership model, whereby council was treated as just another water consumer (or irrigator investor). The later approach might be where this plane lands if a joint venture is not feasible. If it does, there will still be a number of conditions attached to council investment in a private company model, including security of investment.

A number of problems (discussed above) also draw me to the conclusion that a CCO model probably won’t work, unless government directly tops up councils investment, so that it equals the irrigators contribution (which it is also supporting, through the CIL loan). Anything else will be seen as artificial, and constructed to get around the requirements of a CCO under the Local Government Act, or an improper use of the Public Works Act. The alternative, is the dam company, as a private company (not a CCO), would have to seek government appointed “requiring authority” status to utilise the Public Works Act.

Council resolved to further explore (and test) WCDL’s joint venture proposal and to report back to council.

As I had stated in earlier posts, in my opinion, council should only be committing $14 t0 $15 million, not $25 million. A $15 million investment would reflect: $9 million for current and future urban water needs, $3 million for urban water users portion of the environmental benefit (under an extractor pays principle), and $3 million for investigation and resource consents). Reducing councils investment to $15 million will also reduce any risks for council and the public. As well as place pressure on the government to properly fund this project if it is to be implemented.

In my opinion, much has been made of the economic benefits the dam will provide (see earlier posts). However, it is only the government who is likely to immediately benefit from the dam (through the tax system, that can clip the ticket on an expanding economy from construction and future growth). In contrast, councils main mechanism for revenue raising is limited to land charges (rates). Any improvement from irrigation is unlikely to change councils revenue in a significant way.

I also find it strange that with all the economic benefits being banded about, government has remained silent on any significant investment in the dam. It would appear from government’s silence that they are not convinced the project has merit. For if it did, they would have made a statement already. I did note with interest the comments of Nelson MP (Nick Smith) at the opening of the water treatment plant, that water was considered to an economic advantage over competitors (ie Australia) (see www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/73504764/new-115m-water-treatment-plant-opens-at-richmond). If the government believe that, where is the financial investment?

In my opinion, it is not the duty of ratepayers to sustain broader economic growth objectives of business. That is the role of government. Its time for government to step up, if this dam project is going to get across the line!

Surplus treatment

The purpose of this report was to re-allocate the financial surplus that council had achieved for the 2014-15 financial year (ended June 2015). This surplus was the result of actual expenditure for the year being lower than forecast expenditure. Generally, the surplus has been redeployed to debt retirement or other activities. In a number of other instances, the surplus has been left in the original activity, pending further examination.

Overall the surplus was allocated as follows:

  • external debt repayment ($9.243 million),
  • emergency fund ($0.87 million),
  • activity deficit retirement ($0.715 million),
  • carry over projects ($0.539 million),
  • remain with the original activity ($8.253 million, although $2 million requires further analysis).

From a departmental (or functional) perspective, the surplus funds were allocated as follows:

  • Community development: (1) carryover of $100,000 for Saxton field, (2) community housing internal debt retirement of $74,000, (3) parks and reserves internal debt retirement of $13,000, (4) carryover of $150,000 for LED lights in parks, (5) special purpose committee internal debt retirement of $9,000, (6) transfer of $8,000 from community grants to reduce deficit in the community recreation activity account, (7) transfer $358,000 from library activity account to library radio frequency information data project account.
  • Corporate services: (1) apply $117,000 to deficits in governance accounts, and (2) apply $142,000 to deferred maintenance of operational property activities.
  • Environment and planning: (1) transfer $250,000 from compliance monitoring, $100,000 from environmental information, and $56,000 from environmental policy to building control to reduce deficit, (2) carryover $72,000 for environmental information operational projects, (3) debt retirement of $18,000 within environmental information account, (4) Mapua decontamination debt retirement of $500,00 (balance $1.18 million remains), and (5) carryover of $67,000 for the operational projects within the sustainable management acount.
  • Engineering: (1) internal debt retirement of $139,000 in the coastal works account, (2) transfer $600,000 from subsidised roading activity account to general disaster fund, (3) debt retirement of $422,000 in subsidised roading account, (4) debt retirement of $378,000 in non-subsidised roading account, (5) transfer $270,000 from general river account to classified river protection fund, (6) carryover $150,000 from stormwater account to Seaton Valley detention pond, (7) debt retirement of $364,000 in stormwater account, (8) debt retirement of $3.896 million in wastewater account, (9) debt retirement of $2.212 million in urban water account, (10) debt retirement of $456,000 in Motueka water account, and (11) debt retirement of $105,000 in Takaka water account.

Interim remedial storm water measures

As part of this agenda item, I sought to have some of the surplus (roughly $400,000) applied to addressing 5 flooding hotspots in the wider Richmond area, identified during the 2011 flood event. These are spots that are prone to flooding in heavy rain events. The type of work I had contemplated would have been remedial in nature, aimed at mitigating flooding risk, before more substantial investment could be made. For example, joining storm water sink hole sumps (so a stand alone sump overflows into another sump rather than directly onto properties), or clearing and widening creeks (again to avoid overflows or blockages, that result in secondary flood paths).

Unfortunately, I received no support from any other Richmond ward councillors (or any other councillors, apart from Cr Bouillir). In my opinion, this is disappointing, given the communities very strong concerns over flooding risk in the wider Richmond area (as evidence by the community survey). Instead the majority of councillors preferred to wait until storm water modeling was completed in 6-9 months time.

Tourist signs application

Council were asked to consider an original 2014 application (and revised 2015 application) by Mr Reg Turner (owner and operator of a lodge called “Songs of the Tui”) for two MOSAT signs to be erected on the Collingwood Bainham Main Road. MOSAT stands for “Manual of traffic signs and markings” which is published by NZTA (see www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/motsam/). MOSAT signs are a legislatively prescribed sign and can only be used with the approval of an authorising body.

The signs sought to direct traffic along Mackay Pass Road in Golden Bay as an alternate scenic route to the Heaphy Track, and the Salisbury Falls (the Hobbit film site). That application sought to use the words “Song of the Tui – Alternative to the Heaphy Track”.

TDC staff initially declined this application on the basis they did not want to promote Mackay Pass Road as an alternate road to the Collingwood Bainham Main Road. This was because the Collingwood Bainham Main Road was sealed (and Mackay Pass Road was not), the additional risk of directing foreign travelers through a narrow unsealed road that had limited sight distance and some challenging road geometry, when a sealed road was available.

However, Mr Turner was still able to erect his own sign on private property if he did not agree with the decision of council. Such a sign would need to comply with resource consents (if any were required). In Golden Bay, there are many examples of private signs (located on private property) advertising local businesses. This was the advice council staff provided. He could also appeal to the council governance body, which is the reason for this report.

Mr Turner decided to take TDC staff advice, and subsequently approached the council’s roading contractor (Fulton Hogan) to construct a MOSAT sign – presumably with the intention of locating it on private property. Unfortunately, Mr Turner’s actions appear to show that he had not fully understood the staff advice. As that advice also made it clear that a private sign could not replicate the look of an official MOTSAT sign.

The contractor on receiving Mr Turners request, contacted the council (as the authorising body) to confirm approval had been provided – which was standard practice. Understandably, staff did not confirm this approval and the contractor advised Mr Turner that it could not construct a MOSAT sign for him. Mr Turner, considered that staff had interfered with private business activities and told his story to the papers. This was reported in the Nelson Mail on 17 April 2015 (see www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/67669478/Golden-Bay-tourism-operator-accuses-TDC-of-blackmail-over-road-sign).

Mr Turner then submitted a revised application on 23 July 2015. In that application, he changed the words of the sign from “Song of the Tui – Alternative to the Heaphy Track” to “Scenic Route via Mackay Pass Road – Heaphy Track & Hobbit Film Site 300 meters”. The application notes that this is the first time a route refers to the Hobbit film site at Salisbury Falls. A copy of this application was sent to councillors on 15 October 2015, for consideration at the 22 October 2015 full council meeting.

Application to facts

Council unanimously declined this application. However, the decision does not prevent the applicant from pursuing a private sign (which is not a MOSAT sign), being located on private property near the locations he sought.

In my opinion, council could not endorse the use of Mackay Pass Road to reach several tourist destinations (the Heaphy Track or Salisbury Falls), when a better (safer) road was already available. This decision was not about promoting (or not promoting) business, this was about council endorsing the use of roads for getting to tourist destinations. As observed above, the applicant’s business was already promoted at the intersections sought under these applications.

MackayPassRd

While I agree that the roads after the Collingwood Bainham Main Road are unsealed, this does not mean that council should promote the use of unsealed roads over sealed roads. Quite the opposite. Council has invested substantial ratepayer funds in providing (and maintaining) a safe corridor to the Heaphy Track and Salisbury Falls via the Collingwood Bainham Main Road. That is the corridor that council has chosen to invest and support. To promote an alternative corridor (Mackay Pass Road), would only invite additional costs for council in the future, without any discernible advantage for council, ratepayers, or tourists.

Mr Turner raised a number of questions in his presentation that I would like to respond too. These observations and opinions are my own.

First, it would appear from the applicants submissions that the underlying reason for wanting the signs was to increase drive by traffic. In the applicants opinion, the tourist should have the right to choose the best path. I would note at this point that the tourist is still able to choose their best path – with (or without) a MOSAT sign. Generally, most tourists (if they are like me) use maps and draw on the presence of signage to confirm they are correctly reading their map. Although, clearly the applicant consider’s the presence of a MOSAT sign, would influence that decision. Which it might.

However, the applicant’s underlying reason for a MOTSAT sign, is not the only consideration council has to consider in approving or declining an application. Council also has to weigh up a number of other considerations (including road safety and cost).

In my opinion directing additional traffic down Mackay Pass Road (other than to find Mr Turner’s lodge) would also put additional pressure on council to make further improvements to this road – to meet any increased usage, especially if there was an accident. I cannot see why council would want to increase the usage of MacKay Pass Road, when it has already invested substantial amounts in sealing (and maintaining) the Collingwood Bainham Main Road. That is the preferred route for council to the Heaphy Track and Salisbury Falls.

While I appreciate, a sign might increase drive by traffic for the applicant, that has to be weighed against road safety concerns and future potential costs for council (and ratepayers). While I also appreciate, the applicant could achieve this end privately, council cannot endorse an outcome that is not in its (and ratepayers) best interests. In this regard, the interests of the applicant have to be weighed up against the interests of the ratepayers (and tourists).

Further, while I am not a marketing expert, I also wonder if increasing drive by traffic past the applicant’s lodge is a good marketing ploy. In my opinion, the applicant might be better off to market his lodge as a return destination (for refreshments or accommodation) at the tourist destinations he sought to promote, rather than promote alternative corridors to those destinations. I think its highly unlikely anyone motivated to get to the Heaphy Track or Salisbury Falls via an alternative route will be stopping on the way (unless they have an accident). I think its more likely that they might consider a stop over on their way back. Perhaps a sign located at the destination recommending the applicants business, is a far better marketing strategy?

Second, the applicant considers the report (at para 4.2) is incorrect in referring to the lodge as the applicant. In his words the “lodge name is not mentioned in [the] application”. I disagree, although I do not see it as material to the decision. In my opinion, it is reasonable to conclude that the lodge was the applicant. This is because: (1) Mr Turner is the owner operator of the lodge, (2) his name appears as the author of the 23 July 2015 application letter (“REJ Turner – Tourism operator”), (3) the 23 July 2015 application letter appears on lodge letter headed paper which contains the email and web address of the lodge.

Third, the applicant considers the report (at para 4.4) is incorrect in referring to “Lord of the Rings” as the film site, when the application refers to the “Hobbit”. I agree. However, councilors received a copy of the 23 July application letter (which correctly referred to “Hobbit Film Site”) on 15 October, several days before considering the report. Accordingly, the original error in the report is not material in the resulting decision.

Fourth, the applicant considers the report (at para 4.8) is incorrect. Mr Turner contends that there is no evidence of incorrect statements to the media. I disagree. Mr Turner is reported in the media article (dated 17 April 2015) as accusing “staff of acting illegally, blackmail and preventing a council contractor of doing business with him”. As discussed above, council have not prevented a contractor from doing business with him. Nor have they blackmailed the contractor as contended. However, they have stopped a contractor from supplying a MOTSAT sign to a person (or business) who was not authorised to use one.

Fifth, the applicant has also stated (page 3 of his submissions) that statements that try to compare sealed roads with gravel roads are not acceptable. He points out that there are a number of gravel roads that lead to tourist destinations and Mackay’s Pass Road is no different to those. I agree. However, unlike those other roads, there is a sealed alternative to Mackays Pass Road that provides a better (and safer) route to the aforementioned tourist destinations.

Sixth, the applicant considers the report (at para 5.3) is not sustained by the facts. The report at para 5.3 contends that a sign endorsing the use of Mackays Pass Road “has the potential to encourage motorists to use a road that has lower standard of maintenance, delineation and safety. Some of these motorists are likely to be international drivers and encouraging these road users to use Mackay Pass Road may lead to crashes involving themselves or with other vehicles. There could also be an increase in maintenance, complaints and requests for more work to be done to improve the low volume road.” The applicant points out that there have been no road incidents on McKays Pass Road, but there have been a total of 7 serious crashes (including one fatal) on the Collingwood Bainham Main Road (4 incidents), Collingwood Puponga Road (2 incidents) and Cowin Road (1 incident), between 2005 and 2014.

First, while I might agree the report does not appear to present all the evidence (that it probably could have), I cannot agree with the applicant’s statement that the report’s conclusion (and recommendation) is not sustained by the facts. A quick survey across the internet will generate a number of articles of road accidents involving tourists on gravel roads. For example www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/66769245/road-kill–must-something-be-done-about-foreign-drivers, and www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1504/S00093/most-tourist-accidents-are-preventable-says-report.htm.

In analysis of foreign drivers published last year, it was revealed that loss of control and unfamiliarity with local conditions were the leading causes of accidents (see www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Research/Documents/Overseas-drivers-2014-web.pdf). Otago Regional Council has also specifically identified gravel roads and tourists as a cause of serious road trauma in the region and has suggested that “teaching tourist drivers how to drive on gravel roads: targeting drivers aged 25 to 34 years, in particular, and/or sealing roads commonly used by tourists” are means to mitigate this concern (see www.orc.govt.nz/PageFiles/1404/April%202015/Report%203a3%20-%20road%20safety-%20tourist%20drivers%20-%20with%20cover-%20%20%20LATEST%20PDF.pdf).

These reports alone, support the conclusion that the reports observations (at para 5.3) are sustained by facts. Albeit, not presented in the report.

Second, the applicant fails to appreciate that the current statistics for Mackay Pass Road are based on existing usage. In my opinion the applicant’s comparisons are misleading, as it suggests that a low crash rate would continue on Mackay Pass Road after road usage increased – which is the underlying purpose of the application. In fact, it might be suggested that the crash rates on the other three roads are in part due to higher road usage, and could well be worse, if road improvements (like sealing and geometrical changes to the road) had not been made. Unlike the applicant, I find it difficult to take any meaningful conclusions from the crash rate data, in terms of justifying increased usage of Mackay Pass Road.

Seventh, the applicant considers the report (at para 6.2) which stated “there are, however, risks in installing a tourist sign directing motorists along a route that has some geometric deficiencies. The local community is aware of these issues and drive accordingly whereas unfamiliar drivers may not” – is silly. I disagree. In my opinion there are risks (see preceding observations).

Eighth, the applicant considers the report (at para 7.1) ignores other operators who have placed signs up. In my opinion, the actions of other operators is not material to the decision, which must weigh a number of considerations. The actions of other operators is not one of them (especially if they are illegal). Nor is the failure of council to ensure compliance. However, if other operators are acting illegally, then council should be making proper investigations to correct this situation, now that it has been brought to its attention.

Ninth, the applicant considers the report (at paras 8.1 and 8.2) to be untrue and disputes the estimated costs of making and installing a sign ($1,700) or the cost of road improvements (above $40,000) over the 19km road. Unfortunately, these are the costs that council often face and why it is important to ensure council costs are contained if we want to keep rates costs down. To put the estimates into perspective, the average cost of road sealing is roughly $5,000 per km. Although this is figure is itself dependent on a number of other considerations.

As an aside, an interesting report on the cost of roading infrastructure in NZ is located at www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Research/Documents/NZIER-report-2013-construction-industry-performance.pdf.

Tenth, the applicant considered the statement in the report (at para 9.1), that the issue had low significance “because it is a local issue being promoted by one landowner”, was not true, because tourism benefits the whole community. While the applicant’s statement has some general truth behind it (and the reason why council has decided to promote destination tourism on behalf of the region), I cannot agree that there is any evidence of measurable financial benefit from the applicant’s efforts in promoting the road as a scenic route in the manner contended. The burden of proof is on the applicant, and no evidence is provided in his submissions (or application) to support his conclusion.

Finally, the applicant considered the report’s conclusion (at paras 10.1 and 10.2) is speculative and not sustained by facts. In my opinion, these are concluding remarks from points made out in earlier parts of the report, and have been addressed above in this opinion.

In conclusion, while I have every sympathy for the applicant’s position, having considered the evidence and surrounding facts, I could not support the application. However, as stated above, this does not prevent the applicant from undertaking construction of different signage on private property, or exploring the promotion of his business from the destinations themselves.

Reserve classification

Rabbit Island (Motorua), Rough Island, and Birds Island are Crown owned reserves. Under the Reserves Act 1977, all reserves must be classified. Classification of reserves needs to completed before doing a reserve management plan. Before 2013, the minister of conservation was responsible for classification. In 2013, the minister delegated this task to local authorities. Local authorities are also tasked with preparation of management plans for reserves as the administering body.

It appears that formal classification of Rabbit Island (Motorua), Rough Island, and Birds Island under the Reserves Act 1977 has never been undertaken or completed. Although the existing management plan (first drafted by council in 1989 and updated in 1997 and 2001) has repeatedly stated (at para 2.3) that “classification is being undertaken as required by the Reserves Act 1977 … part of the land is to be classified as “recreation” and the reminder is to be classified “local purpose (plantation)”. A full history of the management of the islands is contained in the agenda report.

The administering body (council) can prepare an advance draft of a plan covering unclassified reserves for which it is the administering body, provided this does not pre-empt the classification process. However, the administering body cannot, invite public submissions on the draft plan until all the reserves which it covers are classified and the draft plan is consistent with those classifications (see www.doc.govt.nz/about-us/our-role/legislation/guides-and-bylaws/a-guide-for-reserve-administering-bodies/chapter-11-management-planning-for-reserves/questions-about-management-plans/).

For any unclassified reserves, the management plan will only have the status of an advance draft. This means that any policies or rules for managing unclassified land cannot be enforced, as they will only have a draft status. In addition, the Reserves Act (s 16(6) and(7)) appears to suggest that unclassified reserves are to be treated as recreation reserves until classified. This suggests that the forest plantation on the island should be administered as a recreation reserve, not a “local purpose (plantation)” reserve.

The net effect is that the current management plan cannot impose “local purpose” rules on the island’s forestry plantation. At best it appears it can only impose recreation reserve rules on land used for forestry. To correct this administrative oversight, formal classification of the forestry plantation was required.

Given this oversight, council resolved to complete the classification process, so that a valid (enforceable) management plan could be implemented. To avoid unnecessary consultation costs, a non-notified process would be undertaken (subject to consultation with iwi, given its crown land).

As discussed above, Max Clarke questioned the purpose of classifying the reserve at this time. I imagine part of the reason for his position is because a similar reclassification process occurred in the Queenstown region with the stated purpose of enabling land swaps (see www.qldc.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Your-Views/LLS/Lakeview-Land-Swap-Summary-of-Proposal.pdf). In that situation, the Queenstown regional council (QRC), undertook to reclassify reserve land so that it could be swapped with other land of a similar classification. A similar land swap arrangement was also proposed for the Ruataniwha-dam (see www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/72700495/doc-approves-land-swap-paves-way-for-ruataniwha-dam.html).

[Update! The Ruataniwha-dam land swap arrangement is now subject to an appeal (www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/74863647/land-swap-for-ruataniwha-dam-illegal-forest-and-bird).]

According to the QRC report:

The Department of Conservation guidelines for administering bodies suggests it is mandatory to classify a reserve under the Reserves Act before public notification of a draft management plan, but desirable before exchange of land or granting a major lease.

The requirements of the Reserves Act state that land becoming reserve land must be held for the same “purposes” as the land being exchanged. The purposes of a recreation reserve are:

“providing areas for the recreation and sporting activities and the physical welfare and enjoyment of the public, and for the protection of the natural environment and beauty of the countryside, with emphasis on the retention of open spaces and on outdoor recreational activities, including recreational tracks in the countryside”.

There is no requirement that on exchange the particular use must remain the same, as long as any change in use remains within the general purpose of the reserve classification.

To address Mr Clarke’s concerns the mayor declared that he had not been involved in any discussions concerning the swapping Rabbit Island forestry land for land in the Lee Valley.

While I took comfort from the mayor’s statement, and the underlying administrative purpose of reclassification (discussed above and with council staff before the meeting), I thought the timing for completion of the reclassification (September 2016) was an interesting coincidence. In my opinion, it would also be political suicide for a mayor or MP (given its crown land), to contemplate a land swap with Rabbit Island. There would be a public revolt.

Queen street reinstatement

As part of council’s strategy to address central business district (CBD) flooding risk, council propose to make improvements to Queen Street. This involves extensive excavation of the road and footpaths (from shop front to shop front) between Salisbury Road and Gladstone Road. The aim is to enable Queen Street to be a secondary flow path for storm water by reducing the level of the road. The project also provides an opportunity to evaluate whether changes should be made to this stretch of road. For example, wider footpaths, cycleways, bus lanes, etc.

Council resolved to receive the report and approve staff to engage with the community on amenity aspects of the project and report back following consultation.

I took the opportunity to reinforce to staff that the cost of the reinstatement should not be more than what it would cost to replace what is already there. If new things could be done within this financial cap, then council were open to the opportunity, subject to community feedback on such ideas. What I did not want to see is some councilors seeing this as a legacy opportunity and go on another spending spree (which is what has happened in the past).

Mayor’s report

I do not normally discuss the mayors report as there is not usually much in it. However, I do want to mention two items.

Climate change declaration

The first is in relation to the local government leaders climate change declaration. The declaration letter acknowledged the importance and urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations. The letter also set out a number of commitments councils would support, as well as councils expectations of government (see www.lgnz.co.nz/assets/Mayors-Climate-Change-Declaration.pdf).

The mayor had written to councillors before the full council meeting advising them that he had decided to not affix his signature to this letter because of the potential cost to council in supporting some of commitments councils were signing up to. For example, supporting the use of electric cars.

I responded to the mayors email suggesting that it should be for council to decide, rather than the mayor. This was because the letter referred to the mayor’s signature as “signatories from councils”. As a signatory for council (which is what the letter suggested), council should consider the opportunity of supporting the declaration (or not).

I also noted that the tenure of the letter was to “support”, not undertake. The letter says “support” not “commit to buy”. “Support” can be passive or active. I’d be surprised if council could not “support the use of renewable energy and uptake of electric cars”. In fact, we already support renewable energy (through purchase of solar panels on the aquatic centre). And I’m sure if there was an application to install a recharge station (for electric cars) in Tasman, council would support such a venture. Its only a matter of time before petrol stations begin rolling them out.

I invited the mayor to reconsider his position and at least invite council to vote on councils representative (being the mayor) signing the declaration on councils behalf. To his credit, he did this. A show of hands was called and the majority of councillors supported the mayor’s position. Cr Ensor, Bouillir, and myself, did not. The essence of our argument (articulated very well by Cr Ensor) was council needed to show some leadership on the challenges of climate change for local government. My argument (as stated above), was that support did not have to translate to any cost for council (unless it chose to do so). In my mind, any financial support had to make commercial sense and be fiscally prudent.

Aniseed toilets

The second is an issue raised by a Richmond resident. The mayor’s report offers the opportunity for councillors to raise any issues not on the agenda. It was mentioned by a resident that the aniseed toilets were in a poor state. There was often no toilet papers or running water to wash hands. And the toilet was not pleasant to use. The resident had stated that they had raised the issue with the mayor and Cr Edgar sometime ago, but had not heard back.

I asked the mayor (and Cr Edgar) if they were aware of any progress. Neither recalled this issue. I have since followed up the issue with staff who have undertaken to contact the Department of Conservation (DoC) who are responsible for this toilet. Staff have also undertaken to audit other council toilets in the Aniseed valley. I hope to report back to the residents soon.

CEO report

Economic development

Nelson council has considered the funding agreement adopted by TDC on 10 September and have proposed some minor wording changes. The agreement has been referred to the transition group (who are reviewing the proposed merger of the EDA and NTT).

At the recent Joint Council meeting (held on 3 November 2015), I spoke to a few Nelson councilors and reiterated that this was the funding level Tasman council currently supported. However, the real issue was not the level of funding, but agreeing on measurable performance targets for this organisation. Council needed to be able to see that their investment was returning something financially tangible that was sufficiently connected (and traceable) to the funding. If council could see that the investment did directly result in improved financial outcomes, then it might be more willing to invest more.

For example, current indicators, like increased spend in town centres, does not necessarily mean it is coming from tourists or marketing initiatives. It could be coming from residents visiting those centres. The same criticism could be made of the EDA. Better measures and analysis is required.

Elections for 2016

Planning for local body elections has begun.

I would like to offer the opportunity for people considering standing for council in 2016 to contact me to talk confidentially about what council involves and what can be expected. I am hopeful that a number of people will put their hand up in 2016. In my opinion, a healthy council is one that continues to bring in new ideas and thinking, rather than returning the same people, with the same ideas. This can only happen with significant change around the council table. Change also avoids organisational capture.

Finance

For the quarter ended September 2015 (for the 2015-16 financial year), an accounting surplus of $2.394 million (compared to a budgeted surplus of $1.378 million) has been achieved. A positive accounting variance of $1.016 million.

On a year to date basis, expenditure is $2.866 million below forecast budget (mainly due to less than expected expenditure for emergency works, general maintenance, and finance costs). In addition, income is $705 million above forecast budget (mainly due to library insurance proceeds being received (and used for the Mapua development), timing of dog registration fees, external lotteries funds for Motueka recreation centre, and civil defence funds for Rameka creek claim). The net result is a $3.57 million operational surplus.

Year to date capital expenditure is $3.838 million. Overall, capital expenditure is budgeted at $34.315 million (plus carry overs from last year) for year end.

Debt is currently $146 million (lower than the forecast $173 million disclosed in the LTP).

People

Since the last report 5 appointments (internal transfer or replacement) have been made. Three resignations and 2 retirements have been received. TDC is currently recruiting for a strategi policy manager. For the quarter ending 30 September 2015, staff turnover was 1.12%, staff numbers were 242 FTEs (made up from 267 full-time and part-time people).

TDC has also been selected (after applying) to be part of the high performance work initiative programme offered by Callaghan Innovation (see www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz). In my opinion, this is an exciting opportunity for the organisation.

Health and safety

Cosman Parkes have been engaged to complete a health and safety review of the council’s activities. A workshop (on 12 November) will be developed to report back to council on their findings and recommendations.

Best Island update

Two land valuations have been received – one based on the subdivision value (Ashford’s). Negotiations will begin soon.

Tasman wharves

Council resolved to receive the reports on historic wharves and small wharves in the Tasman region (mainly in Golden Bay) and agreed to consider at no cost to council (for historic wharves), or from reserve financial contribution (RFC) funds (which compete with other reserve projects) for small wharves, the establishment of local trusts to acquire and manage such wharves.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-10-22.

 

Engineering services committee (24 September)

The engineering services committee was held on 24 September 2015. Apologies for lateness were received from the mayor, Cr Edgar, and Cr Bouillir. All other councillors were in attendance.

The agenda included the following items: (1) chairs report, (2) activity management plans, (3) Richmond’s central business district storm water plan, and (4) activity update from the manager.

Chairs report

I don’t normally talk about the chairs report as there is never much in them. However, I thought I would highlight a joint Tasman and Nelson council initiative that I think holds a lot of promise. The initiative I am talking about is the creation of a single set of planning and engineering standards for both Tasman and Nelson councils. In my opinion, it will provide greater levels of certainty (and cost savings) for developers working across both regions. This can only be positive in terms of cost savings for the building industry (and potential home buyers).

For this reason, I asked the chair to comment on the mood of the Nelson councillors (Cr Mike Ward, Cr Brian McGurk) who make up the joint steering group (which also comprises Cr Norris, and Cr Bryant), given the potential efficiencies and cost savings for the wider community that can be made. The chair confirmed that the mood was very positive and that Nelson councillors were keen to see this initiative succeed.

I only hope that it is not derailed in the same sense that the Yorke valley initiative has been, from what appears to be Nelson council wanting a greater share of the benefits. Like all good partnerships, both parties have to win equally.

Activity management plans

As part of the long term plan process, each of the four departments of council had to prepare an activity management plan (AMP) for all the things they planned to do over the next 10 years. For engineering, that involved writing detailed plans for: roads, water, and waste. The plans are drafted to fit within the financial umbrella of the annual and long term plans and describe in detail all the projects council will be doing and when. If funds are not allocated it is not planned to be done.

The annual and long term plans are just budgets. They show where the council wants to land the plane. Like all budgets the spending planned within them can change. Where there are changes, the annual report will show whether council stayed within its forecasted spending (the budget) or fell outside of it (resulting in either a surplus or deficit). For example, council might be asked to increase its service levels for grass cutting. If council agreed to do that then the level of activity and cost would increase, and the annual plan would report a deficit against the forecasted expenditure. Last year, council achieved a surplus (it earned and saved more money than it had planned to spend).

As I read through the transport AMP, I noticed that $1.04 million was still allocated against road works for the Salisbury road\Queen street intersection. My recollection of the draft AMP (that was presented with the long term plan) was an explicit reference to “traffic lights” at this intersection. The revised (and final) AMP presented to this committee appeared to have changed the words (by removing the reference to “traffic lights”), but had keep the original figure of $1.04 million being spent at this intersection.

Given the lack of community support for traffic lights at this intersection, I questioned this line entry in the transport AMP.

I was advised that staff had taken on board the communities desire not to have traffic lights at this intersection and for that reason had removed the words (“traffic lights”). I congratulated staff on this, but questioned why there was still a need to spend $1.04 million at this intersection. Surely, expenditure would be lower, if they were no longer planning to install traffic lights. In fact, if we had vetoed traffic lights, there was nothing to do at this intersection?

The explanation provided was that the $1.04 million would be used to examine the whole of Salisbury road to see what traffic solutions were needed (if any). I was also told that the amount was planned to be spent outside the next three years, so there was still time in the next LTP process to remove or change this line item.

I pointed out to councillors (and staff) that the words in the AMP did not refer to the whole of Salisbury road, but instead were associated only with the intersection. If the intention had changed, then the words in the AMP also should have changed – but they had not. I also found it strange that the amount of funds to be spent on this intersection had not changed from when they were originally intended to be spent on traffic lights. Surely, if no traffic lights were contemplated, the funding should have reduced to reflect merely investigatory work – which should not amount to $1.04 million.

I also pointed out that the AMP had already allocated roughly $500,000 to another part of Salisbury road (the William street intersection). In my mind, if the whole road was being reviewed (and a solution would not involve traffic lights) what other parts of Salisbury road required money being spent. As far as I was aware staff had only identified two areas of concern on Salisbury road.

If the Queen street intersection would not have lights, and William street already had funds allocated to it, why did we need to budget for $1.04 million for other parts of Salisbury road. It just did not make sense or add up. Accordingly, I invited councillors to remove the the $1.04 million, and just use the $500,000 (allocated to William street) for any Salisbury road reviews.

Unfortunately, I received no support from any councillors, and the AMP was approved as presented.

Richmond central business district – storm water plan

As everyone will be aware, Richmond’s central business district sunk beneath the waves during the 2011 and 2013 floods. To address the risks of future flooding, council has set aside a budget in the LTP ($14.7 million) to provide a solution.

Flood modelling for the current state of Richmond’s storm water system (for a 1 in 100 year flood event) is illustrated below.

CBDFloodModel-Base1

A number of storm water solutions were presented to council in a series of council workshops held earlier this year. From those discussions, 3 options were presented in the report to council, which included the preferred option (a gravity pressure pipeline system). The other two options were using Beach road’s drain, or using a newly constructed outlet near the racecourse.

I will briefly outline all three options.

Option 1 (Beach road)

The estimated cost was $14.7 million. This essentially involved increasing the capacity of the Beach road and Queen street drainage system. Disadvantages of this option were the poor condition of Beach road drain and the impact of the tide. A high tide would prevent much of the water coming down the system into the sea.

CBDFloodModel-Opt1

Option 2 (Racecourse drain)

The estimated cost was 13.2 million. Instead of increasing the capacity of Beach road drain, a new drain would be constructed along the racecourse boundary (where the croquet club are currently located). The main disadvantages of this option was the cost of new piping and disruption at the Gladstone road intersection.

CBDFloodModel-Opt2

Option 3 (Oxford street pressured pipe system)

The estimated cost was $13.9 million). This option utilised the existing pipes in Oxford street and pressured the water (to move faster through the existing pipes) from Washbourn gardens to poutama drain (which runs along the railway reserve and then turns parallel to Queen street behind Club Waimea). To mitigate flood waters above Washbourn gardens (eg in Jimmy Creek), the pipe under Washbourn road would be increased in size. The main disadvantage of this option is the cost of increasing the capacity of poutama drain.

CBDFloodModel-Opt3

Flood modelling for this option showed the greatest improvement (as illustrated below).

CBDFloodModel-Solu1

Council received the report and approved further development of option 3.

Activity update

Highlights from the engineering manager’s report include:

  • Footpaths. Hill Street footpath (between Queen Street and William Street) is being reinstated as part of the ultra fast broadband (UFB) roll out. Chorus is paying for this portion of the work.
  • Lighting. The LED upgrade continues with 187 LED street lights installed in Richmond (Salisbury Road to Washbourn Drive). The LED residents survey has received 22 responses (77% preferring the new LED lights). One of the benefits of LED light is the reduced upward spill. A number of residents (81%) have noticed an improved clarity in the night sky. The survey is located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/media-centre/public-notices/led-streetlights-questionnaire/.
  • Rural road maintenance. Lots has happened in this space, including: culvert upgrades (Motueka valley highway, Tadmor-Glenhope Road, Hoult Valley Road, George Harvey Road, and Hiwipango Road), metalling (Aniseed Valley Road, ozens Road, Eighty-Eight Valley Road, Vaton Valley Road, Grooby Road, Martin Road, Pine Hill Road, Rocky River Road, Sunday Creek Road, and Wills Road), tree removal (Eighty-Eight Valley Road, Wai-iti Valley Road, Aniseed Valley Road, and Neudorf Road), advisory sign upgrades (Korere-Tophouse Road and Kerr Hill Road), and slip removal (Riwaka-Kaiteriteri Road, Baton Valley Road, Riwak-Sandy Bay Road, Motueka Valley Highway, and Stanley Brook Hill).
  • Wangapeka road. This issue was raised during the public forum at the last meeting. Essentially, the road is the sole access route for 3 residential homes (and a forestry block) and is being washed away by the river. In the past landowners have constructed a rock wall, which has since been washed away. Wangapeka river is a class “Z” river, which according to council policy means any erosion control requires a 50% contribution from the landowner. Cost of any work could be up to $100,000. Council has held discussions with landowners and continue to seek an agreeable solution for all parties.
  • Rivers. For the July period river maintenance was $131,000, which was less than the projected monthly expenditure of $167,000 (roughly $2 million per annum).
  • Jackett Island. The sand bag wall was inspected on 7 September 2015. The survey confirms the long term trend of rising beach levels to the north and lowering beach levels to the south of the property
  • Waste. The new kerbside recycling has now bedded down with all bins now delivered. Overall volumes for July and August 2015 were up 25% on the same period last year.

KerbsideRecyling2015Sep

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-24.

The case against traffic lights – removing the roads to nowhere

As some of you will be aware, I tend to share my thoughts and musings on topical issues on my “greening tasman” facebook page (see http://www.facebook.com/greeningtasman). However, to ensure others can hear about my thoughts and ideas, I have summarised them below.

A traffic light obsession

Why has there been such a heavy use of traffic lights in Richmond?

Do we have to many traffic engineers looking for work?

The reason I ask these questions is the simple fact that we have a lot of traffic lights in Richmond. So many in fact, they we’re starting to look like parts of Christchurch. Yet, probably the most successful traffic management system Richmond has experienced is the roundabout at the Queen street and Salisbury road intersection. The design has stood the test of time and been incredibly successful and very cost effective. Yet there are rumours of its planned demise and the introduction of traffic lights.

The Queen street roundabout has proven that roundabouts work in Richmond. Given the communities drive for cost savings from council and the roundabouts proven success, I hope we do not waste our money converting it to traffic lights.

It also baffles me why more roundabouts were not introduced further down Salisbury road. Instead, we have more traffic lights, which as the case studies below show, cause more costs and time wastage than they are worth.

In my opinion, we need less traffic lights, not more.

Interestingly, several jurisdictions in North America have instituted policies whereby the feasibility of roundabouts must be evaluated for all new intersections, for existing intersections where traffic signals are warranted, or where capacity or safety problems have been identified. New York State is one example. The Regional Municipality of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is another (see http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/roundabouts-efficient-or-annoying/?_r=0).

Real life case studies

This brings me to the real life case studies against traffic lights. These case studies provide very compelling evidence for not using traffic lights. They show towns with traffic lights and then the effects after their removal. The case studies show improved safety and traffic flow. This is because cars slow down when approaching roundabouts, whereas they tend to speed up to get through traffic lights. Flow is also improved with a good roundabout design as the drivers are best able to self manage the process. As you will see in the cue studies, tacks of cars waiting to move to the next set of lights are removed and travel times actually improve.

The first case study is the regeneration of the small village of Poynton (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0).

The Poynton case study provides a compelling argument for why we should be removing traffic lights and using roundabouts. Especially in areas like the Queen street intersection and along Salisbury road.

Other case studies, for example the village of Portishead, have shown what happens when traffic lights are switched off or temporarily removed (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeryaK22ntw). If all this interests you then check out the theory behind these real life examples above at http://www.equalitystreets.com.

In my opinion, these real life case studies are a lesson for Salisbury road and Gladstone road.