The community development committee meeting was held on 3 November 2016. Apologies were received from Cr Brown and Cr Hawkes. All other councilors were present.
The agenda included: (1) Chair’s Report, (2) Golden Bay Shared Recreation Facility Management Contract, (3) Appointments to Management and Other Committees, (4) Community Development Manager’s Report, (5) Action Sheet.
Declarations of interest
Cr Wensley declared a conflict of interest (due to her involvement with copyright licensing for writers) and took no part in the discussions relating to council’s draft submissions on the National Library Strategic Direction consultation document and the National Strategy of Environmental Education for Sustainability (Attachments 3 and 4 of the Agenda).
Maxwell Clark spoke. He advised that council was still advertising public forum speaking times as 3 minutes, rather than the new 5 minutes – which he commended council for. He noted that grafitti was getting worse (particularly near Waimea rugby club, the skateboard park, and rifle club – all located in close proximity to one another). Mr Clarke also noted that the gravel road that runs from McDonalds (located on lower Queen Street) towards Jubilee Park (along the railway reserve) was in a dreadful state with numerous pot holes – these needed to be repaired.
Golden Bay Shared Recreation Facility Management Contract
Council resolved to receive the report and for council to enter into a management contract with with Golden Bay Shared Recreational Facility Committee Incorporated (see www.societies.govt.nz/), to manage the Golden Bay recreation facility on behalf of council. A similar management arrangement is used at other community facilities (eg Moutere and Murchison recreation facilities).
The above plan is noteworthy for the clear absence of the Grandstand. However, it’s also interesting to note the above construction progress picture, and in particular the large space between the old grandstand and the new facility (separated by a fence). Apparently the (northern) stairs were removed to allow the builders to work safely on the new building, as well as protect the public from the building activity. Yet the picture appears to show a fence between the two buildings – showing more than enough space for stairs and a safe working environment? I understand that the removal of the stairs for public safety is now justified on the basis of the grandstand’s uncertain condition.
In my opinion, council should dispose of the grandstand to the A&P Society – then it’s no longer a council concern (or ongoing cost). Yes, its presence might be unsightly, but what would you rather look out over – a carpark or a piece of history? Although, surely the most reasonable compromise is to move it – so its at least preserved. That way everyone is a winner (rather than just the lawyers). But perhaps thats just the mediator in me speaking?
Council resolved to make the following appointments to community (based on the mayor’s recommendations):
Brightwater Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr King
Dovedale Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara
Spring Grove Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara
Moutere Hills Recreation Reserve/Community Centre Committee: Cr Turley
Waimea West Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr King
Ngatimoti Hall Management Committee: Cr McNamara
Wakefield Recreation Reserve Management Committee: Cr King
Ngatimoti Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr McNamara
Equestrian Trust Board: Cr Maling
Wakefield Health Centre Board: Cr Bryant
Mapua Health Centre Board: Cr Turley
Pinegrove Trust: Cr King
Hope Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Maling
Keep Richmond Beautiful Committee: Cr Tuffnell
Richmond Unlimited Committee: Cr Tuffnell
Saxton Velodrome Working Party: Cr Wensley
Digital Enablement Plan Steering Group: Cr Wensley
Murchison Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant
Stanley Brook Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant
Tapawera Recreation Reserve Committee: Cr Bryant
Lake Rotoiti Community Facility Committee: Cr Bryant
Community Development activity report
Highlights from the manager’s report include:
Golden Bay Community Recreation Facility: General work (including netball courts) was progressing. A draft archaeological assessment of the Takaka grandstand, and a heritage report covering human activities associated with the grandstand, along with council’s application, was sent to Heritage New Zealand. A “certificate of public use” was being sought for the new building to enable it to be used for the A&P Show towards the end of January 2017.
Golden Bay Museum: The Museum had raised funding and obtained all the consents for the Whalery building extension. Council is project managing the project for the Society. The building contract was around $90,000. Staff advised that there would be no impact on rates from the extension as the over expenditure was covered by increased income in the account. The contractor was also undertaking some building repairs at the site, including repairs to the roof to stop some leaks, provision of emergency lighting, and replacing the switchboard.
Nethui: A significant partnership occurred between Council and Internet NZ – the organisation responsible for the New Zealand Domain Name registration system. As a result, Nethui (the country’s ‘largest and most diverse’ internet event) was hosted in our region on 13 October 2016 – the first time the hui has been hosted outside a major centre.
Website: Usage for the website (1 October 2015 to 31 September 2016) remains strong. The website serves approximately 600 people per day and in the last year attracted nearly a third more users, with page views also up 7.49 %. GoShift building consent forms will be added to the site. Civil Defence website upgrade project work continues.
Reserves: For Richmond, (1) mountain bike track maintenance is being undertaken in the Dellside reserve areas, and (2) the Velodrome underpass and ramp installation has been completed, the lean to ride area is under construction and stage 2 of the main track is starting.
Growth strategy: Staff workshops are currently underway to determine future demand and supply for residential and business growth in each of our 16 settlement areas. Council workshops will be coming. The growth projections council selects (effectively a conceptual tool for planning) will have major implications for the long term plan (LTP) and its projected expenditure (which then has implications for debt and rates). I’d like to adopt a more conservative position – of moderate growth, given the level of uncertainty. While Tasman has experienced a degree of population growth, it appears to be tailing off, with most of the new growth coming by way of retirement (with often means growth for retirement villages). In my opinion, if growth occurs in this area, it’s likely to put far less demand on infrastructure – which would support a moderate growth forecast. However, I suspect that those supporting the dam, will want to see council adopt a high growth position, in order to inflate water demand.
Age care policy: This is under review to ensure alignment of age policies and initiatives with Nelson council.
RFID Installation: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology was installed across the libraries during October 2016. Service desk areas in Richmond and Motueka Libraries have been reconfigured to allow for the installation of self-service kiosks. Library users now have the option of issuing their own items.
Consultation on National Library Strategic Direction: Tasman District Libraries works with the National Library in a number of ways, either as a user of National Library services or as a consortia partner. Any changes to National Library policies or strategic direction could have an impact on our libraries.
Richmond call centre upgrade: An upgrade to call centre software was completed. The enhanced caller information, reporting dashboards and staff information is expected to improve service levels.
Takaka Service Centre: Staff move back to the refurbished building on 9 December. In my opinion, this should have been consolidated within the existing library building. However, it was explained by staff that the cost of special data cabling to the library would have been more than the cost of refurbishment. Another option was to rebuild – which was rightly rejected by council.
Richmond Aquatic Centre: Patronage increased from July to June 2016 by 3,277. An increase of 1,245 compared to the same period in July 2015.
The Enviroschools Programme: This continues to expand. Golden Bay Kindergarten recently became TDC’s 4th Enviroschool at the GreenGold level demonstrating more connections with their community in their practices and projects. However, in my opinion, I question whether council should be involved in this project given the ongoing financial pressure on council. And I wonder if it should be suspended, so that funds can be redeployed to more pressing infrastructure concerns.
Conflicts of interest: This was discussed. The CEO asked councillors to rely on the advice given through the councillor induction process. He said he would be concerned if councillors were overly cautious and declared a conflict of interest when it was unlikely that one existed or could be perceived, as that would limit their ability to contribute as a member.
For more information about “conflicts of interest”, see www.oag.govt.nz/2007/conflicts-public-entities, www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Resource-material-Our-Policy-Advice-Areas-Managing-Conflicting-Interests-in-Local-Government?OpenDocument, and www.iod.org.nz/Governance-Resources/Publications/Practice-guides/Conflicts-of-Interest-Practice-Guide.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/committees-and-subcommittees/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2016/2016-11-03.
The community development committee meeting was held on 10 December 2015. Apologies were received from the Mayor and Crs Dowler and Ensor for lateness. All other councillors were present.
The agenda included: (1) chair’s report, (2) community development activities report, (3) enviro-schools programme for 2014-2015, (4) community development action sheet report, and (5) an in-committee (confidential) report regarding Wakefield pensioner housing.
This meeting was a rather tense one – as I raised two issues that appeared to show staff acting contrary to the spirit of earlier discussions. The first related to the recording of minutes, and the second in relation to receiving approval to spend money on replacing playground equipment in Chelsea Avenue Park.
Council was asked to confirm the confidential minutes of the 17 September 2015 meeting. You might recall from my earlier post of that meeting (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/community-development-meeting-17-september/), that I had proposed the addition of the following words to the minutes of the (in committee) agenda item relating to Rainbow Ski field (which was subsequently made public by resolution). The additional words I proposed were:
In response to repeated questions regarding the estimated cost of generating subsequent reports, Mr Tregurtha advised that the estimated cost of generating a report, similar to the one before council, would be approximately $10,000 per report.
After some discussion (and with the chairs support), the manager asked that my proposed addition to the minutes be deferred until the next community development meeting (being this one), so that the staff member (then on leave) could be consulted as to what was said.
However, at this meeting, the proposed minutes of the in-committee report stated something quite different. The minutes had now inserted the following paragraph (as written by staff):
In response to questions regarding the estimated cost of generating subsequent reports and administrating the loan, Mr Tregurtha advised that this would have been approximately $10,000 in the last year, including writing several reports, analysing the financial information and following up on the outstanding loan payments.
This was a subtle change from “$10,000 per report” to “$10,000 in the last year”.
I took issue with this change to the minutes. First, this was not what had been said. Secondly, the staff wording had jumped the que. Surely my wording had to be considered (and voted on by council) first. After all, I had deferred a vote on my proposed amendment to the minutes so staff could be consulted. Thirdly, there appeared to be no proposal to make this insertion by staff, other than the resolution to accept the minutes. Surely any change to the original minutes, tabled at the earlier meeting (or this meeting), had to record a change? Fortunately, this blog corrects that.
The response from the chair was that there had been no agreement on my proposed words and they had anyway been defeated? A position contrary to what had been earlier agreed – that my proposed words would be left on the table so staff could seek clarification for absent staff. There was also no record (in the minutes) of my words being defeated by a vote?
I found this to be an extraordinary position for the chair to take. Nevertheless, the chair proceeded to call for mover and seconder of the motion to approve the Minutes “as amended” (by staff). My dissent being over-ruled and ignored. The motion was carried (myself voting against it).
The lesson in all this, is get the formal motion seconded so it has to be minuted (before leaving it on the table) – and then invite staff to come back and seek amendment at the next meeting. Being flexible appears to leave you open to being taken advantage of.
Chair’s report – Chelsea Avenue park
During the chairs report, I took the opportunity to raise my concerns over the decision by Cr Edgar and Cr Higgins to approve spending of $25,000 on replacing play ground equipment in Chelsea Avenue Reserve Park (also known as “Harriet Court Park”).
By way of background, in early 2014, I had noted that the Richmond reserve financial contributions (RFC) account in the long term plan (LTP), proposed to spend around $54,000 on replacing playground equipment in Harriet Court Park. This expenditure was a carry over of earlier approval by councilors in 2011-12 Annual Plan, but spending it had been delayed, due to the storm event in 2011.
I thought this was a rather large sum and sought to investigate the park equipment myself. The Richmond RFC account is governed by the four ward councillors.
As an aside, I had noticed when I first joined council that the annual funds of the RFC account was spent on the basis of projected income (ie, the next years revenue from development contributions), which had regularly resulted in the account spending more than it subsequently earned (and having to borrow funds to cover the over-spending). In my mind this seemed poorly managed and I suggested that the RFC account would be better managed if it only spent money it had received from the earlier year, rather than trying to project funds from possible development activity in the future year. This is now how RFC accounts are managed.
In 2015, council agreed to carry over the 2014-15 budget into the 2015-16 year (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/community-development-meeting-17-september/). Staff had also reassured councillors that just because it was budgeted, did not mean it had to be spent. Ward councillors still had to authorise any RFC spending.
On inspection I discovered that the park equipment appeared to be in fairly good condition. I took some photographs (see my earlier posts) and sought clarification from staff over what equipment was proposed to be replaced. I was advised that the “rail track ride” was rusty and needed to be replaced, as well as the “turn style” as part of the normal replacement program. Apparently, equipment would normally be replaced when staff considered it had come to the end of its estimated useful life (EUL).
Leaving aside the fact “EUL” is a tax depreciation concept (not the actual useful life of an asset), I suggested that if equipment had to be replaced, a better approach would be to remove the offending equipment. If the community asked about any removed equipment, then we could investigate a solution (including replacement). If not, then we had saved some money. I also suggested that we should only be replacing equipment, if it actually needed replacing, and not because it had come to the end if its EUL. From my observations, the “rail track ride” was hardly used.
I again raised my concerns during the community development meeting on 29 October 2015 (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/community-development-meeting-29-october/).
In my opinion, the staff’s program of replacing equipment at the end of the assets estimated life was not good asset management. Just because the estimated useful life (EUL) had expired, did not mean it needed replacement. All it meant was the asset could no longer be depreciated. If the asset was still functioning (and safe), then it should be left alone.
It’s also worth noting that this “smarter” approach to asset management (based on “actual” life from real inspection, versus estimated life from a theoretical end of life) is also the new approach to asset management that the engineering team was now adopting for roading infrastructure.
Parks and reserve staff appeared unenthused with my suggestion of removal (rather than replacement), and sought to survey the local residents (to see if there was support for new equipment), as well as wait until the next maintenance report was received from the council’s contractor. In seeking to remain involved in any future decisions, I asked to be “kept in the loop”.
Apparently the survey (which I was only told about in late November 2015) asked for the following information: (1) age of children, (2) number of children, (3) items of play equipment that are enjoyed or would like to see within this development, (4) comments or any other improvements to the reserve in general, and whether they would they like to attend a site meeting.
In a subsequent discussion with staff, it appeared that the “rail ride” was no longer the problem and staff acknowledged that it probably just needed a coat of paint. I continued to monitor the park, to see if there was much use of play equipment.
On one occasion I had a chat with a group of young mothers about their thoughts on council spending large amounts of money on park equipment. They were quite taken back by the level of planned spending and suggested the equipment was fine, and the only thing that needed attention was the “turn style” ride, which needed some oil. Other than that, the equipment only needed “a slap of paint”. If equipment was dangerous it could be removed. In their opinion, there was already “more than enough equipment to use” and most children used the field (to kick a ball around) or the dirt mound. I agree.
Subsequently, I learned from staff that they had received approval from Cr Edgar and Higgins to spend $25,000 on replacing some equipment. Apparently this decision was based on the maintenance report, that had recommended replacing some at risk equipment.
As you might appreciate, I was a little disappointed in staff’s failure to contact me about their need for a decision on replacing some equipment, given my prior interest. Surely, it was not to difficult to email or phone me? But no such contact, before or after that meeting with Cr Edgar and Higgins, was made. I only learned of the decision, from following up staff on when they would be likely to receive the results from the community survey.
On learning of the decision to spend $25,000 on replacing equipment, I immediately raised my concern with management and asked that the decision be placed on hold pending discussions with the other ward councillors. Given nothing had been spent (or ordered yet), management agreed. I then asked for a copy of the maintenance report, so I could be informed over what assets were the subject of spending.
The report forwarded to me highlighted the following items:
|Asset||Survey date||Age||Condition||Maintenance||Recommendation||Capital value||Recommendation||Comment|
|Spinner||08/07/10||20 years||3 (average)||Bearing loose.||Tighten fitting. Cost $50||$3,500.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)||Similar type of accident to Invercargill|
|See-saw||08/07/10||10 years||2 (above average)||$3,500.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 4)|
|Module (small)||08/07/10||10 years||3 (average)||Track ride, loose rattles. Deck bent. Post splintered. Slide entrapment. Panels loose.||Secure track ride. Monitor bent deck. Plane off splinter. Fill slide entrapment. Provide spacer on panel. Cost $100.||$30,000.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 4)|
|Springy||08/07/10||10 years||3 (average)||Does not rock.||$2,900.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)|
|Swings||08/07/10||10 years||3 (average)||$4,500.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)|
|Surfaces||08/07/10||3 bark surfaces.||Replenish bark. Cost. $257 +$1,320 +$257||$857 + $2,264 +$857|
Consistent with the observations of the mothers I had spoken with earlier (see above), the spinner needed a bearing replacement (and probably some oil too). Cost $50. Also, the rail track ride did not appear in this report, consistent with earlier discussions with staff that the track ride was fine. In my opinion, this report did not justify any replacement work.
After digesting the report, I sought to raise this issue at the next committee meeting (which was this one). The ward councillors could then decide how they wanted to proceed.
After raising my concerns about the proposed spending and explaining why these assets did not need replacement, just because the EUL had expired, I was advised by staff that they had sent me the wrong maintenance report. Why I was not advised of this before the start of the meeting (perhaps via an email or phone call) was never explained.
Apparently the report I had been sent was for the earlier year. Copies of the “correct” report were immediately circulated around the committee meeting. Staff then went about talking through the correct report. I had always wondered what an ambush felt like, now I knew.
The correct report contained the following information:
|Asset||Survey date||Age||Condition||Maintenance||Recommendation||Capital value||Recommendation||Comment|
|Turn-style||12/12/14||25 years||3 (average)||Bearing loose.||Tighten fitting. Cost ?||$3,500.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)||Similar type of accident to Invercargill|
|Track ride||12/12/14||5 years||2 (above average)||$15,000.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 4)|
|Module (small)||12/12/14||30 years||3 (average)||Post splintered. Tunnel split.||Fill slide entrapment. Plane off splinter. Re-secure tunnel. Cost $100.||$15,000.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 2)||Toggle entrapment, finger entrapment in deck, no slide run out, hard object in swing fall space.|
|Springy||12/12/14||15 years||3 (average)||Does not rock.||$3,000.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)|
|Swings||12/12/14||15 years||3 (average)||$3,500.00||Replacement at end of life (rank 3)||Finger entrapment in chains|
|Surface||12/12/14||3 bark surfaces. Nail in edge.||Remove nail.||$1,813.33 + $4,788.33 + $1,813.33||Replacement at end of life (rank 3, 3 and4).|
Interestingly, there was little change between the two reports. Although its worth noting that this survey was done a year ago (14 December 2015), the rail track ride had now appeared in the report, and the capital value of the small module had changed from $30,000 to $15,000. Interestingly, bark depth (assessed in the 8 July 2010 report) was no longer an issue. Also, the spinner (now called a “turn-style”) had no cost estimate for the bearing and now recommended just tightening the fitting.
However, the main item of concern for staff was now a 2 metre slide fixed to a junior play equipment module (photo above). According to staff, the slide had to be replaced. This was because a playground safety standard specified that all slides had to have a 2 metre run off, and this slide did not. Unfortunately, given the age of the module (at the end of its EUL) a suitably sized slide could not be found, so the entire module would have to be replaced (a $15,000 cost). The report also noted that the module had come to the “end of the asset life”. For these reasons, staff supported the assets total replacement.
This was also the first time staff had raised the issue of the slide (with me). Which was rather perplexing, given I had been engaged in extensive discussions about the park equipment leading up to this meeting. And at no time had staff raised the issue of a slide? Rather it had always been the rail track and spinner (turn-style).
I did not agree with the slide replacement. In my opinion, if there was a safety standard that staff had to adhere too, then the most cost effective solution was to remove the slide. Replacing the whole module because of a single slide made no sense.
From my own observations, it appeared that very few children (if any) appeared to used the junior module or its slide (top picture). Instead young parents and children preferred to use the other larger module, which also had a slide (see photo below). Yes, this park has two slides.
It subsequently came to my attention (on making further enquiries after the meeting) that the standard was not a mandatory standard. In effect, staff were not compelled to adhere to the standard. The fact the standard was not mandatory was not disclosed in the meeting. A rather glaring omission, in my opinion.
According to a guide on the standard (see www.playgrounds.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Playground-People-PinkBook.pdf), it states:
NZS 5828:2004 is not retrospective or, currently, as with previous standards, a legal requirement but represents “best practice” in the event of an accident claims. Their limitations should be recognised: mere compliance will not automatically create a safe playground. Like previous playground standards they are intended to be used intelligently.
If the standard is not mandatory (or a legal requirement), why are we blindly adhereing to it? Especially when there have been no reported incidents from having a short run-off on the slide? I suspect there is an element of over zealous risk management going on here.
In my opinion it would appear staff were running scared of the presence of a standard (or using it to justify replacement expenditure). I suspect staff reasoning was partially influenced by EUL and concern that if there was an accident, the fact we did not abide by a (non-mandatory) standard might expose council (and staff) to potential liability.
In my opinion, such an approach fails to take into account the fact that standards are generally evidentiary in nature, and this one was not even mandatory. As such, other evidence could be called upon to show risk was appropriately managed.
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (at www.dol.govt.nz/publications/nohsac/reviewefficacy/008_content.asp):
Codes of practice ‘approved’ or otherwise officially ‘made’ under OHS legislation have a quasi-legal status. At a minimum, they are evidentiary, and legislation provides for their use as evidence in Court.
However, they are not legally binding. They provide guidance about an acceptable way (or ways) to comply with an OHS statute (or regulations), but there is the option to devise alternative ways of satisfying legal obligations. Voluntary codes and non-statutory guidance material are also flexible instruments that provide advice but they have a less formal status.
Adherence to a standard is just one aspect of establishing unreasonable risk taking (and that all practicable steps had been taken to avoid unreasonable risk). Additional evidence, like the playground (in particular the slide) not having any accidents, in its entire 25 year life, would (in my opinion) be a valid consideration. Remembering that this related to a slide run off (worst case, a sore bottom)?
When one looks at the slide (image at the top of this post) it’s fairly evident that staff are over-reacting to safety concerns from a short run off at the end of the slide. Leaving aside the fact that the slide has no recorded accidents, and is not particularly long, so its doubtful a child could get up much speed to slide off the end with any force? One also needs to remember that the standard is not intended to be retrospective anyway? Which means it is not intended to apply to older equipment installed before the standard was released, only new equipment.
Staff also pointed to safety concerns of the “turn-style”. The initial report identified this required the replacement of its bearings and the fact it had come to the end of its life (ie EUL). Staff also highlighted that a child had been injured on a similar piece of equipment (in a similar condition) in Invercargill, and therefore it also had to be replaced. No other items were discussed or highlighted for replacement.
Again, the fact there had never been an incident on the Harriet Park turn-style (in its 15 years, and in its current state), was given no consideration. Nor the fact it would be repaired so that it would be in a different state to the one in Invercargill.
It was also not made clear if there was any liability for the Invercargill council arising from the accident (which I suspect there was not). Causation is hard to prove at the best of times, and accidents happen. In my mind, the turn-style should have been either fixed or removed, but not replaced. Again, I favoured removal (if there was any doubt).
At the conclusion of the staff’s presentation, Cr Dowler supported the staff’s recommendation. Pointing out several other features that he considered were unsafe (none of which had been identified in the professional report). In my mind, this was just another example of a councillor reverting to unsupportable arguments to support (and rubber stamp) their endorsement of staff proposals.
Cr Norris also became quite irritated that ward business had been brought to the committee table. I pointed out to him that it had been brought before the ward councillors at the earliest opportunity (as well as to alert other councillors about the possibility of unnecessary replacement spending occurring in their own Ward RFC accounts), and I was only too happy to discuss the issue at the conclusion of the meeting. Cr Mirfin supported this option.
However, the chair (Cr Edgar) did not, and called for an immediate resolution to support the staff’s recommended spending (as approved by herself and Cr Higgins). I voted against the resolution and lost (with no support from any other councillors).
Having spoken to a number of people at the park, on the occasions I have visited, it is apparent that the community do not want vast sums of money spent on the park and were open to equipment being removed if it became dangerous. In the opinion of one resident, the equipment did not need to be replaced, and “there was already enough equipment to play on”. Another resident thought it was an over-reaction and agreed other solutions (removal or soft padding near the end of the slide) should have been explored by staff first.
In my opinion, this is another example of wasteful spending, both initially proposed by staff, and subsequently endorsed by the majority of councillors. In my opinion, a number of councillors are out of touch with the community they are suppose to be representing.
Some people have suggested that not spending money on a park is more newsworthy than over-spending on a park. I disagree. Council had the opportunity to demonstrate it was working hard to save money. The items driving replacement of the entire module (ie the slide) did not need to be replaced. And if it did, the slide could have been easily removed. Instead council governance (and staff) choose to spend.
In my opinion, this reflects a culture of some long established council members, who are only to keen to rubber stamp spending. That culture needs to change. Perhaps it will only change if council is refreshed with new representatives and leadership.
One final point. While these RFC funds are held in a closed account, that does not mean they should be wasted. Funds saved now, can be used for other worthwhile community projects at a later date (for example, improved public toilets or more toilets). Its about getting the most from the assets (and funds) we have. Rather than spending it, because we have it.
[Update: At the time of writing this post, the small module had still not been replaced. Here’s hoping the decision can be revisited (or stalled by more sensible members of staff). Lets keep our costs (and rates) down].
Community development activities
The manager’s report highlighted the following activities:
- Velodrome. The Saxton Velodrome trust had raised $250,000 of the $320,000 it had to raise (as part of its 20% share of the cost).
- Golden bay recreation facility. The building contract was awarded to Gibbons construction with a completion date of October 2016. This meant that the tender panel (comprising Cr Edgar and Cr Norris) had also agreed that the in-kind contribution had been fulfilled. A condition of the approval was confirmation that the community could fund their portion of the constructions cost. Plans can be viewed on: www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/completed-consultations/2014-consultations/feedback-form-golden-bay-community-recreation-facility-concept-plan/.
- Events. In Your neighbourhood (at Easby Park, Richmond) was held on 1 November 2015. The event was internally managed and cost $500 (flyers), plus $200 (port-a-loo), plus staff time (leave in lieu). The event show cases council activities (including cycling safety) as well as volunteer groups. Having attended the event, I thought it was a good way for council to engage with residents.
- Mudcakes and roses survey. Staff conducted a survey about this publication. Less than 60 people responded. 55 liked the publication, 8 neutral and 2 didn’t like it. The publication has a print run of 3,500 copies (800 copies go to NCC and 150 to Nelson library). It is published every 2-months (6 issues a year). Print and production costs are roughly $8,700 per issue (roughly $50,000 per year). The net cost (after advertising and NCC grants) is around $5,200 per issue ($31,000 per year). The low feedback given the print run, suggests the publication readership is not high (and probably very marginal). The survey results (hardly within a margin of statistical significance) showed the events section was the most popular. This suggests that the events section needs to be migrated to another source (eg www.itson.co.nz and\or age concern’s own publication, and\or public notice boards). Given this publication did not get a lot of support during the LTP consultation (several submissions suggesting it should be terminated) would suggest its time to end this publication and save some money. I again stressed at the meeting that staff should consider terminating this publication. Other councilors were ambivalent. Staff advised that they will instead consider the survey results in order to develop a range of options for delivering information to older residents. In my opinion, more staff time wasted.
- Contracts. A new management contract is currently being considered by the recreation centre committee. In my opinion, a standard templated contract approach is highly desirable, given the issues with council contracts in the past (eg the mayor signing a contract without specifying a price). Why the mayor never challenged such a contract is incomprehensible? Wellington city council have a series of standard template contracts (see www.wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/selling-products-and-services/WCC-Services-Contract-Template-July-2014.pdf), which appear based on government templated contracts (see www.business.govt.nz/procurement/for-agencies/government-model-contracts).
- Online payments. A number of services are now able to be paid and received remotely via receipt of online payments (see www.tasman.govt.nz/services/make-a-payment/).
- Aquatic and fitness centre. The September 2015 report showed patronage of 25,576.
- Public engagement. Staff forecast that the number of engagement exercises is “only going to grow”. Staff are exploring new ways to engage with the public given public meetings as an engagement vehicle are diminishing in popularity.
- Libraries. New online paperless registration process for new borrowers started from 1 December 2015. Around 195 new borrowers are registered each month. No trend reports were included in the agenda.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-12-10.
The community development committee meeting was held on 6 August 2015. Councilors Canton and Bryant submitted their apologies, otherwise all councillors were present.
The agenda included a number of “information only” reports, as well as presentations from the Nelson Tasman Business Trust and Sport Tasman. The reports included (1) Saxton field designation, (2) residents survey, (3) Pohara commercial lease , (4) Golden Bay community recreation facility update, (5) manager’s update, (6) library update, and (7) community relations update.
A presentation was provided on the Golden Bay community recreation facility by working party members Sarah Chapman and Peter Bladsdale. I will discuss the helpful points they raised in my discussion below.
Saxton field – designations
Nelson council has decided to clarify the scope of its designations over Saxton field. As a requiring authority, Tasman also has to approve any changes. Designations control how the land is used. The need for clarification is due to a number of new facilities appearing on Saxton field.
Proposed changes to the designation include: (1) extending the scope of the designation to include fencing, signage, playgrounds, and park furniture, (2) increasing the permitted building area from 50 sqm to 400 sqm, and (3) increasing the heigh restriction from 3 m to 18 m.
All the changes are intended to allow construction of planned buildings. The height increase would also allow a more extensive playground to be built.
Council resolved to approve all the proposed changes.
Not many surprises in this survey. 402 residents across the district were called and asked for their opinions. If there is a flaw in the survey, its the over representation of residents who have telephone line connections. If you only have a mobile phone (or no phone), you will not have been contacted. However, the survey did ensure that a fair age range was represented in the survey. A copy of the survey is located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/reports/resident-survey/.
The survey makes for interesting reading.
Interestingly, the council decisions people disapprove of the most were: (1) the Dam (13%), roading/roadworks/road safety/footpaths/traffic (5%), rates increases (4%), council spending/waste (4%), planning (zoning/subdivision) issues (3%), and council attitude/performance (3%). Clearly there was a lot of different opinions given the low percentages – but still some strong themes.
Community concern about unneccessary spending on roads (road widening is a constant gripe) is a theme I have also picked up on as I walk around Richmond as part of my mid-term catch up with residents.
In contrast, the most popular council decisions were: (1) cycle ways (9%), (2) public consultation (4%), community engagement (4%), sport and recreation facilities (3%), park maintenance (3%), and good services (3%).
Overall, 32% would talk negatively about council (the LGNZ national benchmark is 46%). In contrast, 62% would talk positively about council (the LGNZ national benchmark 36%).
In relation to communication, the main source of council information was from reading Newsline (61%, compared to 56% in 2014). However, more people were getting their information from local papers (28%, compared to 24% in 2014). Nearly 80% of people, say they get enough information from council.
In my opinion, we may well be overloading the public with information on the less important stuff, and not providing enough information around the big items. It continues to amaze me how many people do not understand the new water allocation and rationing rules, that were approved of by the former council’s plan changes. Leaving aside the issue about the level of public funding, these rule changes are driving the council (as an extractor of water on behalf of Richmond residents) towards funding some form of water augmentation solution (dam or otherwise) for Richmond residents.
The committee were asked to approve the Hearing Panel’s recommendation to grant a commercial lease (subject to conditions) to Golden Bay Kayaks at Cornwall Place, Tata Beach. The proposal to grant the lease drew 64 submissions concerning the adverse impact of the business activity on the nearby park and residents. The business had been operating since 2002 and sought to renew its lease (for 3 years, plus two rights of renewal at council’s discretion).
The committee resolved to approve the lease (subject to conditions).
Golden Bay community recreation facility
Before I start, I have to disclose that I was not a supporter of this development. I still am not. I think the existing building had a few more years left in her – that we should have been utilised before replacement. In my opinion a toilet and shower facility (commonly provided by way of a modified container), could have provided the facilities the community identified as lacking, for far less money, and done faster.
Interestingly, this report required a decision – albeit the decision was to receive the report? The essence of this report was that the estimated costings had come in higher than the $ 4 million budgeted for this development – which included a replacement building ($3.6 million), 2 netball courts and car parking ($400,000). Proposed plans for the development were enclosed in the agenda (pages 63 to 65). The higher costs meant the working group had to rethink its approach – such as a design and build approach.
By way of background, council undertook to fund $3.2 million, and the community had to raise the remaining $800,000 (being a 20% contribution to the overall cost). It had always been my understanding of the original resolution that the community would have to confirm the funds, before the council would commit its funding.
As mentioned above, the public forum received a presentation from members of the working party. They informed council that 25% ($200,000) of the community contribution had been received to date and that the remaining $600,000 was outstanding. According to the presentation, a large portion of the remaining funds were dependent on the various conditions being met. For example, some community funders would not provide funding until either the resource consents had been granted or tenders confirmed. The working party sought leave from council to receive $400,000 (50% of the community contribution of $800,000) in written pledges. Effectively, only providing 1/3rd of the required cash up front.
Apparently, council had accepted written pledges in the past for other facilities and these had all been honored. Pledges would also allow funders who were placing conditions on the availability of funds to show their intention to provide a measurable level of funding.
Interestingly, the working party members also reminded council that the community had provided over $900,000 in district facility rates. No doubt to emphasis the Takaka community had already made a sizeable contribution to recreational facilties.
Unfortunately, this was a district wide levy (not a Takaka levy) and did not mean an equivalent amount had to be spent in Golden Bay. Although, I suspect that is probably how this particular “rate” was probably sold to ratepayers. It was certainly my impression during the annual plan, that some members of the community held an expectation (“its our turn”) that a facility would be built in Takaka.
I have to say this only confirmed for me that there should not have been a district wide facility rate, and instead the council should have left the communities to fund their own resources, rather than building up what looked like something resembling a pyramid funding scheme – where the final cost to the district was probably far higher than what everyone probably thought they would be committing in rates contributions at the start. In my opinion, a large part of the council debt was probably attributable to the accelerated community facility construction that had occurred in the last decade.
In my opinion, there also appeared to be a lot of pressure being placed on council in terms of project timelines. This came across during the public forum presentation and the report. While the “planned” timelines might be tight, councilors should be under no such illusion. Their duty is to prudently spend ratepayer funds according to the directions and conditions they set. If the council had resolved to not release funds until the community had secured the necessary funding, then the project timeline would have to be adjusted. In my opinion, there was no time pressure and the community should have all the time it needed to raise its funding portion.
After much discussion, council resolved to allow the pledges to be received. Albeit under a slightly tighter time frame than had been requested. If tenders were to be approved on 2 October, then council would need pledges confirmed before that date. This effectively meant that the tenders panel (Crs Norris and Edgar) would be the ones considering if the pledges were both valid and sufficient for council to commit to $3.6 million (of ratepayer funds) to the project.
The report highlighted the following activities:
- MBIE broadband registration of interest. Council has been working with the EDA preparing and submitting a registration of interest (ROI) application. The ROI seeks funding for a variety of broad band services across the district. A digital engagement plan will be submitted in September. For information about what it all means, check out http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/technology-communications/fast-broadband/new-initiatives.
- Aquatic centre. An update report on during May 2015 was submitted. Generally, numbers were lower than expected.
- Reserves and facilities. The Takaka memorial garden project is nearing completion. The velodrome earthworks (on Saxton field) has started and drainage is nearing completion. The avery toilet block on Saxton field has also begun.
- Health and safety. A recent incident (an altercation between two people involving a knife) at the Richmond library resulted in a police call out. Staff handled the situation professionally and no injuries were reported.
As always I find the data presented on libraries very interesting.
The general trend appears to be a decrease in book issues, but an increase in use of digital resources. Apparently e-book and audio book loans increased 44& and online resources 41.5% compared to last year. Quite a surge.
Interestingly, visits to the library appear to be trending down – a 1% decrease from last year (although Motueka recorded a 1.4% increase). Library membership (by residents) at the end of June 2015 was 21,277 people (roughly 45% of Tasman district). During the last year, 19,476 new items were added to the library collection, which totals 145,846 items.
A new mobile app (bookmyne) was launched in May and is available on android and iOS mobiles. It allows users to search the Richmond catelogue, place holds, and check accounts.
This part of the meeting then got rather strange (if not amusing). I say strange, because the chair (Cr Edgar) decided that I could only ask one question. I only presume there was a quota for the meeting and I had used them all up? There was certainly no time pressure on the meeting concluding, as everyone sat around for sometime after the meeting closed, chatting to one another.
I had three questions in mind. The first concerned a typo. I pointed out that para 7.1 of the agenda should have read “Richmond and Takaka” not “Motueka and Takaka”.
When I came to ask my second question, I was told I could not? I was somewhat surprised with this response. Had I used up my quota for the meeting? Was there a pressing meeting elsewhere to attend? I therefore decided to ask “why” my second question about the recirculation rate of books at the Motueka library could not be asked.
I had intended to ask this question because a number of residents had queried the refreshment of books at the Motueka library as part of their submissions for a larger library to hold more books. At this point, before the chair could respond, staff offered an answer. I was assured by staff, that the books at the Motueka library were regularly refreshed (or recirculated) between the district’s libraries. I had wanted more detail, but quickly pressed on, as I wanted to ask a third question.
I then sought to ask my third question. At this point the chair became quite upset with my tactics of subverting her directions and flatly refused to allow me to ask a third question. At this point I stressed to the chair that the question was being made on behalf of a Richmond resident. But this did not deter her and she became quite loud in her insistence that I ask no more questions.
Given I was unable to ask my third question during the meeting, I put the question to the library manager after the meeting had closed. My third question was whether some tourism information (eg, AA guides) could be made available somewhere in the library. It would only require a small stand. The reason for the request, was because some residents had wanted access to this type of information, but were unable to get hold of it from the Gladstone Road Information centre as it was often closed during the winter period. The library manager undertook to look into it.
Community relations report
This was another information update report.
- Events. The Tasman skatepark tour was being reviewed by staff, with a discussion paper exploring alternative delivery methods and funding. Winterruption (winter festival) was successfully delivered and a debrief meting would be held. Another “second hand Sunday” was planned for 13 September. It was agreed that the Eco-fest trade show has served its purpose and would no longer receive council funding. However, $5,000 would continue to be allocated to eco related events.
- Publications. The online youth publication (Jam) and the youth council’s facebook page would be integrated – the consolidation of two online services would improve access and delivery of information for youth (and reduce costs). Further rationalisation of council publications would be undertaken – including: Mud Cakes and Roses, and NewsLine. In my opinion, a review of both publications is well overdue.
- Grants. The creative community grant applications had closed on 10 July. 21 application (requesting $35,425) was received. Community grant applications closed on 31 August.
- Education. During 2014-15 330 students, teachers and prents participated in resource recovery centre, and landfill tours. Another up-cycling competition is being held in Motueka. Another school has signed up as an Enviro-school and will receive staff support for projects on public property.
- Facilities. A standardised contract for service delivery has been devised for Murchison, Motueka and Moutere. Previously each centre operated under different expectations.
- Communication. Staff have mainly been involved in communicating the long term plan to the public. This included a new design and layout for the new form of LTP documents (a new national requirement). It is worth noting that the TDC LTP document was selected for consideration for a national award.
- Online. Useage increased (16.39% more users, and 9.96% more page views) in comparison to last year. The online “grants” application form has been updated as a result of public feedback.
At the conclusion of the meeting I informed staff that the most valuable section of Mud Cakes and Roses (according to resident feedback I had received) was the events section – and any future delivery (or redelivery) of this information needed to be considered as part of any rationalisation. I also suggested that Newsline could reduce its page count or frequency – either or both changes would reduce costs.
I also took the opportunity to emphasis the need for council to outline the new water allocation and restriction rules to the public. In my opinion, council has not done a very good job given how many people are either not aware of them or do not understand how they change the new rules.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-08-06.