Tagged: Richmond

Environment and planning (19 November)

Environment and planning (19 November)

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 19 November 2015. Apologies were received from Cr Edgar. All councillors were in attendance (with Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster arriving late from their drive over the Takaka hill).

Cr Mirfin noted that the minutes from the last meeting were “a bit light”. I certainly share this concern. This is also a growing concern for a number of residents who show an interest in issues that council debates.

The agenda included: (1) national policy statement freshwater management, (2) private plan change for Wainui Bay (spat catching), (3) Alcohol licensing costs, (4) Food Act, (5) Annual Biodiversity report, (6) environment and planning services activity report, and (7) the chairs report. There were no public forum presentations. Much of the meeting was deciding to receive reports and approve public notification of them. I intend to highlight the main topics of interest.

A confidential (in committee) session was also held in relation to: (1) proposed rural land use subdivision plan change, and (2) building claim settlement. Workshops followed.

National policy statement freshwater management

The Freshwater Management national policy statement (NPS) was first introduced in 2011 and amended in 2014. The Freshwater Management NPS is being progressively implemented with full implementation by 2030. The work programme includes: completion of water allocation and flow management for the Waimea Plains water management zones, establishing community based advisory groups (FLAG groups) to develop water quality and quantity management provisions for Takaka and the Waimea Plains, scoping a land disturbance review )sediment and erosion control guidelines), and mapping of all wetlands.

Concerns were raised about the cost (and progress) of the FLAG groups. Some wondered if it was more cost effective (and timely) to just drive the process through public consultation, rather than engage stakeholders through the FLAG groups. While there was some merit in upfront timeliness, there was always the risk of downstream costs arising through appeal processes.

From my own experience, it is much more efficient to engage (and address issues) before going over the cliff edge, than addressing them on beach (under pressure). It also provides greater community engagement and transparency, as its all on the web to read (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/environment/water/water-resource-management/water-catchment-management/water-management-partnerships-flags/). That said, it is incumbent on staff to ensure delivery expectations are met and any slippage (or scope creep) is avoided. Which is always hard when dealing with unpaid stakeholders.

Wainui Bay mussel spat catching

Wainui Bay mussel spat catching farms are considered nationally and regionally significant for quality and quantity of mussel spat. The private proposal seeks to extend the current resource consent in Wainui Bay beyond 2024, in order to provide commercial certainty. Council resolved to notify the public of the proposed plan change. The proposal is located on the councils webpage at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-11-19/PrivatePlanChangeRequestWainuiBaySpatCatching.

Alcohol licensing costs

Council is required by law to publicly report the costs of providing alcohol licensing (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012). Alcohol charges are set by statute (and regulation). Council is authorised to make bylaws for fee setting (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Fee-setting Bylaws) Order 2013), but has chosen to adopt by default the national regulation (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Fees) Regulations 2013). This is because it is considered that establishing a bylaw would be a “significant cost” and council is better to just adopt the fees in the regulations.

In my opinion, the fee setting in the regulations could do with some serious fine tuning. Clubs and community events are given higher risk ratings than perhaps seems justifiable and this results in higher fees for these activities. If there is a trade off in the risk rating process, it needs to be for activities that have resulted in public nuisances or offences. This would incentivise greater compliance, or risk ratings and higher fees. Another anomaly is the treatment of online sales. This is something that the government needs to urgently review. Online sales need to be given a separate classification and risk rating in the regulations.

Period: 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015

Total fees received: $197,946.00
Portion of fees passed to central government agency (ARLA) $13,970.00
Fees retained by council $183,976.00
Cost of administration $101,232.27
Cost of inspections $236,070.58
Cost of enforcement $5,5179.66
Total cost to council $342,482.51

Subsidisation by council is: 54% user pays and 46% rates funded. Staff aim to reduce the subsidation ratio to 60:40 through streamlining processes.

Interestingly, Ministry of Justice civil and constitutional unit general manager David King is reported as saying that the reforms aimed to improve New Zealand’s drinking culture and reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking. Mr King stated that:

The new system fairly reflects the cost of alcohol licensing . . . [it] aims to ensure licensing costs are met by the alcohol industry rather than ratepayers, who currently subsidise about 50 per cent, $5.4 million a year, of the system.

Empirical evidence (from Tasman) would suggest that the regulations still result in cross subsidisation of 50% or more. Perhaps its time for the Ministry of Justice to review if the regulations are working?

Food Act 2014 – new regulatory process

The new Food Act 2014 is soon to come into force. The Act provides for the council to provide registration and verification functions (from 1 March 2016). Similar to the Supply of Alcohol Regulations, the Food Act places food businesses into different risk categories which are then to operate under different regulatory controls.

The new feature of the Act is the separation of the registration function from the verification (audit and inspection) function. Only the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and territorial authorities (like TDC) will be able to register food businesses. No change here.

However, verification is being opened to the private sector. This means verification functions can be provided by TDC, or an approved provider (like AsureQuality). Food businesses will either develop their own food control plans or be part of a registered national programme. Most small food businesses will fall under a registered national programme. At this time, there have been no draft templates or examples of national programmes. However, there is nothing stopping a business developing and submitting their own food control plans.

All private providers will have to apply for verification status. TDC is deemed to hold verification status for verifying “food control plans”. However, council will not have deemed verification status for verifying “national programmes”. Instead, TDC will have to apply (like private providers) to MPI for approval and show it has met all regulatory requirements (like a documented quality management system).

The total cost of acquiring approver status has not been determined by MPI yet. Estimated costs are $193.75 plus $155 per hour to process the application. The amount of time to process an application has yet to be disclosed. Staff anticipate that developing a documented quality management system will involve substantial staff time (and cost).

Council resolved not to provide a verification function given the uncertainties and potential cost. In my opinion, it seems strange to deem verification status for councils in relation to food control plans, but not national programmes (where there is likely to be cookie cutter approach).

I would have thought if councils are deemed to be able to verify high risk activities they should also be deemed to verify lower risk activities? The distinction makes no sense, other than it requires councils to incur additional costs. Surely if the council is good enough to verify a high risk activity, it is more than capable of verifying a lower risk activity? Basically, council should be deemed to provide verification services for both food control plans and national programmes. If councils do not offer verification services for small business, the private sector will (in the short term) take advantage and charge higher prices for verification services – hardly business friendly.

Interestingly, MPI’s response to the distinction (from my own enquiries) is that:

Businesses that will be required to operate under a national programme include a large variety of manufacturers that a number of TAs [territorial authorities] have not been working with so it not appropriate to provide automatic recognition to TAs to verify these businesses.”

Adding that:

MPI is considering further the recognition process for TAs that may wish to verify retailers that operate under national programmes and will provide more information to TAs in the near future.

It also concerns me that a new Act is about to come into force and a lot of administrative issues are still being resolved by MPI. This is most unsatisfactory. Especially for councils, who are very conscious of additional financial burdens being placed on them by central government. How can councils be expected to plan for the future if relevant financial information (like fees and costs) have not be resolved by MPI. Again, this is a serious issue that government need to review.

Interestingly, MPI’s response (to my enquiries) is that:

MPI is currently working on the assessment process for councils and other agencies to become recognised to verify businesses under the Act. At this stage we are unable to say how long will take, and therefore what the final cost will be. … we hope to send this information to councils before the end of the year. One of the reasons for this is that we are currently looking into ways that the recognition process could be simplified for councils wishing to verify national programme businesses that they currently inspect under the Food Hygiene Regulations (as mentioned). Councils are automatically recognised to verify template food control plans, so will only need to apply for recognition to verify national programme businesses or custom food control plans.

I will be watching with interest to see how this plays out.

Check out the MPI overview of the new Food Act and compliance tool at www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/food-act-2014/overview/.

Annual Biodiviersity report

This was an information only report. Generally, council’s biodiversity programme is focused generating reports on lowland ecosystems, mostly located on private land. And involves a district wide survey of natural areas outside of the conservation estate to assess the ecological significance of these areas. The reports are provided to landowners to assist in management of the identified sites. As at 30 September 2015, 469 sites had been inspected with 309 reports generated. Many reports have been used as reference documents when considering planning applications, and policy reviews. Landowners (farming or forestry) have also used them for funding applications for pest control and restoration planting.

Council obtained central government funding ($26,000 per year) through to June 2017, but will be fully funding this work from July 2017 (due to an absence of any external funding). Current costs are $62,000 per year and are planned to reduce to $56,500 from July 2017. It is expected that the remaining ten ecological districts will be completed within the next 10-12 years.

Environment services activity report

Highlights from the managers report include:

  • Shop trading hours. Local authorities will have the ability to put in place a bylaw allowing trading on Easter Sunday. Essentially, the political issue (and cost of consultation) has been shifted to local government. While this delegates the decision making to the regions, it comes at a cost. Ideally, government would have also provided the financial support to implement this shift in decision making.
  • Hearing delegation. Council resolved to appoint a commissioner to hear the proposed Waimea water management plan change and make recommendations to council. This allows council to rehear the matter if it disagrees with all or any part of the recommendations. The council could appoint the commissioner to hear and “decide” the matter. If it did this it could not revisit the decision. From my experience, there appears very little practical difference. Most councilors are reluctant to revisit recommendations due to the cost of a rehearing. Nor are they keen to engage with the affected parties to mediate any compromise over issues that council might disagree with.
  • Building consent fees. The consents team incurred a deficit of $41,661 due to additional costs in meeting statutory timeframes from resource shortages. The increase should address this shortfall. Comparatively, TDC fees will still be lower than Nelson or Marlborough councils. For example, a single story dwelling will now cost $3,394 in Tasman, $3,900 in nelson, and $4,070 in Marlborough. For work below a value of $50,000, fees are now similar.
  • Richmond CBD. The Richmond town centre project was separated into (1) the stormwater upgrade and reinstatement project, and (2) urban density and design (and parking standards review) project. Richmond councillors were delegated with reviewing associated documentation in relation to urban density project. Unfortunately, staff and I were not in full agreement (at our subsequent meeting) on what needed to go into the consultation documents. I had hoped for a map, to show the areas of possible effect (perhaps showing different walking distances). Something that would grab the attention of the public when they were skimming the document. In my opinion, a map would easily let ratepayers know what areas might be affected – and if they might be affected. Instead staff wanted to use text (eg “within 10 minutes walk of the CBD”). Staff reasoned (based on some external advice) that a map indicating walking distances might generate a negative reaction. After some discussion, a compromise was reached to display a map at public presentations (ie at the Mall and Library), rather than on the consultation documents. In my opinion, staff need to be more courageous and transparent – and less scared of receiving negative reactions from the public. The public are pretty smart, and if it’s a good story, will be supportive. It’s about having an honest and upfront culture.
  • Financials. Generally, expenses are operating within budget and income is ahead. In response to my query about the extra wage related and overhead costs, staff advised that it was due to staff working longer hours (and charging extra fees).
  • Rainfall. Total accumulated rainfall appears to be lagging the average. Either, there’s a big rainfall coming, or its getting dryer.

20151119EP-Rainfall-p78

Chairs reports

Cr Bryant advised that a second steering group meeting on a shared “Land Development Manual” was held on 21 October 2015. In his opinion, there are ongoing challenges (and some unresolved matters) to align the engineering standards for Tasman and Nelson. However, he was optimistic of a positive outcome for both councils.

In my opinion, the winners of this process will be both developers and ratepayers – by making it easier and more cost effective for everyone to comply with one set of common standards – certainty should increase and costs decline. This is also another example of a commitment towards a “shared” approach to local government issues.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-11-19.

Media

Nelson Mail (15 December 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75082540/Tasman-District-Council-to-increase-building-consent-fees

Nelson Mail (25 November 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/aquaculture/74386525/Wainui-Bay-spat-catching-farms-seek-certainty-with-private-plan-change-request

Nelson Mail (29 October 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/73338768/Community-input-into-Queen-St-design

Nelson Mail (20 January 2016) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76363857/richmonds-queen-st-carriageway-in-for-a-full-remake-tdc-says

Nelson Live! (19 February 2016) www.nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2016/02/interest-in-queen-st-makeover/

Dominion Post (1 March 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/9777663/Small-clubs-say-new-laws-on-liquor-hitting-hard

 

 

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.

Community development meeting (17 September)

The community development committee meeting was held on 17 September 2015. A number of councillors were absent, including: the mayor, Crs King, Ensor, Mirfin, and Dowler.

The agenda included: (1) reserve financial contributions capital carry-over, (2) hall’s report, (3) Manager’s report, (4) reserves manager’s report, (5) chair’s report, and (6) Rainbow sports club remission of loan repayments. The last item was confidential, but was subsequently made public at the conclusion of the debate. The public forum received two presentations.

Due to the chair having a major engagement at 12 pm (the PM’s speech at the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce lunch at Siefrieds), a number of questions were taken off-line for staff to follow-up.

Outstanding Community Service Awards

Before I discuss the community development services meeting, I first want to take the opportunity to recognise the recipients of Tasman District Council’s Outstanding Community Service Awards. The awards event was held at the council chamber on 2 September 2015 with the mayor, Cr Edgar, and myself (and staff) in attendance.

The award winners for 2015 were:

  • Hazel Bartlett (Richmond) was honoured for her work in guiding visitors and residents alike through her work with Richmond Information Centre, organising the Lions Club bus trips and raising money to open the Richmond kindergarten.
  • Henk and Willa Visker (Golden Bay) for their work with Takaka Citizens Band, Golden Bay Orchestra, Kotinga Bowling Club, St John and the Wrinklies Bus.
  • Crowther Reynish (Golden Bay) for his involvement with the Takaka Citizens Band, Golden Bay RSA and Takaka rugby.
  • Dick Wenzel (Golden Bay) local veterinarian for his involvement with Golden Bay Orchestra, the Golden Bay High School Board, Wrinklies Express and numerous other clubs and committees.
  • Graeme Miller (Golden Bay) volunteer firefighter for his 26 years with Collingwood Volunteer Fire Service as well as his work with the Collingwood Area School Board of Trustees, Collingwood Health Centre committee and rugby.
  • Sue Netto (Golden Bay) for her long involvement as a volunteer for St John and fundraising for the rescue helicopter.
  • Valerie Stuart (Motueka) former nurse, acknowledged for her work as volunteer supervisor with Playcentre, Soroptimists, Motueka Hospice Shop and the Motueka Hospital Trust.
  • Mark Heine (Motueka) for his work with Motueka Idea Services and the Laura Ingram Kindergarten.

Two highly successful local businesspeople were also acknowledged for the contribution that they have made to their communities – not just in the business arena, but also through their leadership and philanthropy – Peter Goodman and Peter Talley.

I would like to congratulate all award recipients for their time, energy, and passion, in making the Tasman district a better place to work, play, and live. Thank you.

Public forum

Penny Griffiths (Golden Bay\Takaka Museum) gave a brief update on Takaka museum activities. This included: (1) a long term tenant had been found providing much needed financial security, (2) the whale project was getting good exposure although funds were still needed to complete the project, and (3) retired IT equipment had been provided to the museum by council.

Penny also raised concerns about the need to use council accredited builders for work on the museum building and the impact this had on getting competitive quotes for work. Apparently there was only one accredited builder in Takaka at present. Staff advised that the museum could get quotes from as many builders as they wanted. Although they could only use an accredited builder (someone who has shown council they have health and safety certification).

Andrew Smith emphasised to council that the ski club operating at Rainbow ski field was “asset rich but cash poor” and that “working capital was tight”. Although he also acknowledged a reserve cash fund (roughly $40,000) had been built up.

Reserve financial contributions capital carry-over

This is the second capital carry-over request council has considered in the last week. The last one was in relation to engineering projects (discussed in an earlier post).

By way of background, reserve financial contributions (RFCs) are charges that are generally imposed on property developers when they create subdivisions. These charges are then used to purchase land for public reserves (usually within the development), capital improvements and maintenance of assets on public reserves, or any other growth related projects. For more detail see www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/plans/annual-plans/annual-plan-2013-2014/draft-annual-plan-2013-2014/part-3-accounting-information/reserve-financial-contributions/.

Similar to engineering, a number of planned projects did not occur in the 2014-15 year, were only partially completed, or were deferred until the 2015-16 year.

Council approved the proposed carrry-overs. The totals for the respective wards were: (1) $21,695 Moueka, (2) $580,466 Golden Bay, (3) $310,288 Moutere, (4) $100,124 Murchison, and (5) $349,513 Richmond.

I raised a number of questions (both during the meeting and afterwards) in relation to the reporting of the deferred projects for Richmond (listed in this report), as they appear to be different to what was agreed to be carried forward in an earlier May 2014 memo. These issues were raised with staff and they have since responded. I have enclosed my email, and their response (shown in italics) below:

Hi Beryl,

I am just following up from my questioning of your report at the last community development meeting.

I restricted my questions for brevity, but thought I would also question some other changes from the 20 May 2014 memo.

In the May 2014 memo it was agreed what specified projects and amounts (see extract below), would be deferred and carried forward.

This only totalled $226,916, yet the September report asked to carry forward $349,513? This seems a large difference? The $226,916 was funding from 2013/2014 financial year to be carried forward to the 2014/2015 financial year. The $349,531 is the funding from 2014/2015 carried forward to this financial year. It does contain some funds from previous years.

The list contained in your September report had several differences from the May 2014 memo. These included: (1) reduced Dellside to $26,933, This was reduced as most of the work was carried out by volunteers so we didn’t require the full amount.
(2) added two new items (inlet walks $16,251 and General 16,251), These two amounts are for left over from the 2014/2015 walkway budgets original amounts of $25,000 each.

(3) inflated training lights to $87,000, this is a typo as you mentioned the original amount is $86,113 which we will round down to $86,000

(4) added waimea river park $15,885, this is a carried forward from the 2014/1015 financial year from a budget of $22,239

(5) reduced security camera’s to 30,000, this I rounded down to $30,000 to take off the inflation

and (6) increased Ben Cooper toilet to $111,193. This is the amount was in the 2014/2015 budget to be deferred to 2015/2016 we need to keep it on the books so it isn’t lost.

I mentioned training lights at the meeting. This was a typing error and we will make that change

I am happy to agree with any changes that have reduced carry forward amounts, but can you please explain the increases (and the new items).

I am also worried that other wards may have also carried forward more than they originally agreed too. I will check the other wards for similar issues.

Kind regards
Mark

I included this email in full (with staff comments in italics), because it not only answered my questions very succinctly (as well as making council more transparent), but it shows that while the odd mistake is made in reports to council (which is all very human), generally staff are quick to acknowledge any error and fix it. In my opinion, it’s the putting right that counts!

This draws me to another point. I consider that an important element of my role as a councillor is to help foster and develop the culture (and attitude) of this council. As a member of the public, you can also influence an organisations culture, by making sure that council actions that you like, are acknowledged (ideally to senior management or councillors). Only speaking up about the bad stuff, will only make an organisation fearful of making mistakes. If we want council to be innovative, we need to be prepared to experience the odd glitch. But at the same time, the organisation needs to have the confidence to acknowledge that it has made a mistake and will put it right.

My aspiration, is to have a council that is: transparent, honest, trustworthy, and open (its why I do this blog), provide enabling advice (rather than just restating the rules, and why you cannot do stuff), leading edge, innovative and embracing of change, acknowledge mistakes and put things right (or explain promptly why they cannot), and put the public (as a customer) at the centre of everything it does. A customer centric business is always a happy and successful one.

Hall’s report

Various unbudgeted repairs and maintenance work has been identified by staff. These included: (1) Hall fire alarm upgrades (price between $1,500 and $6,000 per hall), (2) Motueka memorial hall stage repair and handrails ($15,000), (3) Collingwood roof repair ($10,000), Pakawau roof repair (no estimate yet), and Golden Bay community centre flood protection ($10,000).

Councillors were somewhat surprised that these issues were not identified for inclusion in the long term plan (LTP). Staff advised that there was a surplus of $54,000 in a special purpose capital account that was agreed to be carried forward at the 10 September full council meeting. Although use of these funds would mean that they could not be used for other purposes or retiring debt. Council agreed with the staff recommendation to fund the identified repairs from the special purpose fund.

Council agreed that a pragmatic approach should be taken with the roll out of upgraded fire alarms. The problem being that some alarms were not appropriate for the hall size and their maximum capacity. Staff suggested that an assessment of a hall’s historical usage should help direct whether upgrades were necessary (or not).

However, in my opinion, numbers using the affected halls should have been limited to the constraints of the fire alarms, until planned maintenance occurred. I saw no reason to accelerate upgrades from new sources of funding. If we are to get council finances back on track, we need to be prepared (at least in the short-term) to be a little more reactionary.  I also raised questions of upgrading halls that might subsequently be disposed of. For example, council is considering disposal of some halls in the Golden Bay area, as part of funding the new community recreation facility building.

I consider Motueka hall stage should be repaired (as it was an unexpected discovery that would impact on immediate future use, as well as raising health and safety issues), but questioned the need for any new hand rails. Expenditure should only be for repairs or maintenance of existing assets.

Manager’s report

Highlights include:

  • Rifle club. The small bore rifle club currently resides in Nelson and is proposing to move to Saxton field. They have made an application for funding assistance through the contestable community grants scheme after making a public forum request for funding assistance.
  • Aquatic centre. The June period experienced a drop in casual swimming numbers. Total patronage visits in June (including the fitness centre) was 20,133 visits.
  • Golden Bay museum. The 6 monthly report for the period ended June 2015 was submitted. The board are currently seeking a new treasurer who recently resigned. Casual staff (termed “volunteers” in the report) over the holiday season accounted for $7,670. The board are again seeking 20 casual staff for the forthcoming holiday season. The 5 year strategic plan was reviewed in May 2015. The annual accounts showed an operating surplus of $14,337 and a net surplus of $9,294 after depreciation. Total income was $75,137 that comprised: a TDC grant of $47,000, fundraising of $9,000, donations and rental income of $5,000. Staffing costs are $37,348 and power $5,081.
  • Charges and fees. Moutere hills community centre (see www.mouterehills.org.nz) has increased some of their hire charges for the NBS sports hall by adding a “plus GST” component.
  • Libraries. Richmond library has partnered with Nelson Bays Community laws service to present “law for lunch”. This has proved very popular with topics including: powers of attorney, wills, estates, and relationship property. Richmond library has also been running a “stepping up” computer course.
  • Grants. 170 grant applications (totaling $423,610) were received by the grants committee, with $218,000 available in this round. Minor glitches with the online forma are being addressed.
  • Publications. The summer events guide (“Hummin”) has been reviewed by staff and will now be published in a joint venture with Nelson council. This change sees a $21,000 saving (formerly cost council $30,000 per annum and will now cost $9,000).
  • Health and safety. A number of recommendations have been made in relation to a recent incident at Richmond library. Recommendations included: reinforcing existing protocols, improved training (including customer vs customer conflict training), examining use of panic alarms and security camera systems.

Reserves manager’s report

Key project activity in the last 6 weeks included:

  • Richmond. Velodrome construction has begun with completion of drainage work. Avery Oval (Saxton field) toilet construction has begun. Washbourn gardens roses have been replaced with old fashioned roses donated by the Rose Society. Recent planting locations include: Sanderman road reserve, Hope hall, and the Inlet walkway.
  • Moutere. Richmond rotary club has constructed shelters over 2 BBQs on Rabbit Island reserve. Faulkner bush walkway was completed. Dovedale reserve has had new playground equipment ordered. Recent planting include: Dominion flats and Hoddy estuary park.
  • Motueka. Keep Motueka beautiful has revamped the shrubs near the public toilets at Motueka beach reserve, completion of a concept plan for a reserve in Stephens bay, paths completed at Sportspark Motueka, and training lights installed at Goodman park. Recent planting include sanctuary ponds.
  • Golden Bay. Lanscaping continues at Ligar bay, and new paths created at Takaka memorial reserve.
  • Murchison. Recent plantings include Hotham St walkway.

Chair’s report

Highlights from the chairs report include confirmation that the working party would complete the digital enablement plan (by the deadline of 18 September) that was bidding for government funding to extend broadband internet and mobil access across the Tasman district. The government has committed $210 million for the extension of the UFB programme.

In my opinion, these future information highways (are like roads), and will be important to the future potential development of this region’s economy, if it is to become less dependent on agricultural commodities (and the low wages associated with agriculture).

Another highlight was Tasman council being selected as one of eight finalists short listed (from 44 entries) for its new look long term plan consultation document. A big achievement considering the resources of other councils.

Rainbow sports club remission of loan repayments

This item was held in confidence. However, at the conclusion of the debate it was resolved to make the matter open to the public. This was a great move and councillors should be congratulated. Perhaps council is slowly coming around to greater transparency in its decision making?

By way of background, the Rainbow ski field is located outside the Tasman district. Some years ago the club got into financial troubles and sought financial assistance from 3 councils (Nelson council, Marlborough council, and Tasman council). The 3 councils have each provided an interest free loan of $90,000 to the club (totaling $270,000) to be repaid over 7 years in annual installments of $12,857 per year from 1 February 2010. Each year the ski club asks the councils to forgive that years debt obligation. In some years councils have declined that request. The relevant financial position for each year is outlined in the table below.

Year Due Paid Remitted  Position
Year 1 (2010)

$12,857.00

$0.00

$12,857.00

 Loss ($215,107)
Year 2 (2011)

$12,857.00

$12,857.00

$0.00

 Profit ($268,650)
Year 3 (2012)

$12,857.00

$0.00

$12,857.00

 Profit ($25,283)
Year 4 (2013)

$12,857.00

$12,857.00

$0.00

 Loss ($167,319)
Year 5 (2014)

$12,857.00

$12,857.00

$0.00

 Profit ($116,319)
Year 6 (2015)

$12,857.00

$0.00

$0.00

 Unknown
Year 7 (2016)

$12,857.00

$0.00

$0.00

 Unknown
Total

$90,000.00

$38,571.00

$25,714.00

To date, the ski club had received $25,714 of ratepayer funds by way of forgiven loan repayments and the council had received $38,571 of the $90,000 loan it had provided to the ski club. With $25,714 outstanding (for 2015 and 2016 years).

Earlier this year council had the opportunity to consider the Ski clubs financial position for the 2013 year and at the same time view the 2014 accounts (pre-audited). In light of the financial position in 2014, council declined the club’s request to forgive the repayment of the 2013 installment.

On 11 August 2015, the club submitted its audited 2014 accounts to council and asked for remission of its 2014 and 2013 installments. In justifying its request for remission of its 2014 installment, the club informed the council that it needed $100,000 in cash reserves to open for the following season, and considered that its “slightly improved financial position” in 2014 should not have impacted on council’s assessment of its 2013 position. I disagree.

Council had every right to examine the financial position of the club at the time it considered remitting loans. At that time (2014), it was evident that the club was in “more” than a slightly improved financial position. It had made a profit of $116,319 and had built up a cash reserve fund of $40,000. Interestingly the 2014 accounts had not included the remission of the TDC loan, which would have increased their profitability. It had also increased its net assets from $369,841 in 2013, to $486,241 in 2014. Major assets had already been acquired (ie Groomer, Quad bikes, Hilux) between 2006 and 2008 and had an estimated useful life of 12 years. Replacement of these assets could not be expected for some time. A Toyota Prada and Van had been acquired in 2012 and 2014.

Examining the assets register showed replacement rental equipment expenditure was in decline (roughly $25,000 in 2012, and $10,000 in 2013). This equipment was fully depreciated within a year of purchase. Rental equipment levels had been built up over time, and the decline in purchasing new rental equipment appeared to reflected replacement rather than expansion.

The reducing investment in capital assets could also be seen in the overall decline in depreciation costs, from $88,812 in 2013 to $69,116 in 2014. Remembering that depreciation is treated as an expense and so comes off income, their financial position looked quite healthy going forward. Including depreciation, net operating surplus was a $223,547 loss in 2013 and a $35,960 in 2014. Excluding depreciation, operating surplus was a $133,735 loss in 2013, and a $105,076 profit in 2014.

Given the $40,000 in cash reserves, the forgiveness of 2014 installments from Nelson and Marlborough councils, and the indications the club would only need a $100,000 for the next financial year, it appeared that it could afford the $25,714 council was asking for (of which $12,857 had already been recognised in the 2014 accounts).

Council was asked to consider four options, although it pretty much came down to two options. Option 1, declined a remission in the 2013 and 2014 year, but remitted the outstanding loans in 2015 and 2016 (totaling $25,714). Or Option 3, declined a remission in the 2013 and 2014 year, and consider the 2015 and 2016 loans in the future when they come due.

Effectively, the issue councillors were being asked to debate was whether council should forgive the 2015 and 2016 loan installments.

Staff recommended option 1. Their reasoning was based on the costs incurred in assessing the remission of the 2015 and 2016 installments. When pressed, staff considered that the total cost of preparing the report (that was before council) was $10,000. And that this was a good indicator for future report costs.

I found this an extraordinary estimate, and I noted that no such estimate was included in the report itself. In my opinion, the cost of assessing the 2015 and 2016 installments would be much lower, as much of the report had already been written, and merely required numbers to be updated. It was a simple process of reviewing the financials and indicating if the ski club could afford to pay $12,857 (or not). I would have thought that this would not take much time at all. And certainly not incurring the hours that had been spent on the report before us (which only raised other issues).

Cr Bouillir made a compelling argument for remitting the loans on the basis of the community benefit that the club provided. She was concerned that not remitting the loans would risk the club again getting into financial trouble, and the use of the ski field being lost forever. Emphasis was also placed on the fact that the loan was seen very much as a grant when it was first provided.

In my opinion, I did not see such a risk, having viewed the clubs financial statements and the financial trends in its accounts. The reality was that this was a loan (which had been interest free) and the club could now afford to make repayment. The dire circumstances it was in several years ago had passed, and it was steadily building up its asset base and cash reserves.

If option 1 was supported, the council would have gifted (remitted) over $50,000 of ratepayer funds to the ski club, that could not be used for the benefit of another organisation, that might also require community support. While I could see that remitting $25,714 to avoid the risk of an additional $20,000 of council report costs, was a sensible risk management decision, I could not agree with staff that the cost of preparing two reports (in 2015 and 2016) would cost $20,000. I suspect some other councillors did not agree either.

In my opinion, the club was well run and fiscally prudent. It had shown a willingness to dispose of assets to raise cash when needed. Something it could not do a number of years ago. The club now had a good asset base. Although I note, that it appeared the club was not willing to leverage its assets to raise debt. While the council had provided financial support to the club through a difficult time (which was the purpose of the investment), that was no longer the case.

A division was called. By majority (Cr Edgar, Bouillir, Canton, and Bryant), Option 1 was carried, with the casting vote of the chair. Councillors Norris, Higgins, Inglis, and myself, dissenting.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-17.

Media

2015 ski season a successful one (Nelson mail). http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/72692451/sun-slush-and-snow-for-cup-competitors

 

 

Engineering services committee meeting (13 August)

The engineering services committee meeting was held on 13 August 2015. It was followed by a 2 hour workshop on the proposed storm water infrastructure for central Richmond, and the opening of the new recycling centre (picture of recycled plastic bottles above). Apologies were received from Cr Canton, otherwise all councilors were in attendance.

The agenda was very brief and comprised: (1) the chair’s report, (2) the minor improvements plan for 2015-16, (3) the engineering activity report, and (4) a presentation from engineering form MWH. I will discuss the main items of interest.

Before addressing the agenda, the public forum received two presentations.

Public forum

The first issued concerned the shared use of footpaths in Brightwater. Garrick Batten raised concerns over the heightened risk of being hit by cyclists on the main street and wanted the “shared footpath” sign between the Domain and the shops removed. He suggested a new sign should read “cyclists shall walk”.

The second issue related to erosion of a road next to a river in Murchison that provided sole access to three residential homes (and forestry land). Cr Bryant, read out a letter from Rob Landau, that raised concerns over how council was responding (or not responding) to the problem. He felt the council should be proactive in resolving this problem and pointed out that part of the road was on reserve land. He felt council had a moral obligation (ie social justice) to do something, given council had authorised development along this road. The mayor indicated that a council delegation would investigate the issue further.

Minor improvements

The report sought council approval for 8 engineering projects that were discussed at an earlier workshop held on 2 July 2015. I was unable to attend that workshop, but did have the opportunity to read the supporting workshop documents.

The workshop documents outlined 21 potential minor improvement projects that were assessed against various criteria (eg, safety, risk, and community demand), so they could be ranked. Some of these projects were already on hold, pending further consultation (for example, Motueka’s signalised pedestrian crossing, Salisbury Road mid-block crossing, and four others). Of the 21 projects, the workshop documents provided additional detail of the 9 highest ranked projects (that were not already on hold).

By way of background, the NZTA had already approved council’s request for $2.97 million under minor improvements in the 2015-18 period under the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP). This comprised: $966,000 (for 2015-16), $991,000 (for 2016-17), and $1,017,000 (for 2017-18). This funding was NZTA’s contribution towards the total cost of proposed minor improvement projects. The NZTA contribution provided 52% of the total cost of a qualifying project, with the council funding the remaining 48%.

The 9 projects considered at the workshop are outlined below.

Project Description Total Cost TDC Cost
Wallace Street pedestrian crossing, Motueka The speed limit on the street was 50km and there had been 3 incidents at the intersection (one was a car vs pedestrian incident) in the last 10 years. The project involved relocating the crossing an additional 3m east from the intersection and constructing a new kurb layout that reduced the street width near the intersection. $40,000.00 $19,200.00
Whakarewa Street intersection This was was a cross road intersection with a speed limit of 50km. There had been 10 incidents (2 serious) in the last 10 years. The project proposed sought to widen the turning area (that would allow a round-about in the future), improve line of sight, and cut back the existing traffic island. $100,000.00 $48,000.00
Mapua Drive footpath The speed limit along this road was currently 60km. There were no reported incidents in the last 10 years. The area was being developed for residential use (previously apple orchards). The project proposed a new foot path from Higgs Road intersection to Aranui Road. $200,000.00 $96,000.00
Mapua Drive round-about The speed limit was 60km and there had been 1 incident in the last 10 years. The project proposed a round-about (with four entrance roads) at the intersection, that would be co-funded by the developer, whose development would enter the round-about from a new road (Mapua Rise). Council were contributing up to $250,000 (50% of the expected costs). $250,000.00 $120,000.00
Lower Queen Street widening The speed limit is 70km and 1 incident along this part of the road had been reported in the last 10 years. The project proposed piping the 120m open drain near McShane Road. This would allow future widening of the road along this part of Queen Street. $150,000.00 $72,000.00
Motupipi Street (Meihana Street) intersection (opp Fonterra factory) The speed limit is 50km and there have been no reported incidents in the last 10 years at the “T” intersection. The project proposes removing the existing traffic island, adding a new traffic island in Meihanna Street, providing a right turning bay into Factory Road, and realigning the roads. $120,000.00 $57,600.00
Whiteside bridge widening The speed limit is 100km and there has been 1 incident in the last 10 years. The project proposes widening the box culvert by 3m to improve visibility when approaching or leaving George Harvey Road. $65,000.00 $31,200.00
Upper Moutere footpath The speed limit is 50km and there had been no reported incidents for the last 10 years. The project proposed a new foot path (100m) along the Moutre highway between Supplejack Valley Road and Sunrise Valley Road. $175,000.00 $84,000.00
Flett Road intersection, Moutere The speed limit on this bending part of the road is 100km and there had been 2 incidents in the last 10 years. The intersection had two entrance points (a “Y” intersection) and the project involved changing them to a single “T” intersection. $250,000.00 $120,000.00 *

* less the developer’s contribution of $69,000, under a consent order (of which the developer had paid $60,375).

Given possible legal issues around whether the Fleet Road project should proceed (or not), council resolved to defer the Flett Road project until legal advice and other solutions were considered.

Of the remaining projects, I raised concerns about: (1) Upper Moutre footpathing, (2) Lower Queen St piping, and (3) the Mapua drive footpath. I will discuss my reasons for challenging these projects below.

I also raised a broader question around the need to widen and rework so many roads. At the heart of this question was whether council needed to be investing so much into “minor” improvements. Something I had also raised when we were setting the long term plan. In my mind, just because we get a subsidy should not mean we should be throwing money at projects. Especially if they are minor.

By way of analogy, its like going into a retail shop sale and spending money during the “sale” event, because you have been able to receive a discount. The reality is that you still have to spend money to get the (perceived) saving.

I accept that the contribution does add value to council’s asset base – but the reality is that we cannot dispose or leverage those assets like in a private business.

The real question that councillors should be asking is do we really need to do this work and spend ratepayers money in this space. Is the work really needed now. And do we need to be doing so much work. Why can’t we spread these projects over a longer period, so they are affordable for ratepayers (the ones having to fund these projects). Why the urgency?

So many in the community question why council has to widen so many roads. It is seen as an unnecessary expense, at a time when the community cannot afford such rate increases. While the average rates increase across the district might be capped at 3%, the reality is that residential ratepayers rates increases are 1-2% above that mark.

It’s just not affordable when incomes are not increasing as fast. Rather, council need to be pulling back on its expenditure, in order to reign in rates increases to a more sustainable level. Minor improvements are seen as a luxury, that provide very minor benefits to a small part of the community. Rather, the money should be spent on major improvements – stuff that really needs to be done.

Unfortunately, some councilors did not appreciate me re-litigating discussions that had been had during the earlier workshop (or long term plan) – with accusations of “grandstanding” being made. I reminded the councillor that decisions were not made in workshops – a point the mayor had vigorously made in the newspapers some months earlier. Nor was my absence at the workshop, a license to not enter into a debate. The whole point of this public meeting was to debate the issues. If that meant items were re-litigated (from a private meeting) in the public forum, so be it. This was hardly grandstanding.

Further, while I appreciated I had lost the debate about the funding of minor improvements in the long term plan, I felt it was appropriate to raise the issue again, given we were now being confronted with the detail and reasons for these minor improvement projects. In my mind, council needed to take stock of the reality, and really ask if this work needed to be done.

Given the mood around the table was hardly embracing an examination of the proposed projects, I focused on the three projects that I had the greatest difficulty supporting. Namely, Upper Moutre footpath, Lower Queen St piping, and the Mapua drive footpath.

In my mind, the staff report did not provide enough evidence for me to see the justification for the Moutere footpath project. While there was mention by a councillor of safety issues for school children walking to school (a sensible justification), no mention of this reason was made in the report for justifying the project. Nor was there any mention of how many children (or adults) used this part of the road, or how many vehicles used the road at the same time?

If speed was the issue, then had alternative measures been deployed first? Was this a safety issue, or was it just a request to have a footpath by some residents because one it would be nice to have? Interestingly, the speed limit was 50km and there had been no reported incidents on this part of the road. The lack of any evidence to support a safety justification for the work, made it look like a luxury project – and I was not going to support a nice to have project. More information was required.

Fortunately, this argument found favour with the mayor and Cr King, and with their nod of approval it found favour with other councilors. Cr King also suggested that a footpath was unlikely to prevent a speeding car hitting a pedestrian and he suggested a driver feedback sign be deployed while further information was being gathered.

In my mind, the lower Queen Street piping project was another road widening exercise. More road widening for the sake of widening roads in anticipation of more vehicle use. Having visited a number of residents, one complaint that came across from residents when talking about road works was the perception of the council undertaking quite unnecessary work, which they had to fund. It is a message that was also clearly conveyed in the recent residents survey. The message I tried to convey in the council chamber was that the community did not want any more roads widened.

Unlike the Moutere project (which had no road incidents), there had been one incident along this road, which had involved a vehicle going into the open ditch. Having driven down this road many times I was left wondering how someone could drive into the ditch? It was not clear in the report if it was the road or driver error that caused the incident. I suspect it was the later. Given it did not result in a fatality, was quite rare (one incident in ten years), and involved just 120 metres of the road, I could not see why we would want to pipe this part of the road, at this time. Put to the vote, I was the only one who did not support this project.

Mapua Drive was another footpath project. Those who have driven down this road (the old road to Motueka via Ruby bay), will be aware that the old apple orchard at the top of the hill has been replaced with a new residential development. A few houses have begun to appear already and a new round-about is about to be installed at the Higgs Road intersection.

The project proposed a footpath from the proposed roundabout down the hill towards the old Mapua Tavern on the corner. The justification was it would be used by new residents wanting to walk to Mapua, and in particular, the local school. In my opinion, the road in question was already very wide and provided sufficient distance from traveling vehicles to make walking on the edge of the road fairly safe (especially in comparison to the Moutere footpath project). In my opinion, people would probably want to walk down Higgs Road, rather than Mapua drive. Was council footpathing the wrong road? Further, the Motueka bypass had removed a number of vehicles (including heavy vehicles) off Mapua Drive.

In my mind, the project anticipated use, rather than responding to demand. If we are to reduce costs (and rates) “minor” projects needed to react to need, rather than anticipating need. So often council over invest in the wrong areas based on misinformed assumptions. Surely, the better approach was to defer this project to another year (or two), to see if there was such a need? What if all the residents were retirees? There was simply no evidence to justify this project. If it was a safety issue, then it should have been a “major” project, and more information around safety provided in the report – but, there was none.

In my opinion, we should be doing half of the minor projects we were proposing to do each year. And this was another nice to have, aesthetically pleasing, (minor) project, that could have waited.

Again, I was voted down.

Engineering activity

Engineering activity highlights include:

  • Gladstone Road traffic lights. These are to be monitored by new cameras and once installed (by July) will allow NZTA’s traffic operations centre in Wellington to manage the lights more effectively during peak hours. Effectively, automation over-ride by a central control room. Other minor adjustments will also be made around the same time to improve traffic flow.
  • New ice lights. These have been installed on Koere-Tophouse Road, Kerr Hill, Motueka Valley Highway, and Riwak-Sandy bay Road.
  • New LED lights. 100 LED lights have been installed during July.
  • School campaigns. A back to school print and radio promotion was run in term one to remind drivers to slow down and expect children around schools. Another campaign was held in June to “look out” for kids crossing roads.
  • Rubbish. Illegal rubbish dumping (fly tipping) has occurred in the Waimea. Electronic surveillance has been deployed on one site.
  • Rivers. River maintenance expenditure (2014-15) was $1,385,000 ($605,000 under budget). These funds will be carried forward into the next financial year. River classification “Z” funding is 50% subsidised by central government. There were only two applications for funding of River “Z” work (in Murchison). Waimea river hydraulic modeling will be undertaken to measure current performance of mitigation measures and aid future modeling.
  • Jackett Island. Sandbags remain in good condition, although there appears to be some erosion to the north.
  • Marahau boat launching ramp. The steel walkway to the timber jetty has been reinstalled.
  • Ruby bay revetment wall. The repair of steps from Tait Street to the foreshore have been deferred until storm water outlet repair work has been completed.
  • Solid waste. The new recycling service is now up and running. In my opinion, this has been a very well managed transition to a new service and staff should take some satisfaction in its implementation. Feedback from residents I have spoken to so far (I’m doing a mid-term walk about in Richmond), have nothing but praise for the new service. Of course, there will be glitches, but its the putting right that counts. And in case you were wondering, your recycling bin has an average life expectancy of 10-15 years.
  • York Valley. Work also continues on a regional landfill agreement (at York Valley) with NCC. In my opinion, this is a no brainer, and it surprises me that NCC councillors have not been more supportive of the initiative. No doubt NCC’s review of the proposal (by Deloitte) will show this is a good proposal for the region. And hopefully the start of a few more joint service initiatives that save ratepayers in both regions money (and rates).

MWH presentation

The presentation was intended to introduce key members of the MWH engineering team to councilors. The presentation outlined the international experience of the company and their areas of expertise (see http://www.mwhglobal.com).

MWH had been an established provider of engineering advice to council for 15 years. For example, MWH were currently engaged to provide storm water modeling advice to council.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2015/2015-08-13.

Recycling centre – opening

Finally, after the meeting was closed, councillors were invited to attend the opening of the new recycling centre. Crs Mirfin, Norris, Dowler, Higgins, Sangster, and myself attended with the mayor.

It is an amazing operation and will be of real benefit to Tasman (and perhaps Nelson) region in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills (and the cost of operating landfills). And that has to be good for the environment (and the ratepayers pocket).

Media references

http://nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/08/new-state-art-recycling-plant/

http://nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/07/smooth-start-new-recycle-bins/

http://nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/08/video-new-recycling-plant-unveiled/

 

Engineering committee meeting (26 February)

The engineering committee met on 26 February 2015.

Minutes for the meeting have yet to be released. I submitted my apologies for this meeting.

The agenda for this meeting included reports on the following items: (1) funding for the cycle trail between Wakefield and Spooner’s Tunnel, (2) changes to the minor roading improvement programme, (3) an update on planned infrastructure improvements to the Richmond town centre , (4) receipt of the Nelson regional sewerage business unit’s business plan for 2015-16, and (5) an update on the engineering services activities.

Tasman Great Cycle Trail

The council agreed to provide $300,000 in the 2014-15 annual plan for the cycle trail from Wakefield to Spooner’s tunnel, where equivalent funding from the government or other third party was provided.

I always had concerns with the addition of the words “other third parties”, as there was always the possibility, third parties would themselves be funded from council grants. Thus council would effectively be funding more than $300,000, at a time when council needed to apply the brakes to its culture of unbridled spending, and re-prioritise spending to higher priority issues – like protecting peoples homes from storm water flooding, first.

The issue before the council was whether a third party could match the $300,000 with in-kind payments. Staff suggested that they could assess the value of any “in-kind” contribution against market rates to determine a fair value.

In my mind this raised two issues. First, work that would have been volunteered for free would now be valued to extract council funding. There is also the risk that other funding arrangements might adopt a similar strategy. However, the reality is that if businesses raised the money in cash form, they would get it back from doing the work anyway. On that basis I did not see a problem in accepting a fairly determined “in-kind” contribution.

However, in my opinion, the time involvement of staff time (and cost) in determining a fair value was troubling. Troubling in the sense that it was played down in this report, but is often highlighted in other reports (eg the remission of rates for rezoned land) to justify a shorter remission period.

Minor roading improvements

The council’s programme of minor road improvements is estimated to cost $3.2 million.

I note that this value reflects the removal of the proposed $1 million William Street Traffic lights from the minor improvements programme to the long term plan. Something I believe is unnecessary and wrongly prioritises road works over flooding risk.

However, the budget for minor improvements is $2.1 million for the 2014-15 year. This effectively means that some minor improvements will not be done in the 2014-15 year. A prioritised list of minor improvements can be found at page 21 of the agenda.

Changes to the NZTA funding in December 2014 mean that footpaths and cycleway maintenance or improvements could receive subsidies from 2015-16 onwards.

Changes also mean that the under-grounding of power-lines in Motueka (costing council $210,000 and Network Tasman $1.5 million) would also be subject to subsidised funding on the basis of the additional safety benefits. On this basis, staff sought to reclassify the Motueka under-grounding work so it could be funded from the minor improvement budget.

NZTA’s changes to subsidising road safety improvements (like under-grounding power poles) could mean other areas (like Brightwater) might also benefit from under-grounding work. Staff will be recommending changes to the LTP to take advantage of the NZTA changes without increasing councils overall planned expenditure (and thereby not placing pressure on rates).

Staff also sought to defer expenditure on the Motueka high street signalised crossing until 2015-16 due to the need for further consultation with NZTA, who raised concerns over the timing and staging of planned work.

Richmond town centre

Staff reported on progress with the storm water options for the town centre project. The report contains some very useful hydrology modelling and diagrams.

However, the modelling does not include the Richmond south area (eg, Richmond cemetery, Wensley Road, Bateup Road, and Hart Road) which was under water in 2011. Two years on, Richmond south has lost much of the rural grass land to development, that has increased the hard surface area for water run off into the storm water system. And no doubt has contributed to increasing flood risk in the central business district and wider urban areas.

If there is one submission Richmond residents can make to the long term plan (LTP), it is a call for the council to start storm water work now, not later, and ahead of other spending (for example, road or traffic flow improvements). Mitigating flooding risk now, rather than later, just makes sense. Unfortunately, not all councillors see it this way?

Information and submissions on the LTP can be made from http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/.

Sewerage business

Tasman sewerage is managed by a jointly owned entity (called the Nelson Regional Sewerage Business Unit or “NRSBU”) with Nelson council. Overall, the operation is running well.

The treatment plant is considered to have adequate capacity for disposal of treated waste and biosolids up to 2025, without further investment. Total operation costs are around $5.8 million, trending up to $6.4 million by 2019-20, and projected to trend towards $6.1 million by 2026-27.

Engineering services activities

It is always reassuring when there is not much to comment on.

The overall financial picture for the engineering department for the year ended January 2015 appears healthy. Operating income and expenditure is better than budgeted forecasts, with a positive variance of $3.5 million at this time.

Generally, there have been no significant issues in the areas of transportation, water, or waste. And any breakages or failures have been fixed promptly and within budgets.

Most projected work is on track with only a few projects experiencing issues (mainly around land ownership issues) that might risk delays. These include:

  • Murchison water treatment plant upgrade to bring drinking water up to standard (to be completed in March 2015),
  • Champion Road storm water culvert upgrade to Q100 specifications, and
  • Richmond water catchment modeling and town centre master plan (behind schedule).

A few items of interest include:

  • It is projected that $5.2 million may need to be carried forward into the next financial year to complete outstanding planned capital works.
  • New kerbing, storm water improvements, footpaths, and construction of new grass berms have been completed in Angelus Avenue (Richmond). This is a new development off Hill Street. I’ve noticed on walking around the development how some parts (rocks stock to part of the concrete flooring) of the storm water system had already come loose. I understand the storm water system is warranted by the developer for the next three years.
  • $1.7 million of LED street lighting will be rolled out in early 2015.
  • The narrow bridge replacement contract has been awarded and work is expected to be completed by April 2015.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2015/2015-02-26.

Media

Waimea Weekly “Spooner’s cycle tunnel all go” (4 March 2015). See http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040315/1?e=1913941/11709681.

Full Council and Community Development meetings (13 February 2014)

February and March 2014 have been a very busy period for myself, with attendance at council meetings and planning workshops taking up a lot of time – not to mention all the associated reading of documents that has to be undertaken. So much for trying to also sustain a personal income. I can now see why some councillors are so keen to top up their part-time remuneration with as many director appointments, chair roles, and commissioner roles, as they can leverage or muster.

February 13th was certainly a busy morning, with the Community Development meeting following hot on the heels of a Full Council meeting. Together with Richmond Ward councillors meeting to discuss the revised Richmond reserves fund. Interestingly, full council meetings are suppose to happen every 6 weeks, but this has not been the case over the start of this year – and in the process has caused some understandable confusion for some residents.

Apart from the mayor (who submitted his apologies for not attending), all councillors were present for both meetings.

Full Council Meeting

The council considered the following agenda items: (1) appointment of advisors to the regional transport committee, and (2) the Richmond water treatment plant project (located in lower Queen Street). The agenda was unusually much shorter than a normal full council meeting and was subsequently followed by another full council meeting a week later on 19 February. Neither were called as extraordinary meetings.

In public forum, Jo-anne Ellis spoke about her concerns about the recycle centre’s demise and the Richmond water treatment plants location and design. She expressed concerns that it was not widely communicated to the public other than in the long term plan.

Regional transport committee advisors

Questions were raised about the need for the appointed of advisors to the regional transport committee and the projected cost ($4,500 per year). However, it was explained that the advisors rarely claimed the $150 meeting fee (eg the police and TRNZ covered their own costs), and advisors had been used before. Further, the appointment of advisors provided a more robust discussion from targeted interest groups (eg cultural and mobility groups) ensuring issues did not arise later in the process. An ambulance at the top, rather than the bottom, of the process. Appointed advisors included: Karen Leee (environmental issues), Bill Findlater (economic issues), Inspector Jeniffer Richardson (safety), Geoff Cameron (public health), Donna Smith (mobility), Frank Hippolite (cultural issues). Together with a representative from Nelson and Marlborough councils.

Richmond water treatment plant

Most of councils time was spent discussing the Richmond water treatment plant. And this was of particular interest to me given the size and importance of the investment.

The water treatment plant will be located in lower Queen Street near Headingly lane and McShanes Road. A good map of the pipework is provided in the agenda (page 15, para 7.10). Effectively the treatment plant will blend two groundwater sources to achieve required nitrate levels together with an ultra-violet treatment to achieve protoza levels in accordance with New Zealand drinking water standards prescribed by statute. Pumps will also be upgraded.

The project is planned to cost roughly $9.5 million. Work will be spread over two years (roughly $4.7 million per year). However, tenders for the project placed its cost well over budget. Council staff have since reviewed the scope of the project finding a number of savings to bring it back into budget. Most of the savings involve deferring replacement of estimated pipework (31% of the tender value).

Apparently for some time now council have been deferring expenditure on a water treatment plant. However, due to potential national water standard breaches (resulting in water boil notices being issued), and water management plans having to be resubmitted if the project did not proceed (a costly exercise), council could no longer defer this project. Richmond is one one of the few towns left in the country that does not currently comply with protoza treatment.

Why such an important project was deferred given $26 million dollars was borrowed to fund community facilities raises some questions over council’s earlier priorities. However, thats history now and this council is reprioritising where it spends ratepayer’s money.

Community Development Meeting

The committee considered the following agenda items: (1) presentation from the Nelson School of Music, and reports on (2) the Moutre Hills Community centre extension (ministerial consent), (3) portable seating for rugby events, (4) the Golden Bay Community facility working party, (5) funding applications, and (6) the ecofest and environment awards. Together manager’s reports on community development and relations. A useful action sheet of council activity is also provided in the agenda.

Portable seating

The most discussed topic was the request from the rugby union to reduce the council’s charges for the use of the council’s portable seating for both the Marko games and the Crusaders game. After some discussion about the equipment being repaired by volunteer groups it was judged that a reduced rate could be afforded and the council was directed to return to the unions with a revised proposal. The poor state of the equipment (and possibly pieces being lost or swapped with other companies equipment) raised questions over the proper management of the potable seating and equipment warranties. Apparently floors were crumbling, when they were suppose to be manufactured from marine ply.

Golden Bay shared recreational facility

Unfortunately, the Golden Bay recreational facility is a hotly debated topic. In part, this is because of decisions and agreements made around the council table by earlier councils. In my opinion, it should have been the first community facility constructed by the council as it went about borrowing over $26 million to fund a number of community and recreational facilities around the Tasman area. Unfortunately it was not, and has been the last cab off the rank.

This is disappointing, as the Golden Bay community is probably the most isolated of all the Tasman communities. It is now even more unfortunate, given the current financial environment. Council is now confronted with keeping debt down – and projects now have to be revisited with a fresh perspective and revised priority. The question we face is do we spend money now Golden Bays community facilities or do we wait another 10 or 20 years time, when we might be in a better financial position to afford them.

I’ve visited the community facilities in Golden Bay. The sports ground facilities are in reasonable condition and have been well looked after by the community, who are clearly proud of what they have. Apart from the stand (located above the rugby club rooms), not meeting current earthquake standards (and these standards could change), and the need to improve discrete access to showers for visiting teams, it would appear the asset has a number of years still left in it.

To my mind I wonder if we have been replacing community assets to quickly and not sweating them a little more. For the sports ground in Golden Bay I wonder if a cheaper option would be for council to close the stand (and wait for earthquake standards to be lowered by forthcoming legislation), as well as provide some temporary screens between visitors changing rooms and showers.

Another important consideration that council needs to weigh up whether deferring investment in community facilities is a wise decision, is that the community already has on its door step the most amazing natural facilities and parks – something Richmond does not have. It has fantastic beaches and reserves. Do we need to provide even more public activities for the community than are already available? Are we over capitalising our community development expenditure in a region that has the smallest population base?

As you can see the debate is hard. Expectations may not be fulfilled in the short term. But council has to confront these hard choices. I think deferring further investment until we can afford it is the most prudent decision we can make. Council is obliged to take a district wide view. We’ve already made a sizeable investment (and debt) in community facilities already. Our spending priorities must now shift to protecting peoples homes and ensuring we have adequate storm water protection in place for now and in the future.

That all said, the decision of council was to approve the design phase to get a better picture of overall costs and to cap any investment of council to $3.5 million (being 80% of the overall cost). This allowed the community to also have a better picture of how much they would need to raise towards the project to get it over the threshold and off the ground.

A copy of the recreational facility plans can be found here http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/feedback-form-golden-bay-community-recreation-facility-concept-plan/

Note! Since that meeting, council has decided to remove the Golden Bay recreational facility from the annual plan for the 2014-15 year. And to leave discussion about future investment in the facility to the long term plan. If you support the council’s decision to do this you should make a submission to the annual plan acknowledging your support. A risk of council showing some leadership on this issue is that all of the submissions on the annual plan may come from only those people opposed to the decision to remove the facility from next years planned expenditure. And therefore result in the facility being put back into the plan. This is because council are obliged to take into consideration submissions on the annual plan from the community. That is why we have a consultation process on the annual plan. Therefore, if you think the facilities removal from the annual plan is a good idea, do tell council. And if you have any other ideas to save money – do tell council.

Richmond reserves fund

Each Ward has a reserves fund that is used to make improvements to local reserves and parks. For the next financial year we are looking to ensure that funds are spent on the basis of money received, rather than on planned income. In the past, money was spent on the basis of projected income. However, sometimes that projection did not materialise, leaving a short fall between planned expenditure and projected income. As part of a new approach of living within our means we will only be spending money we have actually received. This means that we will not be doing a lot of reserves work in the next financial year. Further, as part of our collective wish to reduce debt, we will be looking to direct surplus reserve funds towards debt reduction.

Agenda and minutes

The Agenda and minutes for the full council meeting and community development meeting can be found at: (1) http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-02-13 and (2) http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/community-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CommunityServicesCommittee/2014/2014-02-13.

Engineering Services Committee (21 November)

This was a busy week. And hence the lateness of these posts.

Busy because on 15 November I attended two public hearings relating to Freedom Camping and Psychoactive Substances, followed by a further hearing from 18-20 November in relation to the Olive Estate lifestyle development, followed by the Engineering Services committee and Urban Design Forum meetings on 21 November.

I won’t dwell on any of the hearings apart from making one observation in respect of the Freedom Camping debate. It became apparent very early on in the hearing that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the council’s proposal to change the Freedom Camping rules. Confusion because there appeared to be a feeling from those attending the hearing that the council was removing the freedom camping rules, when in fact it was replacing them with new rules that provided for a far higher level of enforcement.

Engineering Services Committee

The Engineering Services Committee meeting was held on 21 November. Apologies for not attending this meeting were received from Cr Higgins and Cr Edgar.

Similar to the Community development meeting held the previous week, there were a number of reports submitted to council requiring no decision. These reports are interesting in that they show the wide level of activity that the council is involved in.

A public forum was also held. Maxwell Clarke raised concerns over council’s debt level and suggested some projects including the proposed water storage project (known as the lee valley dam) should be delayed beyond the long term plan. Concerns over the closure of the Richmond reuse shop were also raised.

The agenda for this meeting comprised a number of reports and issues including: (1) the designation of Whitwell’s car park in Motueka (which is owned by Wakatu Incorporation and leased to Whitwell Holdings Ltd), (2) the Motueka flood control project (which I will discuss below), (3) the engineering departments procurement strategy and process (eg, for tendering out roading work), (4) appointment of councillors to water supply committees and working parties, (5) the recent past and future planned activities of the engineering department, (6) Jackett Island’s erosion problem and the proposed long term solution, (7) Mapua wharf’s maintenance issues, (8) the Riwaka flood  bank, (9) LED street lighting trial (occurring in Norman Andrews Place in Richmond), and (10) a confidential session in relation to the potential purchase of land (or not) in relation to Warring car park.

Motueka Flood Control Project

The Motueka flood control project has been and continues to be a big issue for Motueka. As Cr Canton pointed out at the meeting, many councillors during the election had voiced their support for the project and the flooding concerns of residents. As I have stated in earlier posts on this blog, council  need to seriously start reviewing spending decisions.

The financial cost of the project can best be summarised as follows. The Long Term Plan (the 2012-22, 10 year LTP) estimated the Motueka flood protection project would cost $5million (which was a reduction of the original $10.5 million that was originally estimated), with $700,00 budgeted for 2013-14 to progress consent and design works. To date, $632,000 had been raised from loans and spent on feasibility and investigation costs.

While $632,000 had already been spent, those funds had contributed to more accurate modelling that had indicated that flooding from breaches in the stop bank caused by saturation in a 1-in-100 year rain event, would not be as extensive as previously assumed. New modelling suggested that there would be less area flooded and the height of potential flooding in the township would not be high (at best 10cm high). The revised modelling also indicated that the river flooding risk of Motueka township was small for a stop bank breach scenario. Further, those areas that would be most hit by flooding, were more likely to have been flooded because of coastal inundation, than stop bank failure. Thus, investment in preventing stop bank failure to prevent flooding in a severe weather event might be a waste of money, as coastal inundation would still occur, resulting in those areas still being flooded.

There was also the risk that $5 million of stop bank strengthening work might not have fully prevented stop bank failure over the whole of the stop bank. In effect, a breach might have occurred in an area of the stop bank that was not subject to any strengthening work, thus making any strengthening work useless. This is not a strong argument in itself (as council had enabled this argument to be made by not fully funding the project to the tune of $10.5 million, so that all of the stop bank could be strengthened), but it is one to be taken into the mix, when considering if it is worthwhile to continue with a $5 million project.

On the basis of the revised modelling which showed less overall impact, the impact of costal inundation (which was outside of the projects control), and the fact a half baked strengthening project might not prevent a stop bank breach, I agreed with the council staff’s recommendation not to proceed with the project as proposed in the LTP. The benefit (flood protection) just was not there, for the costs involved.

I imagine on principle, Cr Canton objected to the recommendation on the basis of his campaign position. All other councillors present supported the removal of the projects future cost to the ratepayer. I felt that this was a good outcome and perhaps the tide was beginning to turn. Was the message of debt reduction and keeping rates down getting through. If there was any hesitation about the tide of decision making on council, it was the fact that councillors had not actually taken the initiative themselves, but instead had relied on council staff to promote the obvious cost saving measure to them. My impression to date is that council tend to support staff recommendations and are hesitant to challenge the information and recommended decision placed in front of them.

On this decision I give council 6/10. Improving, but someway to go yet. Especially given council’s reluctance to defer investigative spending on the Golden Bay community centre (see earlier post) until after we have decided owe want to commit to such a project, and future decisions on investment on entertainment events (Council should be enabling and facilitating these events, not bank rolling them).

Procurement processes

In regard to the procurement processes of the engineering department, my only observation is that council need to be benchmarking their processes against other councils to ensure we are not outside normal practices. Its also an opportunity to take onboard best practices that might appear from looking at how others conduct procurement. It appeared that council staff thought this was possibly a good idea and undertook to further investigate such an opportunity.

Water Supply Committee and Working Party Appointments

The following appointments (recommended by council staff on the basis of locality) were made:

  • Dovedale rural water supply committee: Cr Norriss
  • Eighty-Eight Valley rural water supply committee: Cr King
  • Redwoods rural water supply committee: Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster
  • Hamama rural water supply committee: Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster
  • Wa-iti Valley community dam users group: Cr King and Cr Higgins
  • Wakefield water and Eighty-Eight Valley rural water working group: Cr King and Cr Bryant
  • Takaka wastewater treatment plant upgrade working group: Cr Norriss, Cr Bouillir, Cr Sangster, and Golden Bay Community Board members.
  • Motueka wastewater treatment plant upgrade working group: Cr Norriss, Cr Dowler, Cr Canton, Cr Inglis, and Motueka Community Board members.
  • Joint waste minimisation and management plan working group: Cr Bryant, Cr Edgar, and Cr Dowler.

Engineering activities

The engineering department reported on a number of interesting activities. These included:

  • Staff restructure: A recent restructuring that increased full-time staff levels from 21 to 39 staff (increasing staff by 18 with a corresponding increase in wages by just over $1 million). This was the result of bringing in staff to undertake work that had in the past been contracted out in order to make substantial planned savings and service level improvements.
  • Refuse waste: The operation of the Richmond refuse shop is under review after the Kahurangi Employment Trust advised the Council that it did not wish to continue after the council proposed increasing the lease costs of the refuse shop from a peppercorn rental to a more commercial rate. Recent increases in refuse (31% increase in commercial refuse and 19% increase in residential refuse since last year) and a shortage of waste transport bins has led to difficulty in processing and transporting waste. There have been increases in construction and demolition waste from outside of Richmond.
  • Roading: Slip repairs from June 2013 are ongoing. An innovative bush layer wall system is being trailed at the Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road. Bridge pier protection at Hoult Valley Road West is progressing. Fonterra has been given “temporary” approval by NZTA to increase their standard tanker loading. Some intersections may require seal widening to accommodate these larger vehicles. This work is being added to the minor improvements work list. Brooklyn Valley road work is ongoing. Drainage and culvert repair and maintenance work is ongoing on Dry Road and Cowin Road. Road widening (via bank cutting and binding) is to be completed during November to ensure vehicles are kept away from an under slip. A bridge approach sealing program is being devised which will include a number of golden bay bridges and will be added to the Pohara Road widening work project to improve cost efficiencies. Matiiri Valley Road (Murchison) has had 6 culverts replaced with another 4 culverts yet to be replaced.
  • Cleaning: Richmond town centre’s sundial square’s pavers are to be cleaned before Christmas. I had to question this work as the square looked tidy to me and seemed an unnecessary non-urgent expense. Especially if the area might be affected by future Queen Street road works. It seemed to me that, that was the time to clean up the square.
  • Rivers: The Riwaka River required emergency repairs arising from erosion threatening the stop banks during the June floods (being a 1-in-17 year flood event). The Shaggery River (or Old West Bank channel) leo required emergency work. The June flood also affected the Dove River widening the river channel in places as well as depositing large amounts of gravel above some of the bridges. A greater focus on stop bank maintenance is continuing with further work planned. Council staff are working with landowners to remove gravel. However, to progress gravel extraction future consent hearings may have to be held.
  • Road safety: From 1 November 2013, the law regarding child restraints changed. Children up to 7 years (formerly 5 years) must be restrained in an approved child restraint (see http://www.nzta.govt.nz/about/media/releases/2669/news.html).
  • Richmond town centre: A draft richmond town centre framework (December 2012, revised January 2013) has been prepared outlining possible future development of the Richmond town centre. A Project Board will be established to bring together various storm water, wastewater and water improvements, land use and parking rules to ensure an integrated approach. The project will aim to up upgrade underground utilities and improve traffic and parking management.
  • Work still to be completed for 2013-14 (ie, up to June 2014): Reservoir creek dam – new spillway ($431,201), Rewika-Kaiterteri road realignment ($1,170,329), champion road culvert upgrade ($500,000), remediation of slips along Abel Tasman drive ($2,078,278), Richmond reservoir work ($2,613,737), Water meter replacements ($641,196), Talbot Street and Valhalla Drive water pipe upgrades ($371,900), and Clifton sewer upgrade ($1,020,737).

Jackett Island

A groyne was installed on the Motueka Spit by the Council in 1996. The Environment Court held that erosion on Jackett Island was caused by the groyne. The Motueka groyne was removed in October 2012. The parties subsequently agreed to a cut through the Motueka spit. While the location of the spit has been agreed, the design (and cost) of the Spit remains outstanding. A decision from the Environment Court for a long term solution is expected soon. The aim of the cut is to reduce water flows and hence erosion forces together with sand replenishment on the Jackett Island foreshore. Damage (caused by September 2013 storms) to the sand bag wall has meant remedial work (of $80,000) was required to be undertaken by the Council.

Mapua Wharf

A fire on 1 August 2013 caused fire damage to the Mapua Wharf. A structural inspection identified a number of joists and piles underneath the wharf required urgent remedial work. The work is expected to cost $13,000 (plus GST) and will come from existing council funds. The inspection highlighted several medium-rem structural issues that require future attention. Approximately $15,000 every two years is required for this work.

Links to agenda and minutes

A copy of the engineering services committee agenda and minutes can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2013/2013-11-21.

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.