The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 17 March 2016. Apologies were accepted from Mayor Kempthorne and Crs Inglis and Mirfin. All other councillors were present.
The agenda included: (1) protected tree update, (2) building control manager’s report, (3) regulatory manager’s report, (4) presentation report from Nelson environment centre, (5) River water quality monitoring programme review, (6) Environment and planning activity report, and (7) Chairs report.
Public forum included presentations from Karen Steadman and Murray Dawson.
Karen (a real estate agent and resident) spoke about the rural review and allocating a rural zone in Murchison to allow lifestyle blocks and more subdivision. She thought the community needed to attract people to the area in order to sustain the town and that affordable homes were required.
Murray Dawson spoke about the need for weirs and suggested that weirs be considered as an alternative water augmentation option to the Waimea Community Dam.
Council agreed to remove 13 protected trees from the Protected Tree Schedule.
The trees were ranked originally as either Category B or C trees. There were no Category A trees. The request was based on the council arborist’s assessment that the trees no longer met the STEM assessment criteria to qualify as protected trees, because they had been storm damaged, had developed poor form, or had deteriorating health.
The trees were located in Takaka, Riwaka, Marahau, Appleby, Richmond (at the far end of Appaloosa Avenue), Brightwater and Wakefield and are comprised of a mix of species. A map of the relevant tree locations is enclosed in the agenda (at page 21 to 41).
Council received the building manager’s report for the period from 1 March 2015 to 29 February 2016. Highlights included:
- IANZ audit. Completed in October 2015. Four corrective actions were issued with a clearance date of February 2016. The most significant issue was skilled resourcing levels. All corrective actions have now been resolved with the BCA being reaccredited in February 2016. A further audit will be completed in October 2016.
- Go Shift. TDC joined the Go Shift initiative that will lead to consistent consenting and inspection practices across 21 councils in the Lower North Island and Top of the South.
- Team rebranding. Building Control rebranded as Building Assurance.
- Staff. 6 staff are departing and 6 replacement staff have been recruited. In response to the IANZ audit, some staff capacity and capability has been lifted. Any cost implications will be covered by reduced spend in direct costs and non-rate income, so as to avoid any impact on general rates.
- Building consent fees. A review will take place in the first quarter of 2016-17 financial year.
The number of consents issued is illustrated below (and shows a 9.2 % increase across all work streams).
Council received the regulatory manager’s report for the period from 1 March 2015 to 29 February 2016. Highlights from the manager’s report included:
- Restructuring. Building Section became a stand-alone entity in April 2015 and the Compliance Section (previously part of Environmental Information) came into the Regulatory fold. There have been no staff changes or additions. Three members of staff reduced their hours by 4 hours per week; this has in part, allowed an increase in administrative support for the department which will commence on 1 July 2016.
- Development contributions (DCs). The DC policy was recently challenged in the court and successfully defended. However, the commissioner’s comments indicated that the use of better defined catchments would make our Policy less likely to be challenged in future. Staff intend brining a report to council on this issue.
- Freedom camping. There were 152 complaints received over the period 1 May 2015 to 29 February 2016. Eighteen Infringement Notices were issued at Motueka Beach Reserve and Control Services have spent approximately 250 hours on policing and enforcement activities (they are contracted for a total of 120 hours).
- Oil spill response. The regulatory manager is the only Regional On-Scene Commander (ROSC) at TDC. This is not a cause for alarm as Nelson council have two ROSC employed as contractors and TDC work in tandem with them.
- Civil Defence (CD). The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) recent “Monitoring and Evaluation report”, showed that the Nelson Tasman CDEM’s overall score was-82.1%, the highest in New Zealand.
- Rural fire. The Government has progressed a Fire Service Review that will ultimately see the NZ Fire Service and Rural Fire Forces combine to make a single service.
- Alcohol and food licensing. This has increased by an average of 12% with only Special Licenses showing a fall in applications. Other licensing (Food and Health premises) has increased by 15%. The effects of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act have been effectively absorbed into the team roles.
- Food safety. The new Food Act requirements have started to take effect from 1 March 2016. Over the last three years only about 30% of eligible food businesses moved over to the new requirements before the 1 March deadline.
- Noise complaints. This have risen by over 12%, primarily through complaint of noise from parties.
- Insanitary housing. Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) dealt with 3 insanitary dwellings over the period. In all cases cleansing orders were issued to ensure compliance.
- Dog registrations. 99.46% of known dogs were registered at 29 February 2016 (total dogs 1,044, registered 10,450, unregistered 57). Two prosecutions were taken for dogs attacking humans.
- Parking. Parking infringements dating back to 2006 that have been processed to court, but are still outstanding, totals $101,855.00. Infringements issued: 1671 (2014-15), 1961 (2015-16). Fines issued: $79,149.00 minus cancellations of $8,742.00 (2014-15), $84,586.00 minus cancellations of $14,834.00 (2015-16). Revenue: $70,407.00 (2014-15), $69,752.00 (2015-16).
- Harbour master. The Harbour master has done about 48 days at sea over the last 12 months. A number of derelict boats have been notified for removal within the district and the Harbour master currently has five vessels to dispose of. The Harbourmaster has also towed eight recreational vessels to safety, and attended and co-ordinated the recovery of three vessels that had sunk. The new harbour master’s boat is nearing completionwith a pre-handover inspection completed on 10 February.
- Port Tarakoe (Takaka). After 5 years in Port Tarakohe the Santa Monica (42 metres long, 392 tonnes) has moved to Westport.
River water quality
Council’s River Water Quality Monitoring Programme is currently being reviewed. This is the first major review in 16 years of operation. Implementation of the revised programme is expected in July 2016.
The major change proposed I the review is to increase the sampling frequency to monthly, with sampling to occur at all flow conditions (currently council only samples at low flows), while reducing the number of sampling sites by about half. There should be no impact on budgets from this change.
Presentation report from Nelson environment centre
Carolyn Hughes presented on water conservation and Nelson Environment Centre’s (NEC) proposal for smart metering and promoting behavioural change within Tasman District communities. NEC sought funding from TDC to cover trialling this initiative. NEC was asked to provide cost estimates to staff and for staff to report back on the impact on existing budgets.
Environment and planning activity report
Council received the managers report. Highlights included:
- Wetlands. Staff are planning for two meetings with land owners of wetlands in Golden Bay in the next couple of months.
- Native habitat survey. The next part of the Native Habitat Survey under the auspices of Native Habitats Tasman (NHT) is also about to move in Golden Bay towards the middle of this year.
- Rainfall. Data on rainfall is viewable from TDC webpage (by clicking the relevant point on the map) at www.tasman.govt.nz/environment/water/rainfall/.
- Finance. At 67% of the way through the year, expenditure is under budget overall and non-rate income overall is slightly ahead of budget. So looking good.
Council approved the specified delegations to staff so they could properly execute functions assigned to TDC under the Food Act 2014.
Council also agreed to establish, with Nelson City Council, a Regional Pest Management Joint Committee and appointed Crs Bryant, Ensor and Norriss to the Regional Pest Management Joint Committee.
Highlights from the chairs report include:
- Westport link road. Gary Howard, Mayor of Buller, has met with both the Murchison and Tapawera community councils and gave a brief outline of Buller’s roading proposal from Little Wanganui near Karamea, through the Wangapeka to the Motueka Valley. The plan can be viewed on the Buller District Council website link at: http://bullerdc.govt.nz/council-to-discuss-a-new-roadlinking- nelson-and-westport/.
- Rural land use changes. The rural land use & subdivision plan change, Proposed Change 60, has been open for submissions since January, and the submission period closed 14 March. Three open public briefing meetings were held at: Wakefield, Takaka and Motueka.
- Developer’s Forum meeting. A half year report to the Minister of Housing on the Housing Accord showed there is a lot of development going on with 110 new residential sections and 199 new residential houses, compared to a six-month target of 65 and 150 respectively.
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/2016/2016-03-17.
The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 10 April 2014. Apologies were received from Crs King, Norriss, Sangster, Mirfin, and myself.
Key points of interest
The agenda and staff reports drew attention to a number of developments. The main points of interest are listed below.
- Building consents are up 107% on the previous year. Building consent statistics are contained in the Agenda (p 17).
- The TDC has received e-accreditation as a Building Consent Authority. On 7 April electronic processing came on line and is expected to improve the building and consent teams performance. Work continues with the NCC building department to develop a relationship which will allow us to work more closely. A 1⁄2 FTE in the administration area of the building and consents team was requested due to changes to the Building Act (eg collection and collation of information relating to Licensed Building Practitioners (LBPs) and management of associated Records of Work). As noted in an earlier post, I was of the opinion that council should not have approved this appointment and instead directed staff management to redeploy resources to provide any necessary support. My opinion has not changed. Interestingly, at the time staff requested approval for the ½ FTE, a great deal of weight was placed on the position improving revenue opportunities for the building consents team, rather than fulfilling legislative requirements.
- The transition from the Sale of Liquor Act to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (SSAA) has been completed. TDC was one of the first councils (together with Waimakariri DC) to have a Provisional Local Alcohol Policy in place. The District Licensing Committee (DLC) has been established and its members trained. TDC’s alcohol webpage has been overhauled and now fully set up as a one-stop shop for all alcohol licensing information and applications. A new facility for public notification of alcohol license applications (and objections) is now available on TDC’s webpage. This is expected to save applicants about $400-$500 per application.
- Dog and stock control areas of the department are functioning well. Three prosecutions have been brought over the period with successful outcomes. For the 2013-14 year, a total of 10,300 dogs were identified in the region, including 24 dogs requiring registration (ie unregistered). A total of 376 infringement notices were issued with 102 proceeding to court.
- A minor fuel oil spill (believed to be less than 200l) occurred at Port Motueka on 20 January 2014. The Regional on Scene Commander (ROSC) after receiving reports from the site and consulting with Maritime NZ deemed that no further action was necessary.
- Ongoing issues with Rockville and Onekaka motocross noise continues to be monitored. Enforcement action has been taken recently against a noisy neighbour in Mapua which resulted in a $750 fine being issued.
- There were 347 inspections of food premises have been undertaken over the period.
- Outstanding parking infringements (processed by court) total $77,413. Detailed analysis of parking infringement statistics can be found in the agenda. Parking compliance is currently 80%. Risk areas Talbot Street (74%) and Petrie park (45%) are being monitored.
- The TDC Harbourmaster has resigned and recruitment has begun.
Staff also provided an updated environmental policy programme and projects, updated to current 2014 targets, and including projects not yet started or paused. A full list of these projects can be found in the agenda (pp 29 to 39).
From 12 September 2014, councillors are required by law (under s 39B of the RMA) to be accredited (under s 39B of the RMA) by way of holding a relevant “commissioner” qualification (provided through the Ministry for the Environment’s “making good decisions” programme) if they are to sit on any planning hearings, consent applications, or notices of requirement. The cost of obtaining this accreditation (and attending relevant training courses) is paid for by the council (and ratepayers).
I recently attended this two day course during April and successfully completed the two written assessments – obtaining a “merit” distinction overall.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2014/2014-04-10.
The corporate services committee meeting was held on 13 March 2014. Apologies were received from the Mayor, Cr Norris, and Cr Mirfin. All other councillors were in attendance.
The agenda comprised a number of reports. These included reports on: (1) the local government funding agency, (2) council controlled organisations (ie airport, port, Tasman Bays Heritage Trust, Nelson regional sewerage business unit), (3) a proposal for a revised financial strategy, (4) human resources (staff) update, and (5) treasury report and financial activities. In attendance were officers of PWC, who presented information on the councils treasury management.
The agenda also contains (by way of separate attachment) the December 3013 financial reports. If you want to know where your money was spent, have a wander through this document.
I intend to provide a short snap shot of the contents of the agenda. Much more detail is available in the agenda itself and I recommend readers with an interest in financial matters read the agenda (and attachments) in full.
The local authority protection programme (LAPP) provides 40% of the council’s insurance cover for infrastructural assets. The remaining 60% is covered by central government. A review of local body insurance was published in December 2013 by Local government NZ (LGNZ). That review has recommended the replacement of the LAPP with a local authority owned agency and the replacement of the current 60/40 natural disaster co-funding arrangement, with a tiered\mixed approach to insurance cover involving levels of self insurance, commercial insurance, and taxpayer support.
The council is a member and shareholder of the local government funding agency (LGFA) which provides financial funding for participant councils. For the 2013-14 year, council can expect a 7% return on its founding investment. The dividend will be used to cover interest and debt used to purchase the original shares in the LGFA. The advantage of being a participant in the LGFA is access to funds at a lower interest rate than charged by the major trading banks.
The council is a joint shareholder of several council controlled organisations (CCO’s) with Nelson council. These include: Nelson Airport, Port Nelson, Nelson Regional Sewerage Business Unit (NRSBU), and Tasman Bays Heritage Trust.
Staff recommended the NRSBU adopt a treasury policy in respect of its funding and management activities. Under the policy, treasury management will formally be the responsibility of Nelson council acting on behalf of both councils (which is current practice). Having an treasury policy will also improve our audit rating as the council can show the asset is being prudently managed.
As at 31 January 2014, there was a significant variance to forecasted budgets. Accounting income was $4.9 million ahead of budget and expenditure was $1.6 million above budget. The net position was a year-to-date surplus of 3.1 million and an underlying surplus of $6.3 million. While some of the variance can be attributed to timing, there were very large gains of $3.1 million made from interest rate swaps (ie the refinancing of debt at lower interest rates). Our ability to continue to get good interest rates is a reflection of our credit rating and involvement in the LGFA. Interest rate swaps are managed by PWC. Council received a very good presentation from PWC on their funding and liquidity management and strategy. Together with how they see the market trending. Needless to say the trend on interest rates is a rising one. Generally, council is funded by banks (58% or $92 million) and the LGFA (41% or $65 million). Part of the liquidity strategy is to reduce any finance facilities not being fully used. For example, a bank might provide the council a loan facility of $10 million. The council draw down $9 million and are charged interest on that $9 million. Leaving $1 million available for future drawing (this might be reserved for disaster funding). The availability of the $1 million incurs a bank charge. The bank charge might be higher than borrowing the money elsewhere or it might be cheaper to hold the $1 million in cash reserves? These decision will be based on the interest rates council is able to obtain. Overall, PWC appear to be doing a good job, given the savings council is making on interest rate swaps.
As at 31 December 2013 council had a total staff of 257 people.
|Environment & planning||75||15||1||1|
|Chief executive’s office||3||1||1|
Of course, staff numbers alone do not provide a great deal of insight. However, some benchmarking of staff numbers against other councils who process a similar number of resource consents might show greater insight into the productivity of our environment and planning team. The same comparisons could made for other departments too. If council intends to reduce service levels then that might also mean we may need less staff. The key point here is that productivity is the focus, not just how many staff we have. Although clearly less staff mean less cost, but it might also mean less income. Like any business, its a balancing act.
Revised financial strategy
To address reliance on debt funding staff have recommended a new financial strategy for the long term plan (LTP). This involves setting a fiscal envelope prior to engaging in a review of councils management plans for assets and activities. The focus will be on core infrastructure and debt repayment. This may mean that some projects and service level expectations from the community will have to change. For example, reducing our expenditure of community development initiatives such as upgrading recreational facilities in the short-term until we can get our books back into a healthier state. It might mean, we reduce our service levels of community facilities (parks and reserves) and instead engage with the community and volunteers to take ownership. This is not a new concept. In the past, the community (often Rotary or Lions) funded a number of community facilities or beautification projects in Richmond. Many residents would fund the purchase of a park bench for a favourite spot in a local reserve. As a council we need to enable the community to fund those projects it wants, rather than council trying to anticipate and fund what people may want. As I have said in earlier posts, we also need to contain our total rates bill below the consumer price index (CPI) if we are to make any headway on getting some parity with other councils.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda and minutes for this meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2014/2014-03-13.
A full council meeting was held on 6 March 2014. All councillors were in attendance.
The agenda included: (1) the TPPA, (2) approval of the local government statement report outlining councils duties and statutory obligations, (3) approval of the councils submissions on a draft local government amendment Bill, (4) the treatment of abandoned wharves, (5) the chief executive’s report, (6) the mayor’s report, and (7) various machinery resolutions, and an update on action items from earlier council meetings.
For this post I intend to focus on the topical items and items of general interest.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
The biggest public interest item was the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) resolution from council which was dominated by very passionate presentations in the public forum (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9802308/TDC-seeks-positive-benefits-from-TPPA). I will not summarise them all, as there were many, but I will note one submission from a resident who highlighted for council the fact that these agreements are usually negotiated in confidence so free and frank discussion (and horse trading) can be agreed upon, before being reported back to the public. Something that council also tended to do. Whether this is a good thing is another matter, although clearly a number of residents in supporting the original Auckland resolution do not think so.
I have discussed the background to the TPPA in an earlier post (including links to resolutions from other councils) and other information on the contents of the TPPA, so I will not outline them again here. Needless to say, council agreed to revisit its earlier resolution on the TPPA, and decided that it would consider adoption of a revised resolution that reflected the will of the community. That said, there was concern by some councilors that the last clause of the proposed resolution would present them a credibility issue and they wanted to acknowledge the reality of the process (ie, that it was unreasonable to expect open disclosure of negotiations during the negotiation phase). But that disclosure to the public through the parliamentary process could be expected after negotiations had concluded. This was the essence of one of the clauses contained in the Wellington Regional Council resolution on the TPPA.
From my perspective I was not to concerned with the wording of the clause. As acknowledged by one of the public forum speakers, this resolution was by its nature, symbolic. Given that acknowledgement, and the fact this is what the community wanted to say, I had no problem in passing the resolution as drafted (and passed by Nelson and Auckland councils). However, other councillors did not feel the same way and sought changes to clause 12 – which the majority of council supported. However, to ensure other elements of clause 12 were not lost, a new clause 13 was added, re-importing the words lost in the earlier changes to clause 12.
I think it is also worth pointing out that negotiations are not always held in secret as the TPPA has been. I know some councillors thought that public consultation was an unrealistic expectation. Recent european trade agreements do not contain secrecy provisions and “every step of these negotiations has been publicly announced and widely reported in the press” (see http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/18/wrong-george-monbiot-nothing-secret-eu-trade-deal).
Overall, a win for democracy and community representation. And for those councilors willing to acknowledge that they are suppose to represent the wishes of their community. A great deal of public frustration with council is the fact it often forgets (or sometimes ignores) what residents want.
As a councillor I consider our job is to ensure the community will is fulfilled, while navigating the statutory obligations of council. This leads me to item 8.2 of the agenda (page 15 to 46), which contains a report on the statutory duties of council. This is certainly an interesting read for those considering taking on the role of a councillor.
Chief Executive’s Report
This report updated council on the CEO’s activity since his last report on 5 December 2013.
The report noted that there was agreement with the Museum trust (eg the Tasman Bays Heritage Trust) to undertake a joint review of operations with council. At present the trust is seeking further funding for improved storage and research facilities. Storage facilities are presently located in the old freezing works. Not the best facilities for historic artifacts.
The report also noted a $6.3 million surplus as at 31 January 2014, based on an existing forecast surplus of $3 million, plus $4.9 million of extra revenue and $1.6 million of additional expenditure. The variance is mainly due to an additional $850,000 in development levies (mostly from Richmond), an extra $247,000 in NZTA grants, and an extra $678,000 in community contributions (eg, $413,000 from donations for the purchase of Baigent reserve, $82,000 from Trustpower, and $40k from DoC for the Cobb Valley road). On the expenditure side, budgeted costs increased due to increases in maintenance expenditure and legal costs (eg Jacket Island).
Although this is probably reflecting timing issues, and the year end financial position is more likely to be an $800,000 surplus from the 2013-14 annual plan budget. This can either reflect improved operational management, poor budgeting in the 2013-14 plan, or a mix of both. Since my arrival on council in October 2013, there have has been a growing enthusiasm (and the odd point of hesitation from some councilors) for getting cost savings. So I am picking that most (if not all) of the surplus is from improved operational management. For example, the finance team were recently able to make substantial cost savings from re-organising the manner it which it managed its finances. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make more savings.
I note in the latest annual plan the large proportion of council funding on community development initiatives. Clearly there is more room for further improvements in this part of council’s budget, so that we get the right balance in terms of where the community want the priorities set. That message is very much about investing in infrastructure to protect homes, while also providing for employment security.
In regard to employment security, I am looking forward to the consultation and debate that will be happening on whether council will continue to fund destination tourism after the 2014-15 plan. That debate has yet to happen, but it is one that needs to start. And just to remind people, the resolution that was passed by council stated that the proposed removal of destination tourism funding was proposed as “a basis for further consultation”. Anyone suggesting that council has decided not to fund destination tourism after June 2015 does not understand what council has stated in its resolutions. Although I acknowledge that some councilors may have already indicated which way they want that debate to go. However, such statements are in my opinion highly premature.
The report also noted that council is reviewing its business systems and processes – including resource needs. This involves moving more towards technology that should ideally require less manual input from staff. For example, moving the paper based resource consent process online for a more streamlined approach. Another initiative has been improvements to Promapp which is used by staff (see https://go.promapp.com/tasmandc). There is still some way to go, but the drive towards continual improvement of operational processes has begun, and that has to be a very welcome improvement.
On the staff front, council employ around 256 staff (approx 230 are full-time). Looking at the annual plan, the estimated cost of staff is around $18-19 million (not including contracted out services). That is a sizeable portion of the council’s overall income and places a sizeable challenge on council to operate smarter.
An interesting observation in recent council survey’s identified that 27% of residents don’t trust or have confidence in council. This is a very high figure. In my opinion this is because council does not listen to the community. You only have to read the comments on the above Nelson Mail item on the TTPA to have that confirmed. Instead council often ignores the submissions of the community during hearings. In my opinion, council are better to take a slower approach to areas of dispute. Especially when there is not the level of urgency. For example, in plan change hearings that take a 50 year view of future need, council are better to revisit zone changes that conflict with residents wishes through subsequent variations. This enables the tensions to be heard more thoroughly and with the addition of time, needs may also have changed or become more obvious.
The recent Olive Estate resource consent hearing is another example, where councilors participated in consent hearings and chose not to exercise discretions provided in the planning rules in favour of the residents. After the hearing, many residents expressed to me the feeling that the presence of councilors on the consent hearing gave it the feeling the decision was a political one and had already been decided. Unfortunately the resulting decision only reinforced those concerns.
Issues from Councillors
During the council meeting councillors were given the opportunity to raise any issues they would like council to consider. I raised the question whether the Richmond South Area should be zoned a compact density area given the storm water issues. I also suggested that the compact density rules needed to be revisited or replaced as they were not achieving outcomes residents were happy with. In my opinion the compact density zones and rules needed to be parked until a proper review of urban density issues had been completed. In my opinion, placing compact density areas on the outsides of town centres is not what compact density development is all about. Otherwise we are only inviting future problems.
I note that since this meeting it has come to my attention that a compact density zone has been proposed in Motueka and that development has already begun. Apparently the developer has surrounded the development with buildings that comply with standard residential development rules to mitigate any impact on surrounding residents. Clearly the developer is in step with the local community and ideas like this should be part of the compact density rules. Unfortunately, at present they are not.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda (containing the reports discussed above) and minutes for this meeting can be found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-03-06.