Tagged: Stormwater

Engineering services committee meeting (10 November)

Hill Street \ William Street pedestrian refuge (a minor improvement?)

The engineering committee meeting was held on 10 November 2016. All councillors were present. Four reports were received with no decisions required.

The agenda included: (1) large developments, (2) renewal of water utilities operations and maintenance contract, (3) minor improvement programme, (4) engineering services activity report, and (5) chair’s report.

Public forum

Graeme Dick (a property developer) spoke about the Richmond West development area. He raised concerns that council was 5+ years behind in infrastructure, and 10 years behind in growth planning. He considered that Richmond had experienced 50% growth in the last 10 years (on average 5% per year) and Mapua 25% growth over the same period. Graeme suggested that urgent action was required for Mapua’s water pipe renewals (probably a $6-7 million cost). He stressed that council should not leave this late in the long term plan (LTP).

Large developments

Richmond, Mapua and Motueka has seen very high levels of residential development. This growth is well in excess of predictions underpinning the Council’s 2015 Long Term Plan (LTP) – approximately 300% of what was anticipated. Many developers are requesting that the Council advance capital projects to allow for growth. For example, Graeme Dick, a developer who spoke at the public forum (and who I am told, is a good friend of the mayor’s).

The following table illustrates future potential housing (to be realised):

Undeveloped residential zones

Consented development

Development potential

Land area

Housing potential

Land area

Housing potential

Land area

Housing potential

Richmond

34.84

379

17.48

210

108.82

1259

Mapua

1.5

26

16.8

131

8.9

107

Motueka

10.5

124

6.9

85

38

496

Total

46.84

469

41.18

426

155.72

1862

There are land parcels (46.84 ha) that landowners are residential zoned, but not developed (ie 469 vacant lots). In addition, 426 sections are consented, but are still waiting to be constructed.

At the same time, developers have indicated that they are interested in developing a further 155.72 ha, but are unable to due to a lack of services (ie water and wastewater).

Consequently, staff expect to recommend that council consider a redistribution of projects and/or promoting additional capital funding in certain locations as part of the development of the 2018 Long Term Plan.

Council received this report (no decision was required).

Renewal of water utilities operations and maintenance contract

The current Water Utilities Operations and Maintenance contract was awarded in July 2007 for three operational periods (three plus three plus four years) subject to satisfactory performance. The contract has a value of approximately $5 million per annum.

The current contract was due to expire on 30 June 2017. However, on 3 March 2016 the engineering services committee approved an extension of the current contract for up to 12 months until 30 June 2018 (to allow time to develop a new Water Utilities contract, and proceed with the agreed tendering process).

Beca have been engaged, through a competitive tendering process, to write the tender documentation for a new contract and to procure a contractor to deliver the required services. The next stage of the process prior to tender is the Request for Qualification, which is a call for parties to lodge their interest in being shortlisted for the tender.

Council received this report (no decision was required).

Minor improvement programme

The Minor Improvements work activity is defined by NZTA. This work category provides for the construction and implementation of low-cost and low-risk improvements to the transport system to a maximum total cost per project of $300,000. The work is subsidised by NZTA at 51% for the 2016-17 year. The total budget for the 2016-17 year is around $991,000.

The minor improvements work programme for 2016-17 was authorised by the previous council. At that meeting, I objected to a number of projects, which I considered were unnecessary. However, I was a lone voice on that council. In my opinion, council was acting under a retails sales mentality (ie spending money it did not need too, to get a 50% discount). If council was to reduce expenditure, and the need to raise more revenue from ratepayers via rates increases, it needed to tighten its minor improvements budget. In many cases projects were not required.

In my opinion, the minor improvements budget should be used in response to customer driven requests, rather than staff anticipating what ratepayers wanted. Adopting this approach would reduce non-critical expenditure, reduce pressure on staff resources, and enable council to focus on the real priorities.

I again raised this point in the meeting, but was advised by staff that council could not undo the approved minor improvement works for 2016-17. However, it could review the 2017-18 works (if and when they arise).

Engineering services activity report

Highlights from the engineering manager’s report include:

  • Staff. Engineering Services Manager Peter Thomson has resigned his position after almost 19 years with Council in this role and will finish his employment on Friday 18 November 2016.

  • Developments. Only one new subdivision as-built plan has been received and approved since the last update. Council received an application for 138 residential lots in Richmond West. A subdivision consent for approximately 130 lots in Richmond South is also being processed. Pre-application discussions are progressing with another landowner for a further 50 lots. Two large existing subdivisions in Mapua are continuing (approximately 170 lots combined). Wakefield is to see a 63-lot subdivision in the next 12 months which will include a link from Pitfure Road with Edwards Street.

  • Asset management. Amendments and additions to the engineering infrastructural asset data are currently being imported to the asset management system. In the current update period there are 2,070 new assets,760 retired, replaced or removed assets and 4,320 amended asset records. These changes reflect assets created or effected by capital works projects, renewals projects subdivision works and maintenance works.

  • Digitisation. In October staff concluded their investigation and selection of alternative resource consent management software. Foundation Footprint has been engaged to provide cloud software that will enable Engineering staff to better track and manage their consents.

  • Works. There are 40 active projects on council’s books: 20 in preliminary design stage, nine in detailed design stage, one in procurement stage (Queen Street Infrastructure Project) and 10 in construction stage, and 13 in review.

  • Water network. Audit results for this period were good with the contractor achieving a score of 91%. The site audits are part of the operations and maintenance contract performance criteria where a minimum score of 80% is required to avoid financial penalties. An additional bore has been drilled on the Collingwood Scheme as part of the eventual treatment plant upgrade which will be included in the next Long Term Plan to meet drinking water standards.

  • Wastewater. There continues to be regular pump blockages at most pump stations in Mapua, with 8 in the last month. The cause of all the Higgs-1 pump station blockages was wet wipes.

  • Trade waste. Implementation of the trade waste section of the 2015 Wastewater Bylaw is currently underway. Initial work has begun to register trade dischargers. Approximately 60% of these have completed the process. 752 potential trade waste dischargers in the district have been identified.

  • Waste management. Operations at Resource Recovery Centres have been busier than normal with waste volumes around 5% higher than budget for the first quarter. In early October there was a hazardous waste incident at the Richmond RRC with an unwashed nitric acid container identified. On 22 September 2016 TDC and Nelson City Council both separately resolved to proceed with a joint committee to manage the Councils’ two landfills from 1 July 2017. This resolution is subject to obtaining authorisation from the Commerce Commission.

  • Stormwater. Site audits undertaken during August and September indicate a contractor performance level of 93% and 88% respectively for stormwater maintenance. The contractor is increasing the frequency of routine maintenance (vegetation control, etc.) in drains and creeks throughout the region as we experience strong spring growth. The recently approved $30,000 upgrade work for Ned’s Creek in Murchison has progressed with a level survey of the site. A bund is also proposed to help reduce the number of flooding occurrences on properties along Hampden Street. The Borck Creek planting programme has been completed for 2016, and programmed maintenance of the planting has commenced (scheduled over three years).

  • Road works. Upcoming urban works include: pavement repairs to Champion Rd at Hill St roundabout, clearing of a water courses adjacent to the Sandy Bay Marahau Road, investigate repair of the Salisbury Road bus shelter near Talbot Street, resealing of the back carpark of Armadillos (which is mostly occupied by staff parking), and resealing the Motueka Service Centre carpark off Hickmott Place. Shoulder flanking to improve surface water runoff has been completed on Moutere Highway, Bridge Valley Road, Robinson Road, Lower Queen Street, Haycocks Road, Aniseed Valley Road, Kerr Hill Road, Lansdowne Road, and Pigeon Valley Road. Culvert replacements have been completed on Wairoa Gorge Road, Serpentine River Road, Rocky River Road, Brooklyn Valley Road, Motueka River West Bank Road and Tadmor-Bushend Road. Maintenance metalling is continuing, with 4,500 m³ (45% of annual total) completed to date. Network wide roadside mowing began in late September and generally takes a minimum of six weeks, depending on weather. Structural repairs and improvements at 26 bridges are currently being designed, with a contract to be tendered early in the new year.

  • Jackett Island. The routine 3-monthly survey of Jackett Island was completed on 15 September 2016, which is after the recent repair work and will record any changes in the sand bag wall profile. Preliminary observations from the recent survey show there has been no visible change to the bulk of the fore dune and intertidal platform for the majority of the length of Jackett Island except for the southern extremity of the Island.

Chairs report

Finally, I want to highlight an observation made by the chair – and one I agree with:

One of the things I am particularly keen to see improved in this term of council is the way we manage Customer Service Requests (CSRs) and how they are reported back to the Councillor or the person who originally lodged the request.

In my opinion its very much part of putting the customer at the centre of everything we do. My observation from speaking with residents is that sometimes there appears to be an absence of any follow up. However, I am told by council staff that they do ask customers if they want to be followed up.

In my opinion, providing 3G phone apps like Nelson City council’s “snap send solve” app, or Wellington City council’s “fix it” app, or “my council services” (a third party app which apparently delivers requests to TDC), provide a very efficient means of ensuring good follow up. As well as an excellent way for customers to inform councils about things that need fixing.

Keeping our walk ways tidy – work request response times

On a related matter, not discussed at the meeting (but one I subsequently followed up on), I was advised by staff that in terms of public work request response times for public walkways, the public should expect a work request to have been actioned within 2 weeks of notification. For safety hazards, a shorter time can be expected.

Detritus” (defined as any collection of fragments and/or material on a sealed surface eg loose chip, leaves, twigs etc) has a maximum response time of 2 weeks in most cases – except for CBD which is 2 days.

Response times apply from when the contractor first becomes aware of the defect. Anything that is a safety hazard can be assigned shorter response times.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/committees-and-subcommittees/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EngineeringServicesCommittee/2016/2016-11-10.

Draft minutes are available upon request from TDC.

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Engineering committee meeting (14 April)

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

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

Public forum

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

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

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

Richmond Car Parking Survey

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

Chair’s report

Highlights included:

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

Water services review and procurement

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

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

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

Water and wastewater reticulation – Mapua

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

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

20160421-tdc-mapuadevelopment

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

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

Rivers work review

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

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

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

Rivers contracts

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

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

Severe rain event

Council resolved to receive the report.

20160414-severerainfallevent-p53

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

Location

Total Rainfall (mm)

Aorere at Collingwood

298

Anatoki at Paradise

376

Takaka at Harwoods

267

Takaka at Canaan

336

Riwaka at Takaka Hill

254

Waimea at Appleby

124

Brook at Third House

145

Lee at Trig F

174

Nelson at Founders Park

105

 

20160414-severerainfallevent-p47

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

20160414-severerainfallevent-p50

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

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

20160414-severerainfallevent-p5220160414-severerainfallevent-p51

Road safety

Council resolved to receive the report.

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

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

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

20160414-crashes-p59

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

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

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The graph below provides crash data from 2006 to 2015.

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

20160414-crashes-p63

Engineering services activity update

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

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

Projects

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

Agenda and minutes

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

Dam disclosure: full council meeting (22 October)

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

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

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

Public forum

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

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

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

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

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

Waimea community dam update

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

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

Resource consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WCDL’s proposed structure

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

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

DamCo-Sturcture-OptionB

The key structural elements were:

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

The key financial elements of the proposal were:

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

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

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

Pricing methodology

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

WCDL’s initial investment

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

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

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

Debt funding of $17 million

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

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

Moving forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surplus treatment

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

Overall the surplus was allocated as follows:

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

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

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

Interim remedial storm water measures

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

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

Tourist signs application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application to facts

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

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

MackayPassRd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reserve classification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the QRC report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen street reinstatement

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

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

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

Mayor’s report

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

Climate change declaration

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

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

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

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

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

Aniseed toilets

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

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

CEO report

Economic development

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

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

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

Elections for 2016

Planning for local body elections has begun.

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

Finance

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

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

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

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

People

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

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

Health and safety

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

Best Island update

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

Tasman wharves

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

Agenda and minutes

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

 

Engineering services committee (24 September)

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

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

Chairs report

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

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

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

Activity management plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond central business district – storm water plan

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

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

CBDFloodModel-Base1

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

I will briefly outline all three options.

Option 1 (Beach road)

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

CBDFloodModel-Opt1

Option 2 (Racecourse drain)

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

CBDFloodModel-Opt2

Option 3 (Oxford street pressured pipe system)

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

CBDFloodModel-Opt3

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

CBDFloodModel-Solu1

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

Activity update

Highlights from the engineering manager’s report include:

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

KerbsideRecyling2015Sep

Agenda and minutes

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

Long term plan meeting (full council) 28 May

The following is a speech I had prepared for the full council meeting (held on 28 May 2015) on long term plan (LTP), which Cr Bouillir had kindly undertaken to read out in my absence.

Long term Plan Speech

My sincere apologies for not being able to attend this meeting. However, if I did not attend my brothers wedding (in London), I’m not sure he would speak to me again.

Although I could not make today’s meeting, it does not remove the opportunity for the community to know where I stand on many of the big issues, and where I would have voted, having heard and read all the submissions.

There are many decisions being made today. I take some comfort from workshop discussions held two weeks ago, that some good first steps are being made. However, there are still a number of issues where I do not agree with the majority of councillors. I only hope that councilors have further reflected over the intervening weeks, and will come to the right decision today.

Today, I wish to briefly highlight four issues: (1) debt and rates, (2) storm water, (3) roading expenditure, and (4) the dam.

Debt and rates

While I congratulate the councillors for drawing a line in the sand on rates increases and debt, this should only been seen as a first step.

There are further opportunities to save money (and further reduce rates increases), and I take some comfort that some moves to save money have been progressed.

For example, last week we heard of the cost saving from reviewing one of our annual publications – reducing the cost of production from $40,000 to $5,000. Over 10 years, that is a $350,000 saving.

This should have been done years ago.

As you know I feel other council publications require the same degree of examination. There is room for more savings.

A number of submissions have called for greater savings in this area. I would ask, that while council has set budgets for publications, that these budgets are further reduced over the coming months.

And publishing, is not the only area, where we need to be challenging ourselves to work smarter.

Storm water

Storm water is by far the biggest area of concern for our community.

And rightly so.

However, I still do not believe, we have the right balance in funding, or adequately addressing, this critical infrastructure.

There is a great deal of angst in our community over flooding risk. This is a concern that is strides above any other concern with transport or community development initiatives.

If we truly acknowledge that concern, then we should be shifting more funds to known hotspots in the Richmond area while also addressing the storm water concerns of the central Richmond business district.

I do not support funding more traffic improvements while the community are asking there money to be spent on storm water. Given the growing risk of another event, it should be an over-riding duty to mitigate that risk and ensure the storm water solutions promoted by staff can be achieved earlier and faster.

If we are not prepared to do that then we need to ensure those known hotspots around Richmond are at least mitigated in the interim.

Its about priorities!

Roading expenditure

We need to stop over-capitalising on roading initiatives.

I would like to see budgets for traffic improvements on Salisbury road and a number of other road widening initiatives (that are not funded by development levies) removed from the plan.

In particular, I see no reason to spend $1.2M on the Salisbury Road\Queen Street intersection. The round-about works fine. There is no support for more traffic lights on this road, and there is no need to fund investigating alternatives here. Remove it, or shift those funds to storm water initiatives.

Furthermore, the $600,000 budget for the Salisbury Road\William Street intersection is more than adequate to fund any investigations of Salisbury Road and provide some pragmatic and cost effective solutions for the William Street intersection.

The Dam

The community have made it very clear that they do not support funding any private benefit.

I agree.

I do not believe that the district should be called on to subsidise private water consumers.

I also believe that this is a good guiding principle when considering issues associated with the dam, and is consistent with the “user-pays” ethos of the community.

It is also clear, that were it not for the extraction of water by irrigators and urban water consumers, the river would have a sufficient natural flow. On this basis, the only equitable basis to apportion the cost of funding the environmental benefit portion of the dam cost, is for it to be apportioned between irrigators and urban water consumers.

This means council should only contribute $14M towards any water solution (comprising $8M-$9M for future urban water needs, and $4M-$5M for restoring the natural environmental flow of the river that urban water consumers have extracted). In my mind, $14M is a fair figure and is probably the likely opportunity cost of an alternative water solution for urban water consumers. Council should not approve a $25M contribution.

In my opinion, council also has a duty to find a cost effective solution that protects future urban water needs. This might involve leveraging off a private dam venture, by funding some additional height in a an existing dam project, that provides sufficient water for urban water consumers – or it could mean funding an alternative solution.

In conclusion, I believe council should park any decision on contributing to a dam project, or any other solution, until such time as council knows if irrigators are able to advance such a dam project. It also provides council sufficient time to properly explore other solutions. To act otherwise, is in my opinion, not acting prudently. This might mean council defers any decision of contributing to an irrigator led dam project until later in the year – perhaps September this year?

Capitalisation of Dam Co Ltd

Council are also considering assisting with the capitalisation of the irrigator’s investment holding company – Dam Co Ltd.

In my opinion, council should not be providing any financial assistance to this company. This is a private company and council should now be conducting its dealings with Dam Co Ltd at arms length. Anything else, would suggest otherwise.

In my opinion, providing unsecured public funds to a privately owned company, is not consistent with the aforementioned guiding principles, or a council that should be acting prudently, to ensure public funds are adequately protected.

If the protagonists of the dam cannot raise approximately $300,000 to establish this company, there is clearly insufficient support for a dam, from irrigators. It’s only $300,000. That’s 10 irrigators contributing $30,000 each, or 30 irrigators contributing $10,000 each.

Many dam protagonists made mention of the economic benefits that the dam would provide. If they believe in such benefits, then I would have thought they would be falling over themselves to invest.

Its time for these people to put their money where their mouths are. It is not the role of council to be under-writing private ventures (or private benefits).

Closing remarks

Finally, I appreciate, that the long term plan is just that – a plan.

It is open to further improvements and direction. And that includes further operational savings.

I certainly welcome such an opportunity at the next annual plan.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes of this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-05-28.

Engineering committee meeting (9 April)

The engineering committee meeting was held on 9 April 2015. Apologies were received from Crs Edgar and Mirfin, and from Cr Higgins for lateness.

The agenda was brief, but with much to digest. The agenda included (1) a draft (revised) Wastewater bylaw, (2) joint engineering standards with Nelson City Council (NCC), (3) engineering department’s activity update report, and (4) a late item relating to delegated authority changes.

I hope to comment later on these items.

Agenda and minutes

The 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/2015/2015-04-09.

Consultation document

LTP-Cover

 

The consultation document (formerly known as the “Long Term Plan” or LTP) outlines where council intends to spend your money over the next 10 years (from 2015 to 2025).

The deadline for submissions is 20 April 2015.

The relevant documents and an online submission form are located from http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/.

The 10 year plan includes some very important decisions, including whether the Waimea Community Dam should proceed, and equally importantly, how much of your money council should contribute to that project.

Overall, this is a good start for council, which has indicated a greater willingness to reduce expenditure and debt – which invariably translates to keeping rates increase down. However, this should only be the start of the journey.

In my opinion, there is still room to make further improvements on reducing expenditure and reducing the need to increase revenue (and increasing rates).

This might mean that some services would be reduced or cease. It might mean that some services are delivered through shared service arrangements with the private sector or other councils. It might also mean that their are some asset sales or fundamental questions are asked about whether council should be involved in commercial activities, and instead concentrate on its regulatory functions to achieve positive community outcomes.

Debt

Council debt is very much like shifting a container ship. The larger it is, the longer it takes to turn it around.

ContainerShip

The good news is our projected debt is planned to be reduced. But it will take time and requires discipline with future spending decisions. Choices will need to be made, not only within service areas, but between different services.

It’s a question of priorities.

So what will our debt and rates look like over the next 10 years. And what did it look like before 2013.

The debt position for the next 10 years has substantially improved. By 2025, projected debt will be around $109 million, with it peaking in 2018 to $193 million, if $25 million is invested in the Dam. How this is achieved is outlined on page 11 of the consultative document.

Essentially, its a $143.39 million reduction in expenditure over the 10 year period. However, a number of important infrastructural projects will still proceed. These are outlined on page 34 of the consultative document and include storm water initiatives (Borck creek and Richmond CBD improvements), water storage (the Dam), water supply initiatives to support growth, the Motueka library upgrade, and the second instalment of the Golden Bay recreational facility.

This is a marked improvement on where we have come from. From 2006, there was been a clear trend of escalating debt and expenditure. With debt beginning to increase from 2003.

DebtProjection2

So how did council accumulate this debt? The simple answer is that council spent more than it earned (as illustrated below). In my opinion it often borrowed money in anticipation of earning it, and often those projections were unrealistic or optimistic. In my opinion, council also appeared to over capitalise in anticipation of perceived problems. For example, widening roads. Or spent money on projects that were nice to haves – often within the community development budget. Again it is noticeable that spending began to markedly increase around 2003 and gained momentum after 2006.

DebtProjection4

Rates

The good news is rates increases will now be capped to no more than 3% (plus an allowance for growth). Growth is projected to be between 1.18% to 2.55%. This is a substantial improvement on the past (as illustrated below). However, I believe there is still room for improvement, but this will have to come from reducing or ceasing some activities that the council has performed in the past.

RatesOverview

Revenue

Council’s revenue is driven from three pools of income: (1) general rates, (2) targeted rates, and (3) other charges and revenue sources (eg, consent charges, forestry, and other commercial activities), as illustrated below.

OperatingRevenue

For more detail about the council’s finances read the Draft Finance Strategy report, located in the supporting information table (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/).

The Dam decision

This is the big issue for this consultation. Do we proceed with a Dam, how much money should we be contributing, and how big should the dam be?

The majority (not all) of council has suggested a ratepayer contribution of $25 million. This comprises around $9 million to secure urban water supply for the the long term future, and a further $13 million for the environmental benefits of an improved river flow. The remaining amount (roughly $3 million) funds administration and planning.

Any plan B initiatives for urban water needs are likely to cost no more than the urban contribution for the Dam. However, it needs to be remembered that the urban water supply is statutorily protected – such that if there are severe water restrictions, maintaining water supply for people is a priority. Although this would come at a cost to those businesses dependent on water.

The environmental contribution ensures the river flow is maintained to around 1100 litres per second. It might be that a lower flow rate is acceptable. Alternatively you might question pif you are getting your money’s worth from any benefits from providing enough water to fill the river for trout or swimming. It might be that you are happy that there is enough water in the gravels, rather on top of the gravels. What do you think?

How much of the environmental flow is funded, and whether it is funded on a cascading tiered approach, or a flat levy, has yet to be decided. The contributor/exacerbator argument, that many submitters raised, has been accepted in principle. However, council continues to suggest that all ratepayers might be called upon to provide a contribution. What do you think?

To date ,the government has not made any noise on underwriting any cost blow outs for urban water users or assisting in the funding of the environmental flows. However, the government has made noise about providing financial assistance for irrigators. At the same time, Nelson council is consulting (in its consultation document) on any contribution to the Dam.

All the relevant Dam information is still located on the dedicated webpage (see http://www.waimeacommunitydam.co.nz) as well as the in the consultation documents.

Storm water

In a recent survey, storm water risk was, by far, the number one concern for Richmond residents. The question is, has the council done enough?

At present, the council has committed to ensuring the Richmond business centre receives immediate attention.

Council has not reduced the storm water budget from earlier years, whereas it has reduced expenditure in other areas. However, some may question if enough was done in the past.

Should council re-prioritise funding priorities so that known flood risks are mitigated before another heavy down poor happens. For example, shift funds from the transport budget (for new traffic lights on Salisbury Road), to fixing the 4 risk hotspots in Richmond. Or are residents happy to wait for work to be done over a longer period of time.

The edges of Richmond (in particular, Hart’s Road, Bateup Road, Wensely Road, the cemetery reservoir, and Selbourne Avenue), have not received any attention in the short term. Should they?

I mention the cemetery reservoir, because it nearly breached in the last big rainfall, had it not been for a resident clearing the overflow grill in the very early hours of the morning (we’re talking 1-2am). Given the new Olive Estate development has been given consent to discharge storm water water down its road and towards the cemetery, it very likely the cemetery reservoir will have even more water to hold, and is therefore more likely to breach. Some may question the council’s use of a cemetery as a flood plain.

Olive Estate has also been given consent to discharge 600 litres per second of water into Harts Creek (along Fairise Drive in Richmond South). With the reservoir above Fairise drive already expanded to hold storm water from the new Hill Street South development, its likely more water will be entering Harts creek.

In my opinion, council needs to urgently address improvements to Harts creek. This might only be digging it out deeper to allow it to hold more water, and replacing the narrowed pipe between Harts creek culvert and Bateup Road culvert. If this is not done, then I envisage even more water will spilling out of Harts creek, and making its way down Bateup Road in an uncontrolled fashion. Which is exactly what happened in the 2011 floods.

Unfortunately, I have got little support from the other Richmond councillors to invest money in fixing well known hotspots. In my opinion, council should be protecting homes from flooding, before spending money on other projects (like new traffic lights on Salisbury Road or road widening in Lower Queen Street). Its about priorities.

Council is also addressing Borcks creek which much of the Richmond storm water systems were designed to connect into. In fact, Richmond South was at one point in time, prevented from further residential development until Borck’s creek connection work was complete. How this condition was ever removed from the District Plan is beyond me, especially when the revised plan sought to intensify development in the Richmond South area.

For more detail around what is (or is not planned) see the document entitled “Stormwater Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.

Water (supply and quality)

The council has already undertaken to improve water quality in Richmond. In my opinion, infrastructural investment which was well overdue, and should have been done sometime ago before spending money on community development initiatives (like recreation centres). Its about priorities! Fortunately this has now been done, with the new water treatment station coming online this year.

At present council is trying to supply water more water to the Richmond South development area (south of Hart’s Road). To do this council is shifting water around during low consumption periods (mainly over night). Should council be investing in better water supply infrastructure, rather than putting together infrastructure in an ad hoc fashion?

Water charges and expenditure

Water charges are increasing to service expenditure.

Operating expenditure increases from $11.2 to $16.1 million over the 10 year period. This is due to inflation, increased loan servicing costs and network growth.

WaterExpend

To address increasing expenditure, the daily charge is proposed to rise from $0.82 to $1.25 over the 10 year period. The volume per cube is proposed to rise from $2.09 to $3.15 over the 10 year period.

WaterCharges

This roughly translates into the following revenue forecast.

WaterRevenue

Capital expenditure fluctuates over the 10 year period. The notable peak in year 2017-18, in addition to the dam, is due to the Wakefield Treatment Plant ($4,000,000) project.

WaterCosts

For more detail around what is (or is not planned) see the document entitled “Water Supply Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.

Roads

The roading budget has been reduced. This has been achieved by sweating the assets more than in the past. Effectively, roading assets were being replaced (maintained) at very high levels, often being replaced in anticipation of deterioration based on industry best practice, rather than evaluating if the road actually needed to be replaced.

Service levels

In my opinion, the council has a very high level of service in roading compared to the past. You only have to look around to see a high level of capital investment. For example: a pedestrian island on Hill Street with Steel protection barriers, that only has room for one person; traffic lights on Salisbury road when a cheaper round-about would have done the trick; roads being unnecessarily widened in anticipation of increasing use, rather than responding to increasing use; sealing roads that perhaps should not have been sealed, and then having to maintain them.

The roading work that is projected to be done is outlined in the councils activity management plans. These can be viewed in the document entitled “Transportation Activity Management Plan” located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/2015-2025-long-term-plan/supporting-information/#amps.

If you think some projects are unnecessary – then let council know in your submission.

More traffic lights?

In my opinion, the roading budget needs to be reduced further. For example, the long term plan is proposing two more sets of traffic lights on Salisbury Road. One at the T-junction of William Street, and another replacing the old round-about at the Queen Street\Salisbury Road intersection.

At $1 million a pop, this type of proposed expenditure is unnecessary. Its complete over-kill. My own assessment of the William Street intersection shows that there is only a 20 min period where the road becomes congested and this is primarily to do with the location of the pedestrian crossing next to the intermediate school and the prior traffic lights which send through large blocks of traffic – long enough to block William Street when people are crossing.

Replacing the old around-about, which has probably been the best roading investment council made, with more traffic lights, is in my opinion just bonkers. I’ve continually advised staff that traffic lights are not wanted by the community (in fact people go out of their way to avoid them). In the UK they are ripping out traffic lights and replacing them with round-abouts. At very busy intersections. See my earlier post on the case against traffic lights (https://greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/the-case-against-traffic-lights-removing-the-roads-to-nowhere/).

If you agree or disagree with the proposal to install more traffic lights, put in a submission.

You might also want to mention in your submission how the Gladstone Road\Queen Street traffic lights do not allow you to turn left into Queen Street when coming from Nelson (via the deviation). Apparently the left turn was removed as part of council’s ring road system.

I’m not sure how allowing the left turn again, compromises this ring road system (if at all), but its no surprise that businesses in lower Queen Street are having a hard time, when traffic can not enter lower Queen Street. Council need to allow the left turn.

Again, your submission will hopefully persuade others around the council table that residents want further change and more cost reduction. Because the more money saved, the less money council needs from you in the form of rates and charges.

Submissions

Submissions can be made in hard copy or online. The online submission form has the advantage of letting you make multiple submissions. So if you remember something after making your first submission, you can make another.

The online submission form is located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/make-a-submission/#form.

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.

Environment and planning committee (29 January 2015)

The environment and planning committee met on 29 January 2015. All councillors were present, except for Cr Ensor, with Crs Edgar, King, and the mayor arriving after the start of the meeting.

There was no public forum.

The meeting comprised the following information reports and items: (1) the proposed treatment of coastal occupation charges, (2) the proposed environmental policy programme and projects for 2015, (3) the state of the environment report, (4) 6-monthly environmental compliance report, (5) 6-monthly resource consents report, (5) dog control update report, (6) biodiversity report, (7) committee chairs report, and (8) the environment manager’s report (which included updating the committee on: a recent coroner’s report, approved plan change 22 for the Mapua-Ruby bay development, freedom camping, warmer healthier homes project, waimea rural fire authority, and TDC’s submission to the productivity commission).

Coastal occupation charge

This matter was discussed extensively at the environment and planning committee meeting of 13 November 2014, where it was agreed by participating councilors that TDC would not implement a coastal occupation charging regime. Staff were directed at that meeting to draft an appropriately worded plan change in accordance with that decision.

Accordingly, the committee unanimously resolved to approve the release of draft plan change 56 which stated that TDC would not impose a coastal occupation charging regime at present. This resolution will subsequently be presented to full council for approval, as all binding decisions of council must be made by the majority of the full council.

Coastal occupation charges are fees imposed on users of public spaces within the inshore marine coastal area and seabed. Effectively, the charges are a rent on the use of public marine spaces and replace the former Harbour Act lease and license regime. For example, the use of the sea bed for moorings, jetties, wharves, boat ramps, cables, pipes, or marine farms, could be charged by council if a coastal charging regime was established by council.

Why would council go through the hassle of making such a statement? Well, council is required by law (under ss 64A and 401 of the RMA) to consider whether it will implement coastal occupation charging regime and make a statement on such a regime. This requires the council to either state in its regional coastal plan that charges will not be imposed, or propose policies and rules for the implementation of such charges.

To date there have been few councils who have taken up the opportunity to charge for the use of the inshore seabed. No doubt this is a reflection of the complexity and cost of drafting, consulting, and implementing such a regime. From my perspective, there seems little net financial benefit for the community in implementing such a regime at this time. Given marine farming in this region is still in its infancy, the money that would be raised from such a regime, would probably only offset the cost of establishing and administering the regime. Such a money go round would benefit no one other than the council administrators. Further, it is far better to reduce (or avoid) any new red tape for businesses – especially when you want an industry to get a good foothold in Tasman, for the greater good of the regional economy.

A detailed evaluation report of the costs and benefits of adopting a coastal occupation charging regime is attached to the agenda (see pages 13 to 30). Interestingly, the evaluation report concluded that all coastal occupations (except jetty,wharves, and boat ramps) had greater private benefit than net public benefit and marine consent holders should compensate the public for the loss of use. No doubt when the marine farming industry become more established (and can afford to pay) costal occupation charges will be revisited by a future council.

2015 environmental policy programme

In the middle of 2014, a number of workshops were held so that councillors could review and prioritise the 34 proposed environmental programmes, that had been identified for consideration under the 10 year (2015-2025) Long-term Plan (LTP). These projects included: mooring and coastal occupation charges, significant landscapes, rural land use, storm water management, urban design, residential zoning, and water quality management. See the agenda (pages 31 to 50) for a full list of all projects and more detail.

The committee resolved to receive the planning manager’s report and directed staff to begin scoping the possible size, cost, and nature of prioritised projects for future council consideration, before any approved commencement of any project.

State of the environment for land and soil

The 2014 report on the environmental state of land and soil (see executive summary at pages 55 to 60 of the agenda) provides an update on the monitoring of soil in various locations of the region.

The report surveyed 6,005 locations for soil erosion and continued to monitor 25 locations (identified in 2000) for soil health, classification type, and mapping purposes. The mapping of soil types will help improve our knowledge of drainage and the required levels of irrigation.

The report has also monitored the changing use of land in the district. For example, between 1996 and 2008, there has been: a 10% increase (9,750 ha) in exotic forestry; 17% decrease (21,152 ha) in pasture; 95% increase (5,266 ha) in horticulture, viticulture, and cropping; 55% increase (1.073 ha) in urban use.

Interestingly, the dairy farming trend in the Tasman region is not following the national trend. Tasman dairy cow stock numbers have only increased by 1.2% (54,580 to 55,227 cows) compared to the national trend of 11% (or 2.56 cows per ha). In Tasman, total beef cattle numbers dropped 33% (56,155 to 42,268 cattle) from 2003 to 2013. For the same period, deer dropped 67% (33,537 to 14,259 deer).

The committee resolved to receive the report (ie, no decision, other than to receive the report, was required).

Compliance monitoring

The report provides a summary of the council’s compliance activities for the first half of the 2014-15 period (ie 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2014) in comparison to the prior 6-month period. For example, the volume and timing of complaints from ratepayers in relation to various activities.

Generally, complaints were slightly lower than the previous 6-month period, with complaints over air, water and land discharges from 2003 to 2013 still dominating staff time. Interestingly, only 5 freedom camping complaints were made. This would suggest that the new freedom camping rules are working well, although there appear to be still a few problems in Motueka (which I will discuss later).

One prosecution was successfully made against Awarua Farms Ltd and Mr Wooley in relation to dairy activities. Awarua Farms was fined $60,000 and Mr Wooley’s sentencing has been adjourned until 4 March in Blenheim. The only enforcement order activity for the 6-month period was made against CJ Industries Ltd (operating in Motueka) due to uncontrolled dust discharges from crushing activities. All requirements of the order have now been met and staff continue to monitor progress.

Stage 1 water rationing was implemented in the second week of December (ending 18 December). Compliance was very good and no infringement notices were issued. Despite the dry start (for the two months up to December 2014), metering shows water consumption figures of less than 50% across all zones. Recent rainfalls have also been appreciated.

All “1080” poisoning operations were extensively monitored by staff (especially given the level of public interest and potential effects). With the exception of one incident in the Lockett area (where some of the bait was applied outside of the designated control area, due to a combination of drop events and terrain), all operations were fully compliant.

Large scale earthworks have been occurring in the Richmond south area (Wensley Road, Fairise Drive, and Hart Road area). While work has been compliant with consent conditions, the work has resulted in a number of complaints from residents. From complaints, I have received, these have mainly been due to the frequency and noise of heavy trucks carrying soil from the development through a well established residential community.

Ideally, the consent conditions should have been consistent with the Olive estate development. Unfortunately, due to timing, the constraints placed on the Olive Estate development (to not use Fairise drive for heavy trucks) was not placed on the Wensley\Hart Road development. Ideally, council should have remedied the problem by enabling the developer to access Hill Street or Hart’s Road directly from when the inconsistency was identified.

Fortunately, my conversations with the developer’s trucking contractor were largely constructive, with the truck contractor agreeing to shift truck movements away from the densely populated Fairise Drive to Hill Street (albeit after 31 December 2014). Thus reducing the impact on the number of residents. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the contractor (and developer) for accommodating the wishes of residents outside of any legal requirement to do so.

Resource consents

There are three different types of resource consent: (1) notified (where all the public are made aware of the resource consent application), (2) limited notification (where only neighbours or those directly affected are made aware), and (3) non-notified (where generally only the applicant and council staff are aware of the application).

The graph below provides a comparative analysis of non-notified resource consents between 2014 and 2012. The graph also highlights how long it took for staff to process the 484 resource consent applications made in 2014. In 2014, only 4 non-notified resource consent applications required a hearing.

E&P20150129-Graph1

The following graph compares notified and non-notified consents for the same periods. It is quite marked that the volume of publicly notified and limited notification consents are very low. The data would appear to indicate that the notification process (ie public or limited) does not appear to have a material impact on the volume of resource consents that council process. Although it is noticeable that the time taken to process these applications is longer than most other non-notified applications (except coastal applications). No doubt this reflects the higher level of public participation in the consent process.

E&P20150129-Graph2

Another interesting piece of data is the outcome of resource decisions from various decision makers. The graph below illustrates the decisions made by those bodies. The majority of consent decisions are approved under delegated authority (by staff).

E&P20150129-Graph3

Interestingly, only independent commissioners appear to decline applications. In my opinion, the dramatic absence of applications being declined by a committee or panel (of councillors), or by staff, would appear to suggest that there might be some bias in the outcomes – either that, or independent commissioners have more difficult decisions to consider. I suspect independent commissioners are probably less prone to relying on reports provided by council staff when declining or approving consent applications.

There have been few objections to decisions made under delegation. Two from the previous year are yet to be resolved – one for a subdivision consent in Ruby Bay and the effect of Plan Change 22 (inundation prone land), and the second relating to conditions imposed on the proposed Mapua Drive development and the upgrade of road frontage. Three made in the last 6 months relate to coastal permits for marine farms at Wainui Bay, and a fourth concerns a Mapua subdivision development seeking a change to its consent application.

Plan change 22 (Maua-Ruby Bay development) has been the subject of 4 appeals in 2012. Three have been resolved by mutual consent. The fourth concerned a 3 ha site that flood modeling identified as prone to flooding. In December 2014, the court dismissed the developers appeal for 12 additional residential sites to be added to the development and confirmed that the district plan provisions for managing the hazard risks were appropriate, and that the additional sites increased the level of flooding risk.

Several court appeals heard over the last 6 months are summarised in the agenda (page 75). They included appeals against: coastal protection work conditions in Pakawau, subdivision intensification in Appleby Hills, subdivision reconfiguration within Pangatotara rural residential zone, and intensification of a rural residential zone in Seaton Valley Mapua.

The resource consent application for the Waimea Community Dam is expected to be released in February 2015.

Storm water

Interestingly staff have acknowledged (page 79) that “co-ordinating the management of stormwater flows from the eight development areas within the Wensley Block [Richmond South area] is an ongoing challenge”. I could not agree more, and its why council needs to ensure this area’s storm water issues are addressed in the short-term to mitigate any risk of flooding. I am already aware that some residents in the area are on their final insurance warning (ie, there will be no further insurance cover if buildings are flooded again). Council must ensure residential storm water issues are addressed before any other significant capital investment.

Muddy Buddy

Notably, an application to formalise use of the seabed in Moutre inlet for the “muddy buddy” event (held in March each year) has been granted on a non-notified track. The new track is now in an area well away from most sensitive shoreline habitat, and will alternate each year to reduce any impact on the surrounding estuary. Te Tau Ihu iwi have been very supportive of the consent.

This is a very positive outcome and reinforces the fact that the RMA does work. The surrounding estuary is a very important eco-system for the whole bay area and its use needs to be protected from unsustainable activities. Balancing the needs of the community while ensuring the environment is protected is a very positive outcome and staff should be congratulated in working though the legal issues in the RMA to get to the right outcome. Well done to everyone involved.

I would also like to congratulate TDC’s approach to the “monster slide” debacle that was happening over in Nelson during January 2015. I think the message that was taken home was that TDC is open for business. We now need to apply (and reinforce) that pro-active customer focused culture to the rest of the council’s operations on an ongoing basis.

Dog control

Generally (and comparatively), dog control is not very controversial for this council. By way of background, the number of dog owners in the district is 6,617 with the number of registered dogs being 10,227 (5,601 rural and 4,626 urban).

Most infringement notices relate to registration failure (159). Between July 2013 and June 2014, 8 dogs were classified as dangerous, and 45 dogs as having a menancing behaviour. However, there is still the odd prosecution for more serious incidents. For example, in May 2013, a dog was destroyed for attacking stock and another for attacking a horse on Rabbit island. In October 2013, a dog was destroyed for attacking a pet lamb.

Overall, the statistics suggest dogs are well controlled in the district and the bylaws are working effectively.

Biodiversity

The committee received the 2014 biodiversity report. A copy is available from the council’s webpage. The current programme costs $56,500 per year ($26,500 per year funded by council, and the remainder from the government’s Biofund). The biodiversity programme is designed to assist council meet its legal (RMA) responsibilities for protecting significant natural areas and maintaining indigenous biodiversity. With current resourcing it is estimated to take 15 years to complete assessment of all 16 ecological districts.

The biodiversity programme involves a number of separate projects undertaken on behalf of various stakeholders including council. For example, the native habitats Tasman (NHT) project started in 2007, is a district wide survey of natural areas, mainly on private land, to assess the ecological significance of these areas and provide owners with ecological reports to assist with the land’s management. Participation by landowners is voluntary. As at 30 September 2014, 420 sites had been assessed and 353 reports delivered to owners.

Due to recent changes to government funding criteria (meaning the organisation no longer qualifies for funding) the biodiversity project may need council to increase its funding from $26,000 to $56,000. A submission on the LTP to this effect is anticipated by council.

In my opinion, given the lack of government financial support for biodiversity, and no National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (the 2010 draft remains on hold), that might have provided clarity for council’s in understanding the scope of their legal obligations, perhaps its timely to pause and take stock. This might mean no further funding is provided, so that the current programmes are undertaken at a slower pace than they are currently (if at all).

Manager’s report

The manager’s report contained a number of topics. I intend to only summarise the more significant items that drew councilor interest. In particular; the coroner’s report, freedom camping, and the warmer healthier homes project.

I would have also liked to have commented on the department’s financial position, but this information was not provided in the agenda. An action item to respond to questions raised about last month’s financial’s (which highlighted several cost over-runs) was also over-looked. Hopefully these will be answered in due course.

Coroner’s report

During the week of 15-16 June 2013, the home of Ms Hude Hivon was struck by a landslide. The home was located on Seperation Point granite soils and the dwelling was authorised for construction in 1961 as worker’s accomodation. The coroner investigated the incident and has made two recommendations directed at TDC. First, that side castings are not deposited along the outer edge of tracks above steep slopes. Secondly, that TDC give consideration to at risk sites prior to any consent being awarded. These recommendations will form part of a review of the land disturbance rules which will occur in 2015.

Freedom camping

Generally the rules have worked very well in the Tasman region. By way of brief background, freedom camping is a permitted activity for legal vehicles. However, it remains an illegal activity for non-compliant vehicles (eg, those offending vehicles that are not fully self contained).

Unfortunately, the Motueka beach reserve area continues to be an area of concern for many residents. The complaints are concerned with the occupants of illegal, non-self-contained camping vehicles (eg, vans without toilets, showers or washing facilities) using community facilities improperly and causing a general nuisance.

The main problem with the freedom camping by-law is enforcement. A major problem with the rules is proving someone camped illegally. At present this is established by visiting the site in the early evening and morning. Any offending vehicles present on both occasions are deemed to have been camping overnight illegally. To avoid being caught, offending vehicles either turn up late in the evening or leave early in the morning (or both). Council staff suggested increasing the time spent policing (at a cost of $15,000) to address the problem. Effectively asking for more resources.

The increase in enforcement costs did not get much support around the council table. Accordingly staff undertook to investigate other options and to report back to the committee.

Some councilors had argued for the area to be closed off completely, or for existing toilet facilities to be removed, and water to be switched off. However, it was pointed out that this would be an expensive exercise (more costs for council), and illegal campers would just move to another location and annoy other people.

In my opinion, council staff needed a mechanism to establish illegal camping more efficiently (ie involving less staff time – and therefore cost). This could be done by prohibiting specified vehicles (non-self contained camping vehicles) from being parked in the area between specific times (eg 9pm to 7am). The presence of a non-self-contained camping vehicle during this time might show sufficient intent to camp (and place the burden on the offender to prove otherwise). Officers could then appear an hour or so after the specified time and immediately issue tickets for both illegally parking and\or illegally camping. I also wondered if a pre-registration process (text your registration to council) would aid the process of identifying illegal freedom camping.

I look forward to the staff report that comes back with some more thought out (and less expensive) options.

Warmer healthier homes

Council has been involved in promoting better insulation and upgrading home heating through its Warm Tasman programme. However, with the expiration of government funding it is unlikely it will remain appealing to ratepayers and no doubt council will retire the programme.

An alternative programme established in 2004 is the “Warmer Healthier Homes” programme funded by the Canterbury Community Trust, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, Absolute Energy, and Nelson Tasman Housing Trust. However, this initiative is much more narrowly focused and only targets low income households with respiratory health concerns. NCC has recently joined the project through committing $40,000 over two years.

This council has decided to watch how the project unfolds, before making any financial commitment at this time. Especially when it remains unclear to what degree Tasman ratepayers would benefit. Staff will report back before the conclusion of the LTP.

Agenda and minutes

A copy of the agenda report and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-01-29.

Related newspaper items

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/communities/9770056/Muddy-Buddy-given-reprieve

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8651887/Muddy-Buddy-a-foolish-idea

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10336976/Scheme-to-insulate-homes-of-poor

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/65669601/Frustration-as-consents-take-longer-than-builds

The Annual Plan – Full Council meetings (30 May, 5 June, and 30 June)

A full council meeting was held on 30 May 2014 and subsequently carried over to 5 June 2014. There were no apologies for the 30 May meeting. However, apologies from Cr Canton were received for the 5 June meeting.  The annual plan was then finalised by full council at the 30 June 2014 meeting.

The 30 May full council meeting was the official meeting to discuss the final cut of the 2014-15 annual plan and any expenditure that would be undertaken (or not) during that year. And an opportunity to take on board feedback on the draft annual plan circulated earlier in the year to the community. The agenda was to consider the following big items: Motueka library, Golden Bay service centres, Golden Bay recreation centre, Tourism funding, and Cycle trail extension – as separate resolutions, with a single resolution for all the other items.

However, before this meeting, several workshops had already been held in the preceding weeks to consider submissions, debate the issues, reconsider positions, and provide the opportunity for like minded councillors (or blocks of councilors) to strike any deals. Therefore, this meeting was to a large extent a formality, but for some councilors like myself, it was also the last opportunity to convince others around the table to change their minds.

Day One – the debt grenade

The full council meeting on Friday (30 May) was to be the big day when we would confirm council’s expenditure program for the forthcoming financial year. Things began, as outlined in the meeting agenda, with the Motueka library proposal leading the discussion.

Motueka library

All councillors were in support of removing the $1 million refurbishment of the Motueka library from the draft annual plan. Why it was ever included in the draft annual plan remains a mystery to me – given the lack of support it had around the council table before the draft annual plan was released. Yet the majority of councilors still voted for it to be included in the draft annual plan. Yet here we were, listening to the same arguments and now agreeing to remove it. Was it’s inclusion in the draft annual plan (and eventual removal in the final plan) just a straw-man for something else?

I for one, thought it should have been removed form the draft annual plan (and deferred for consideration in the long term plan), in the same manner the Golden Bay recreation centre was. This would provide the community a transparent and clear direction from council about what projects were to be deferred, and importantly, why.

Generally, the argument around the table during pre-draft annual plan workshops was that a redeveloped hub in Motueka (that included a service centre, library, and other council services) in one location on Decks reserve, was the way to go. I certainly agree with that direction, as it consolidates overhead costs for a number of council services. But the archilles heel for the hub project was its cost. It was just too expensive, at a time when council needed to be taking stock of its debt position. In my mind, the time was not right to undertake such a project and the prudent step was to consider this project (and others, like the Golden Bay recreation facility) as part of a longer term strategy.

The alternative to the hub concept was to invest $1 million in a refurbishment of the existing Motueka library – that included minor expansion of space and earthquake strengthening. This was the proposal that eventually made its way into the draft annual plan. However, on the day, councilors agreed that this work was also not a good idea. It was felt that the earthquake work would not be required given the governments announcements that it was reducing the earthquake strengthening standard from 66% to 34%. Furthermore, some councilors around the table felt that investing any more funds into a building that was on leased land, was not desirable.

Rather it was better to invest any funds in a hub concept on land owned by council. Finally, it had been noted in earlier reports to council that book useage at the Motueka library was in decline and the use of web based services (eg ebooks) was trending upwards. In light of this trend it was unclear whether the pressure on space within the library was also in decline – and perhaps more time was required to see how this trend would impact on future spacial needs. Accordingly, it was decided to reduce funding from $1 million to $76,000 to allow for any earthquake strengthening work required.

In my opinion the inclusion of the $1 million refurbishment of the Motueka library in the draft annual plan (and its eventual removal in the final annual plan) was a $1 million straw-man for other items to be kept or included in the final annual plan (eg the Golden Bay recreation centre). This is because some around the council table considered that the removal of the library (and deferment of the service centre) gave them room to do other projects within the existing budgeted program of expenditure. And as observed above, the inclusion in the draft annual plan of a refurbished Motueka library had little support during earlier workshops.

If I had been forced to chose between a $3 million Motueka hub concept and $3.5 million Golden Bay recreation centre, I probably would have chosen the hub concept. Why? Because the Golden Bay recreation centre still had a number of years of good service left within it. If we could sweat our roads (eg, defer maintenance of roads in the annual plan), we could easily sweat a recreation centre for a few more years. Furthermore, during an inspection of the recreation centre we were told that the main concerns with the centre were access to showers from the visitor changing sheds (which currently involved a toweled walk to the showers) and the closure of the grandstand (on the roof of the centre) due to earthquake risk. Both minor inconveniences and costs. Finally, some in the Golden Bay community also did not support another recreation facility if it added more debt. In contrast, the Motueka hub concept provided service improvements and potential operational cost savings.

A debt grenade

After consideration of the Motueka library refurbishment, the finance manager was invited to make a presentation on our financial (and debt) position in light of council’s intended expenditure program. This was to be a later item in the agenda.

During this presentation, the finance manager informed council that due to the 2014-15 annual plan being the last year of the previous long term plan, all outstanding capital projects (eg work that had yet to start or had not been completed) would have to be recognised in the 2014-15 financial accounts. This would also provide a clear financial position when considering the next long term plan.

Basically, council had committed to $20 million of capital expenditure in earlier years that would be catching up with the council’s balance sheet in the 2014-15 year. In effect, around $9 million dollars of debt funded capital works that had yet to completed would be added to the 2014-15 financial accounts.

Some councillors were quite shell shocked by this apparent increase in the council’s debt position. Although others recognised that this was actually debt funded expenditure that council had already undertaken to spend in earlier years. At this point the mayor asked that the meeting be suspended until the financial implications of the debt could be analysed. Subsequently, the revised (and very real) debt position was reported in the media (see Waimea Weekly. see “Shock as $18M blow-out found” (4 June 2014) http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040614/1?e=1913941/8122090).

The reality was that the council’s closing debt position, based on forecasted opening debt (of $167 million) would be higher than forecast in the draft annual plan. However, due to the forecast of $167 million being higher than actual debt of $148 million, the increase in recognised debt meant that the forecasted closing debt position would remain close to what was forecasted (around $173 million).

The reality was that our debt was still going up. It’s just the forecasted increase from $167 million to $173 million (a $6 million increase) would instead go up from $148 million to $171 million (a $23 million increase).

In both scenarios, new debt increases by approximately $6 million. That’s the real figure to watch. As is the closing debt position – which will translate into increasing interest payments.

A figure we cannot afford. At a time when we should be trying to minimise debt funding so we can begin to turn the debt funding of council activities around. We already spend $8 million a year in interest payments. Thats three community recreation centres a year!! Thats why I could not at this time support any debt funding of assets that are not critical.

Sorry Golden Bay, but getting our debt under control has to come first, and saving $3.5 million is an easy first win that would have made a sizeable dent in a very large debt ship that we have to begin turning around. Adding $3.5 million of fuel to an “interest repayment” fire just makes no sense to me especially when we not under any real pressure to replace the recreation centre. Finally, in my opinion, more pressing issues (like storm water) required council funds before we could spend money on recreational facilities.

If anyone tells you we do not have a debt problem they are deluded. We have got to stop spending on the nice to have items to ensure we have the head room to turn around our dependence on debt funding, preserve our credit rating, and ensure we spend our money on the more pressing priorities (like storm water). That should have started now. Alas, its been kicked for touch till next year.

Day two – a fait compli

Council reconevened on Tuesday (5 June 2014) to move through the remaining items on the agenda. Apologies were received from Cr Inglis and Cr Canton. All other councillors were present. By this time, the shock of the debt had lulled and many councillors felt that it was just funds moving around on paper. But as I alluded to above, the reality is that council debt was increasing by a further $6 million.

Golden Bay service centre

The draft annual plan proposed adding just under $1 million dollars to the 2013-14 annual plan for a rebuild of the council service centre.

This building was a council services building used by council staff and for the public to make enquiries, pay rates, and obtain resource consent information. The building is located on crown granted land. If the land is not used for council purposes, it will revert back to the crown. Staff were removed from the building when it was identified as earthquake prone (eg, below the approved 66% earthquake compliance requirement). Accordingly, staff were shifted to a temporary building, opposite the back of the Motueka public library.

This left the council with several options: (1) refurbish the service centre so its 66% earthquake compliant costing $380k, (2) rebuild a new centre for no more than $1 million, or (3) relocate the service centre to another location – either the library or information centre. Added to the decision mix were several additional considerations. First, the council could receive additional insurance funds if it included a commercial space in any rebuild. Second, any relocation would require additional expenditure of expensive fibre for sending data to the service centre. This effectively ruled out relocation.

In terms of a rebuild it was argued that there was little financial difference in cost for a new build and any refurbishment that met the 66% earthquake standard. Especially if the new build would enable a commercial space to be added that would be partially funded by the additional insurance and future rental income.

However, there was a larger financial difference if the refurbishment was only required to meet a 34% earthquake standard. The expected cost would probably be something less than $380k. Given the government had announced a forthcoming change in the earthquake standard (from 66% to 34%), it was felt that the financial argument for a rebuild did not stack up, and earthquake strengthening to a 34% standard was the more cost effective option. Accordingly, the project was deferred to the long term plan for further consideration and no budget for a rebuild was required in the 2014-15 annual plan.

I think this was a very sensible financial decision. And one that perhaps preserves the heritage value of the building. And due credit also to the Golden Bay councilors (Cr Sangster and Cr Bouillir) moving the change to the draft annual plan. Although I also appreciate this was a tactical concession to get the Golden Bay recreation centre across the line.

Yes, it would mean that staff would have to continue to operate from a very small temporary space – but only for another year or two. In my opinion, there is also still scope for some functions (not all) to be moved to the library, so that only planning functions operate from the temporary building. This might alleviate in the short term some of the spacial pressure. However, that is for a future discussion.

Moving forward, the council will be investigating how much refurbishment work is required to meet a 34% compliance requirement so staff can return quickly to their former building.

Golden Bay community centre (or recreation centre)

This proposal sought the replacement (and upgrade) of the existing rugby clubrooms and squash courts. The upgrade also proposed the addition of net ball courts. The co ncept and plans can be viewed on the councils website (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/recently-closed-consultations/feedback-form-golden-bay-community-recreation-facility-concept-plan/).

I attribute its demise in the draft plan on the finance manager’s presentation to councilors on our debt position just before it was considered. And Cr Higgins vigerous support of that message. That presentation emphasised the cost of adding any more debt funded programs to the council books.

We also heard that there was no legal obligation on council to provide a recreation centre in Golden Bay. In effect, the inclusion of a new recreation centre was a luxury that we did not have to commit to in the next financial year. We could take a “tea break” and consolidate our financial position. Rather than rush in, we could take the time to improve our financial position before embarking on any more projects.

Shifting the recreation centre to the long term plan would also give the Golden Bay community more time to raise the necessary finance while signaling the project had not been forgotten. We just needed time to sort out the councils finances first. All very rational and prudent.

However, in my opinion, the reality was that the inclusion of the Golden Bay recreation centre (together with other items) in substitution of the Motueka library was a missed opportunity to reduce debt at a time when interest rates are going up. The time to spend on nice to have items (like recreation centres), is when interest rates are low or trending downward. Not when they are trending up or when the demand (and price) for builders and contractors will be high as the Christchurch rebuild gathers stream.

While I appreciate that the councils commitment was changed from $3.5 million to $3.2 million (a $300k reduction). It still commits council to debt that in my opinion was unnecessary to commit to, when were are also starring down the barrel of a Dam proposal, as well as a strain on our storm water infrastructure, as rainfalls are projected to increase due to climate change.

At this point I note a recent article in the Nelson mail on stormwater (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10236222/Flooding-battle-to-cost-millions). In that article it was stated that storm water and flood protection would mean more borrowing and more debt. In my opinion, this misrepresents the debate. The tension is not between addressing storm water issues and debt, it is between addressing storm water issues and spending money on other nice to have projects. Its a question of prioritising spending. Surely protecting peoples homes, comes before building recreation facilities?

As a community we band together to protect one another during a crisis. Mitigating the potential cost to the community of a major flood (not to mention the risk of potential insurance fee hikes or non-insurance, as well as litigation risk for council) surely warrants the investment. Not to mention removing the unnecessary worry ratepayers have whenever there is a major rainfall event. This is a political decision and the community need to speak up.

If Champion Rd can have Q100 storm water solution why can’t the other three or four hotspots in Richmond. For example, the Hart Rd\Bateup Rd intersection which receives rainfall from the higher Richmond south developments and was under water during the last three heavy rainfall events since 2011. Or the cemetery dam overflow (at the back of the Richmond cemetery), that nearly overflowed were it not for the valiant mid-night efforts or nearby residents removing flood debris from storm water grills – averting what could have been a major disaster for homes below the cemertery.

Finally, while the Golden Bay recreation centre will only add another $1 million of debt to the 2014-15 plan, the proposal is funded across two years. This means that council has already committed to the remaining $2 million of debt in the 2016-17 year. This places another road block in prioritising available funds on storm water in future years. And the overall increase in debt remains the same $3.2 million.

For the record, Cr Murfin and I opposed this expenditure. Cr Norris also voted against the amended resolution, although he voted against it on the basis it should have remained at $3.5 million.

Tourism

This issue has generated a lot of confusion – and it has not been helped by poor communication of what council (or at least some councilors) set out to do – which was to review the return on investment from tourism funding. I’ve discussed this issue in earlier posts so I will not revisit the debate. However, the outcome of the annual plan puts in place funding for destination tourism for the 2014-15 year, with some incentive for the relevant stakeholders to resolve future funding before the end of this year.

Great Taste Trail (or cycle trail extension)

This proposal sought to build the next planned segment of the trail beyond Wakefield. During workshops leading up to the draft annual plan being finalised, many councillors were opposed to this proposal on the basis of the ongoing operational costs council would be exposed too against the limited financial return it might offer Wakefield businesses. However, the Mayor suggested that if he could secure 50% government funding would councilors support the cycle trail being added to the draft annual plan. On that basis it got support during the workshops. However, between the workshop and the proposed resolution, the funding source got widened to include other third parties (potentially including institutions that might received council grants).

To reinforce councils commitment that funding the cycle trail extension was only on the basis of government funding, and not from another entity that might be indirectly funded by council grants, I moved that the last three words of the resolution be removed – namely “or another third party”. Unfortunately, I received no support for this amendment and it was defeated.

Everything else (including the Mapua development)

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the $1.2 million Mapua development was lumped into the fill-a-buster resolution – together with 70 other items for consideration.

As it was part of a single resolution, you had to either support the resolution or not. This meant that disagreement with one of the 70+ items meant you had to vote the whole resolution down, or note your dissent on any of the 70+ items being considered. For example, the $1.2 million Mapua development proposal.

I had thought given a number of residents raised concerns about this item, the level of general public interest, the size of the investment, and the fact the cycle trail (involving only $300k) had received a separate resolution, that the Mpaua development proposal would also have been separated out from the rest of the items, that were less controversial. However, the Mayor (who is responsible for setting the agenda) preferred to leave it in amongst the rest. However, as concession the Mayor allowed councillors to note their disapproval of any single item – which I chose to do – rather than seek to separate the item from the main resolution.

By way of a brief background, the Mapua development initiative proposes to build on the former acquarium site. Two build options were outlined by a WHK report. The first was a container option (similar to the one used in Christchurch) for around $100k. The second was a standard build for $1.2 million. This would be partially debt funded. A third option was to just lease the land and let a developer build and lease any new building.

In my opinion, its not for council to seek more equity from ratepayers in order to embark on new commercial activities. If ratepayers want to invest their money in new commercial activities they should not be compelled to do it through increases in rates. And lets be frank, thats what is being proposed.

I also do not believe it is for council to attempt to control what businesses operate in the Mapua precinct other than by regulations. That is for the market to decide. If there are undesirable businesses, they can be controlled through regulations, not buying up all the buildings so the council becomes the sole lease holder of the entire precinct. However, if councilors want to employ a strategy of ownership, then they should be doing it for the least cost.

In my mind the container option would achieve the desired outcomes in a more cost effective manner, as well as bringing back a buzz to the Mapua precinct, in the same way it has happened in Christchurch (see http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/49798/ and http://www.china.org.cn/photos/2011-12/04/content_24070673_3.htm). The added benefit of a container development is that it would reduce the lease costs for tenants while providing a very efficient space to operate their businesses from.

Arguments have been made around small space a container would offer, but the type of family businesses some councillors seek to retain in the precinct could easily operate from smaller spaces – as is the case in Wellington. Although I should add containers can be made into larger spaces (as the pictures of the ChCh precinct show). A container development would also allow more space for public seating which is at a premium in this area. After staff costs, lease costs are a major hurdle for start-up businesses, especially craft businesses. A container development would provide opportunities for new businesses to establish themselves. Surely this is a good thing.

An argument was advanced by staff that the $1.2 million should remain in the budget so that full council could at least consider whether the proposal had merit. If it was removed, council could not consider whether the proposal had any merit. In my mind, council should have nipped the project in the bud then rather than waste any further effort by staff. However, that argument found favour and the majority of councillors (but not all).

In my mind, expenditure of $1.2 million (or for that matter anything above $200k) that would require more debt funding, did not have any merit. Accordingly, I voted against it and noted my dissent on the item.

 Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes for the annual plan are found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-05-30 and http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-06-30.

Newspapers

http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/media-centre/news/minimising-the-impact-on-ratepayers-remains-a-major-focus/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10227950/Final-decision-on-rates-plan

http://nelsonweekly.co.nz/funding-cut-to-cycle-trail/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10018498/Tasman-to-tackle-debt-crisis

“Shock as $18M blow-out found” (4 June 2014) http://issuu.com/waimea-weekly/docs/040614/1?e=1913941/8122090

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9828399/Tasman-rates-to-rise-up-to-3-5pc

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10236222/Flooding-battle-to-cost-millions