A full council meeting was held on 6 March 2014. All councillors were in attendance.
The agenda included: (1) the TPPA, (2) approval of the local government statement report outlining councils duties and statutory obligations, (3) approval of the councils submissions on a draft local government amendment Bill, (4) the treatment of abandoned wharves, (5) the chief executive’s report, (6) the mayor’s report, and (7) various machinery resolutions, and an update on action items from earlier council meetings.
For this post I intend to focus on the topical items and items of general interest.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
The biggest public interest item was the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) resolution from council which was dominated by very passionate presentations in the public forum (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9802308/TDC-seeks-positive-benefits-from-TPPA). I will not summarise them all, as there were many, but I will note one submission from a resident who highlighted for council the fact that these agreements are usually negotiated in confidence so free and frank discussion (and horse trading) can be agreed upon, before being reported back to the public. Something that council also tended to do. Whether this is a good thing is another matter, although clearly a number of residents in supporting the original Auckland resolution do not think so.
I have discussed the background to the TPPA in an earlier post (including links to resolutions from other councils) and other information on the contents of the TPPA, so I will not outline them again here. Needless to say, council agreed to revisit its earlier resolution on the TPPA, and decided that it would consider adoption of a revised resolution that reflected the will of the community. That said, there was concern by some councilors that the last clause of the proposed resolution would present them a credibility issue and they wanted to acknowledge the reality of the process (ie, that it was unreasonable to expect open disclosure of negotiations during the negotiation phase). But that disclosure to the public through the parliamentary process could be expected after negotiations had concluded. This was the essence of one of the clauses contained in the Wellington Regional Council resolution on the TPPA.
From my perspective I was not to concerned with the wording of the clause. As acknowledged by one of the public forum speakers, this resolution was by its nature, symbolic. Given that acknowledgement, and the fact this is what the community wanted to say, I had no problem in passing the resolution as drafted (and passed by Nelson and Auckland councils). However, other councillors did not feel the same way and sought changes to clause 12 – which the majority of council supported. However, to ensure other elements of clause 12 were not lost, a new clause 13 was added, re-importing the words lost in the earlier changes to clause 12.
I think it is also worth pointing out that negotiations are not always held in secret as the TPPA has been. I know some councillors thought that public consultation was an unrealistic expectation. Recent european trade agreements do not contain secrecy provisions and “every step of these negotiations has been publicly announced and widely reported in the press” (see http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/18/wrong-george-monbiot-nothing-secret-eu-trade-deal).
Overall, a win for democracy and community representation. And for those councilors willing to acknowledge that they are suppose to represent the wishes of their community. A great deal of public frustration with council is the fact it often forgets (or sometimes ignores) what residents want.
As a councillor I consider our job is to ensure the community will is fulfilled, while navigating the statutory obligations of council. This leads me to item 8.2 of the agenda (page 15 to 46), which contains a report on the statutory duties of council. This is certainly an interesting read for those considering taking on the role of a councillor.
Chief Executive’s Report
This report updated council on the CEO’s activity since his last report on 5 December 2013.
The report noted that there was agreement with the Museum trust (eg the Tasman Bays Heritage Trust) to undertake a joint review of operations with council. At present the trust is seeking further funding for improved storage and research facilities. Storage facilities are presently located in the old freezing works. Not the best facilities for historic artifacts.
The report also noted a $6.3 million surplus as at 31 January 2014, based on an existing forecast surplus of $3 million, plus $4.9 million of extra revenue and $1.6 million of additional expenditure. The variance is mainly due to an additional $850,000 in development levies (mostly from Richmond), an extra $247,000 in NZTA grants, and an extra $678,000 in community contributions (eg, $413,000 from donations for the purchase of Baigent reserve, $82,000 from Trustpower, and $40k from DoC for the Cobb Valley road). On the expenditure side, budgeted costs increased due to increases in maintenance expenditure and legal costs (eg Jacket Island).
Although this is probably reflecting timing issues, and the year end financial position is more likely to be an $800,000 surplus from the 2013-14 annual plan budget. This can either reflect improved operational management, poor budgeting in the 2013-14 plan, or a mix of both. Since my arrival on council in October 2013, there have has been a growing enthusiasm (and the odd point of hesitation from some councilors) for getting cost savings. So I am picking that most (if not all) of the surplus is from improved operational management. For example, the finance team were recently able to make substantial cost savings from re-organising the manner it which it managed its finances. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make more savings.
I note in the latest annual plan the large proportion of council funding on community development initiatives. Clearly there is more room for further improvements in this part of council’s budget, so that we get the right balance in terms of where the community want the priorities set. That message is very much about investing in infrastructure to protect homes, while also providing for employment security.
In regard to employment security, I am looking forward to the consultation and debate that will be happening on whether council will continue to fund destination tourism after the 2014-15 plan. That debate has yet to happen, but it is one that needs to start. And just to remind people, the resolution that was passed by council stated that the proposed removal of destination tourism funding was proposed as “a basis for further consultation”. Anyone suggesting that council has decided not to fund destination tourism after June 2015 does not understand what council has stated in its resolutions. Although I acknowledge that some councilors may have already indicated which way they want that debate to go. However, such statements are in my opinion highly premature.
The report also noted that council is reviewing its business systems and processes – including resource needs. This involves moving more towards technology that should ideally require less manual input from staff. For example, moving the paper based resource consent process online for a more streamlined approach. Another initiative has been improvements to Promapp which is used by staff (see https://go.promapp.com/tasmandc). There is still some way to go, but the drive towards continual improvement of operational processes has begun, and that has to be a very welcome improvement.
On the staff front, council employ around 256 staff (approx 230 are full-time). Looking at the annual plan, the estimated cost of staff is around $18-19 million (not including contracted out services). That is a sizeable portion of the council’s overall income and places a sizeable challenge on council to operate smarter.
An interesting observation in recent council survey’s identified that 27% of residents don’t trust or have confidence in council. This is a very high figure. In my opinion this is because council does not listen to the community. You only have to read the comments on the above Nelson Mail item on the TTPA to have that confirmed. Instead council often ignores the submissions of the community during hearings. In my opinion, council are better to take a slower approach to areas of dispute. Especially when there is not the level of urgency. For example, in plan change hearings that take a 50 year view of future need, council are better to revisit zone changes that conflict with residents wishes through subsequent variations. This enables the tensions to be heard more thoroughly and with the addition of time, needs may also have changed or become more obvious.
The recent Olive Estate resource consent hearing is another example, where councilors participated in consent hearings and chose not to exercise discretions provided in the planning rules in favour of the residents. After the hearing, many residents expressed to me the feeling that the presence of councilors on the consent hearing gave it the feeling the decision was a political one and had already been decided. Unfortunately the resulting decision only reinforced those concerns.
Issues from Councillors
During the council meeting councillors were given the opportunity to raise any issues they would like council to consider. I raised the question whether the Richmond South Area should be zoned a compact density area given the storm water issues. I also suggested that the compact density rules needed to be revisited or replaced as they were not achieving outcomes residents were happy with. In my opinion the compact density zones and rules needed to be parked until a proper review of urban density issues had been completed. In my opinion, placing compact density areas on the outsides of town centres is not what compact density development is all about. Otherwise we are only inviting future problems.
I note that since this meeting it has come to my attention that a compact density zone has been proposed in Motueka and that development has already begun. Apparently the developer has surrounded the development with buildings that comply with standard residential development rules to mitigate any impact on surrounding residents. Clearly the developer is in step with the local community and ideas like this should be part of the compact density rules. Unfortunately, at present they are not.
Agenda and minutes
The agenda (containing the reports discussed above) and minutes for this meeting can be found at: http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2014/2014-03-06.
A full Council meeting was held on 5 December 2013. The agenda was substantial (taking over the allotted 6 hours to be considered) and comprised:
- public forum presentations;
- freedom camping rules;
- port Tarakohe proposal;
- appointment of directors;
- Murchison visitor centre proposal;
- regional tourism proposal;
- parking and other traffic restriction rules;
- Saxton field transmission lines;
- Kina peninsula boat shed proposal;
- Water storage (known as the lee valley dam) project issues;
- Brightwater domain deliberations;
- Chief Executive’s activity report; and
- replacement of the mayor’s car.
All councillors were in attendance.
To keep this post short, I have summarised below the main items that took up most of the councils time.
A number of submissions were received – most on the trans-pacific partnership agreement (TPPA) and Port Tarakohe.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
Having received a number of public submissions on the TPPA council resolved to ask that staff report back briefly on the public’s draft resolution so that it might be considered at the next full council meeting. By way of background, the previous Council had already passed a very short resolution in September 2013 (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2013/2013-09-19) which was followed by a letter from council to the Minister of Trade (a copy enclosed in the agenda at p 309). However, the proposed draft resolution put before council proposed using similar wording as used by the Auckland and Nelson councils resolutions.
The Auckland council resolution (item 26) can be found at:
- http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Auckland-City-resolution.pdf; or
The reports and presentations that gave rise to that Auckland council resolution can be found at (item 26, pp 385-419):
The Nelson council resolution and minutes can be found at:
Council decided to direct staff to report back at the next full council meeting on the draft resolution’s consistency with the Auckland and Nelson resolutions, so that it could consider whether it wanted to pass a more though resolution.
Since then, Greater Wellington Regional (GWR) council has also passed a resolution (dated 12 December 2013) on the TPPA (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9513659/Council-wades-into-trade-debate). It is noted that the proposed resolution (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/council-reports/Report_PDFs/13.1049.pdf) and final resolution (reproduced below) were much shorter than the Auckland and Nelson resolutions. The final GWR resolution (dated 12 December 2013) states:
“That the Council expresses concern at the lack of information available on the potential implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for New Zealand and for local government and, while accepting that treaty negotiations are general confidential:
1: Notes public reports that the New Zealand negotiators, along with those from other like-minded countries, do not agree with a number of proposed measures including those pertaining to pharmaceuticals, intellectual property protection and environmental measures;
2: Notes that the TPP, as with all trade agreements, will go through the full parliamentary process and, once that is complete, any law changes necessary to ensure New Zealand’s compliance with the treaty must be passed by parliament; and
3: Urges the Government to instruct its negotiating team to continue to oppose measures that would have unjustifiable negative impact on the ability of local government to make decisions on a range of options including procurement that are currently available under New Zealand law.”
For information on the process of adopting a treaty into New Zealand law (see http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Treaties-and-International-Law/03-Treaty-making-process, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1212/S00035/treaty-making-101-for-ministers-bloggers-and-lobbyists.htm, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/50HansQ_20131210_00000008/8-trans-pacific-partnership—release-of-information, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/50HansQ_20131211_00000005/5-trans-pacific-partnership%E2%80%94ratification-process, http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/1996/05/Publication_38_101_R34.pdf).
For a recent update on the TTPA see http://werewolf.co.nz/2013/12/tpp-all-cards-on-the-table/
I’ve spoken to this topic in an earlier post. Essentially Tasman now has two freedom camping bylaws. One governed by the Local Government Act (LGA) and now another governed by the new Freedom Camping Act. Designated areas in Motueka have been selected for coverage by the new bylaw as empowered under the Freedom Camping Act. Other proposed areas (for example, Liga Bay) will continue to be controlled by the older bylaw empowered under the LGA, as is most of Tasman District. Council will be monitoring the application of the new bylaw to gauge its success and whether further role out is warranted (if at all).
This was a controversial proposal. The premise for the proposal was the removal of financial support from the general rates so that users of the port were paying for its ongoing operation, rather than ratepayers. In order to do this charges for using the port would have to be increased to make it self sustaining. The port is used by recreational users and commercial fishers (mainly mussel farmers). After, what I consider to be, a very brief consultation period (given its complexity and magnitude), it was decided that the original proposal would be softened. In effect, the impact of the proposed charges would be spread over a longer term (ie the charges would progressively be stepped up over a five year period) producing a working capital surplus by year 5 of nearly $300,000.
During council discussions I had asked staff if the projected working capital could adopt a zero surplus position (in effect reducing the charges so no working capital was accumulated). However, I was advised that without sufficient working capital no improvements to facilities or services on the wharf could be made (and this had been requested by community board members and some councillors).
I believe that council and the Golden Bay community still need to come up with a longer term strategy for the port to be sustainable. The real issue is the amount of business that the port generates (or does not generate). If there was more business going across the wharf, then there would be less pressure to increase port charges. In my opinion, if products (like milk) were able to use the port for shipping product to and from Golden Bay, rather than being trucked over the hill (causing road repair costs for the community), then the port (and our roads) might be in safer hands. The challenge is to make shipping a cost effective option. It might also be suggested that business activity around the port could be increased by providing the right incentives for new port businesses to be established and grow.
Tourism is another significant issue for Tasman. It is also a multi-faceted issue that essentially involves two layers of tourism promotion. First, there is promotion (usually the provision of information) from visitor centres within the region. This is the most visible form of tourism that ratepayers might experience or see themselves. Secondly, there is the promotion of Tasman to the outside world – both domestically and internationally. This type of destination promotion is pitched at attracting people to the region, rather than giving them information once they are here.
At present, tourism for Nelson and Tasman is managed by a company called Nelson-Tasman Tourism Ltd (NTT) that is jointly owned by the Nelson and Tasman councils. NTT operate a number of licensed “i-sites” (effectively branded visitor information centres) across both Nelson and Tasman. The most used and most visible being the Nelson “i-site”.
As part of NTT’s review of its operations, it proposed to close down two loss making “i-sites” – namely the Golden Bay and Murchison “i-sites”. At this point, its worth noting that a separate proposal for the continuation of a visitor centre in Murchison was also considered by council. In effect, the proposal sought to provide a visitor centre as part of a single central service hub that would be housed in a common building with other council services (for example, the council services centre). The recommendation was that a visitor centre needed to be on the main road. However, this is open to debate, as effective signage on the main road that points to a side road, only a short distance away, might be just as effective. It’s only when the journey from the signage to the visitor centre is more convoluted, that a presence on a main road is required. In Murchison, there is no danger of the journey being very long, as there are only a few side streets off the main highway through Murchison.
In terms of visitor centres, I am of the opinion that a single central service hub for visitor centres is the way to go. This would mean that NTT would not be required to manage visitor centres and council would directly fund them. A shared service hub, be it with other council services or the Department of Conservation (DOC) should provide cost savings, both from shared building space and shared staff. For example, in Motueka, a visitor centre could be part of the Motueka library. Similarly, a visitor centre could be part of the Richmond library or Golden Bay library. This would enable visitors to have access to computers to make bookings, as well as have access to library staff who can point them to the relevant resources. I should add, that this would not mean that the Richmond visitor centre on Gladstone Road would be abandoned (as its incredibly cost effective due to being run by volunteers), but rather tourism could be run from the Richmond library as well, for very little additional expenditure.
Bringing all visitor centres under the direct control of council is the direction that is being pursued. And I agree with that direction, provided it delivers cost savings. This would mean that half of NTT’s function (and funding) would no longer be required and that funding would be redirected away from NTT and back to council. Whether council wish to withdraw from the second function of NTT (the promotion of Tasman as a destination) is still open to debate. Certainly the resolution that was passed by council invited further consultation on the issue, although it also made it clear to NTT, that council was considering withdrawing all funding of NTT for destination tourism. To make it absolutely clear, the council has yet to make that decision.
At this point its also worth considering the council commissioned report from OPUS. That report examined NTT’s role and suggested that it merge with another agency – the Economic Development Agency (EDA). Whether that is a well thought out proposal is hard to gauge at first glance as there was very little in terms of evidence in the report to suggest where the efficiencies and cost savings were from such a merger.
In my opinion, Tasman still requires investment in destination tourism. The question is what entity is best suited to provide that service. Is it NTT or is it another entity. Of course there is also another question tied up with this issue, which is funding. Who should be funding destination tourism – ratepayers or business? In my opinion, if council is funding visitor centres, then from a position of consistency, council should also be funding destination tourism. Lets not forget, businesses also pay rates.
So what was decided. First, council approved ongoing funding of NTT for the 2014-15 year at a maximum level of $426,000 (which is what Nelson council recently agreed). Second, council undertook to directly fund all visitor information centres in the region for the 2014-15 year (and correspondingly reduce NTT funding to a maximum level of $170,000). Thirdly, council sought, as part of its consultation over the 2015-25 long term plan, consideration of a proposal to withdraw all funding of NTT. Whether this proposal is adopted has yet to be decided. Fourthly, council agreed to consider the Murchison proposal to merge visitor information and council services centres into a single hub. Finally, council requested that financial proposals for Motueka, Golden Bay, and Murchison visitor information be completed by 31 January 2014, so they could be assessed.
See also http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9518177/Tourism-body-threatened, http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9489922/TDC-set-to-pull-the-plug-on-tourism-bodys-funding, http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/opinion/9498567/Editorial-Fine-tourism-line-for-Tasman, http://www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz/council/news/recent-media-releases-and-news/council-commitment-to-tourism-remains.
Water Storage – The Lee Valley Dam
Council were also briefed on the processes and requirements council could be expected to follow when considering any future water storage proposal. As part of that discussion the chief executive had devised a memorandum of understanding with the key players to date. Namely the Waimea Water Augmentation Committee (WWAC) and a proposed holding company (Dam Co) that would be established by the WWAC. Dam Co would be used to apply for the various resource consents required for any water storage solution. Council was advised that wrap-around legal documentation with Dam Co, securing various property interests and rights for council, would be entered into between Dam Co and the council.
In my opinion, council should be establishing its own holding company, rather than using a privately owned entity, regardless of the legal protections council might put in place. This is because it shows to the public that no ownership outcomes have been pre-determined and avoids the need for unnecessary legal complexities. As history shows, complexity is the father of unforeseen surprises and this is not a project where we need surprises.
Appointments – Director of Airport
The council resolved to appoint Cr Edgar as a council appointed director of the airport. Cr Edgar holds a number of chair positions on council committees and is an experienced councillor. Readers of this blog will also remember that Cr Edgar was also nominated for deputy mayor at the first council meeting, which she subsequently declined to accept (see earlier post).
Agenda and Minutes
A copy of the agenda an minutes of this meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2013/2013-12-05