Tagged: Traffic lights

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.

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Engineering services committee meeting (13 August)

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

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

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

Public forum

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

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

Minor improvements

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

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

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

The 9 projects considered at the workshop are outlined below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I was voted down.

Engineering activity

Engineering activity highlights include:

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

MWH presentation

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

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

Agenda and minutes

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

Recycling centre – opening

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

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

Media references

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

Nothing like a little controversy

The Dam

The full council meeting on 19 February 2015 will be discussing the Waimea Community Dam and the use of the CCO. Those with an interest should read the agenda. This should be posted live on Monday (16 February) at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015.

Speaking of the Dam. There are many sources of crop failure. Drought is one. But it appears climate change is also bringing other extreme weather events that are just as likely to wipe out crops (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/cropping/65718201/storm-destroys-central-otago-apples).

Amalgamation?

In the immortal words of the castle, “they’re dreamin” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dik_wnOE4dk)

Amalgamation in 2018? Really?

In my opinion, we need more back room co-operation and synchronisation of operational systems and functions to make it cost effective. Given the experiences of dealing with NCC to date, that won’t happen in the time they have suggested (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/66138524/Plan-for-citys-future-laid-out).

Amalgamation is not a panacea. Empirical research suggests the opposite (http://press.anu.edu.au//agenda/015/01/mobile_devices/ch05s04.html).

Tourism

An assessment of the Economic Development Agency, Nelson Tasman Tourism and Uniquely Nelson is being undertaken by NCC in its long term plan. This could lead to the creation of a single agency with an integrated approach to promoting and growing the city. I think I suggested this in a blog sometime ago and certainly endorse this direction.

Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings

I’ve never been in favour of traffic lights.

Nobody likes to stop. And that makes traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, quite dangerous for people.

In my opinion, roundabouts are more efficient and much safer.

Cars don’t race towards roundabouts, as they do amber traffic lights, and that can only be safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Plus, with roundabouts, drivers get to self regulate, rather than wait for a pre-programmed computer program to run through its pre-determined light phases, that is unable to know if cars are present or not.

But what if we made pedestrian crossing more fun … could that make them a little safer … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB_0vRnkeOk

Freedom camping

I always found the title ” freedom camping” to be a very misleading label, given the attached conditions in the law.

On that note it’s interesting to read about other councils grappling with the same rules and their enforcement (see http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/332815/call-follow-resort-freedom-campers).

Environment and planning committee (10 July)

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 10 July 2014. Apologies were received from Cr Bouillir, Cr Sangster and myself.

The meeting agenda received several reports including: (1) Horse Terrace Bridge – historic schedule inclusion, (2) dairy farm effluent compliance, and (3) the environment and planning managers report. The council also received a deputation from the Murchison Community Council.

Horse Terrace Bridge

A deputation by Murchison Community Council on the historic value of Horse Terrace bridge was received by council before considering the staff report. The report recommended that the bridge at Upper Matakitaki be included in the heritage schedule in the next Tasman Resource Management Plan change.. The report advised that the Heritage listing would not require the bridge to be maintained beyond its expected life of 40 years. Nor was there any planned roading work. On this basis council agreed with the staff recommendation.

Dairy farm effluent compliance

Council received the staff report. The report outlined the compliance results from the 2013-14 farm dairy survey. In the 2013/2014 season a total of 146 dairy sheds had active discharges in the Tasman District. Of those 140 farm dairies operated as Permitted Activities and the remaining 6 held Resource Consents to discharge treated effluent to water. The final compliance results for all 146 farms were: 87% – Fully Compliant, 17% – Non- Compliant, and 1% – Significantly Non-Compliant and related to the direct discharge of effluent to water. Similar to past seasons, ponding featured as the most common issue of non-compliance in the non-compliant category.

Minor ponding is present after more than one hour has passed since effluent disposal (8 farms). In 6 cases this was less than 5m2, the remaining 2 farms had intermittent ponding over an area less than 10m2. In all cases the ponding was just deep enough to splash.

The one farm graded “Significantly Non-compliant” was a new venture involving re-establishment and expansion of a former dairy operation. The direct discharge of animal effluent into a significant and protected waterway form the effluent system forced the Council to prosecute with the matter now before the courts.

Managers report

The removal of land-based navigation aids over the last 18 months has raised some concern around safety in terms of navigation into some of our channels such as Mapua and Waitapu. However, teething problems with the floating bouys along the appropriate channel has now been resolved.

The Safer Journeys to Schools work program is ongoing with 5 schools agreeing to take part. They are: Appleby, Mahana, South Motueka, Brooklands and Lower Moutere. It is anticipated more schools will join the program.

Feedback from the community regarding possible speed limit changes closed on 30 June 2014. Over 110 requests were received.

Expenditure through the river maintenance contract with Taylors Contracting Ltd is estimated at $1,770,000 as opposed to that forecast of $1,884,000 (underspent by $114,000 or 6%). Rock bank protection work was completed in the Tadmor, Riwaka and Upper Motueka Rivers. The spray season ended in early May with nearly all river lengths completed. The native riparian planting programme began in early May with nearly half of the 14,000 plants now in the ground.

Five new signs have been put up around Waimea/Wairoa, Wai-iti and Upper Motueka at illegal dumping hotspots and staff are considering electronic monitoring of these sites.

Staff have put a hold on granting further subsidies in River Z areas as the remaining budget for this financial year along with $150,000 (50%) of next year’s budget has already been committed.

The Nelson Environment Centre (NEC), jointly contracted by Nelson City and Tasman District Councils, is delivering a waste minimisation programme over a three year period.

The first Second Hand Sunday event proved very successful, with approximately 200 households taking part (around 40 in Richmond). It is likely that the event will become a regular event and in future will be across the whole district.

One contractor has defaulted on their contract resulting in council defaulting on its payment to the contractor. Legal proceedings are being considered.

Ten subdivision engineering plans and as-built plans have been received. Seven have been approved, two have been returned to the applicant and one is in progress.

An initiative to improve cycle crossing on lower Queen Street has been placed on hold pending a potential joint project with NZTA.

More traffic lights?

Staff have identified that vehicles are using residential streets as a short cut onto Salisbury Road to avoid traffic signals. What a surprise (not)! Staff are investigating potential solutions. Hopefully, none involve more traffic lights! Although I suspect they will.

Staff need to realise that its the traffic lights that are causing the problems on Salisbury road. We need less not more of them. I’d like to see the Talbot\Salisbury Rd Traffic lights replaced with a roundabout as it defies any logic to be sitting at a traffic light early in the morning when there is no oncoming traffic.

I’d like to see Richmond as a town where we don’t have any traffic lights – and another reason why its better to live in Tasman. If towns in the UK can remove their traffic lights in favour of self regulating traffic management solutions – why can’t we.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2014/2014-07-10.

Traffic issues and audits

State highway liaison meeting (21 March)

The traffic liaison meeting was held on 21 March 2014 between the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and council. The meeting is chaired by the NZTA so an agenda and minutes are not recorded by council (at least I could not find a record anywhere on the council web site).

Of interest to me were two discussions. First, a truck effluent station, to be located on the old scrap metal yard near Three Brothers Corner (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9426081/Stock-effluent-dump-site-cominghttp://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8094223/City-to-build-effluent-site-out-in-Hope). And the second, was concerns raised over the efficiency of the Queen St and Gladstone Road intersection.

Apparently the truck effluent station was something Nelson council required, but were unable to find a suitable location. Hira had been suggested but proved unsuitable. An alternative location was explored in Brightwater (next to the stock yards), but apparently the local school held concerns, so this was vetoed. Accordingly, it was considered that the three brothers corner area was the best location as trucks would be coming or going to either the Brightwater or Moutre\Motueka areas. Mock up designs were presented and assurances were given that the projected 10 stops per day would not in any way hinder existing or projected traffic use of the round about. NZTA would also be looking to improve lighting around the intersection and access way to the truck station.

In my opinion, the Gladstone Road traffic lights (on both the Queen St and Oxford St) are a nightmare – the phasing is just wrong. A round about would work so much more efficiently. On this point I also raised ratepayers bewilderment as to why they were prevented (at least officially) from turning up into Queent St from the deviation. I was advised by council staff and NZTA that the Gladstone Road and Queen St traffic management system was being reviewed to make improvements. All parties acknowledged it was not working that well.

I also raised a question over the Oxford St intersection. In my opinion, the Oxford St intersection should also be a round about so that cars can manage their own way out of the petrol station as well as in or out of Oxford St. However, I was advised that the road width could not sustain a round about, so that idea had to be ruled out.  Similarly I think a round about at the Queen St intersection would be much more efficient than the lights. The roundabout in stoke (on the highway bypass) works very well in keeping traffic flowing. The fact a lot of traffic bypasses Gladstone Road’s traffic lights in favour of Hill St or Wensley Road shows the lights are not working.

Audit subcommittee meeting (26 March)

The audit subcommittee meeting was held on 26 March 2014. Cr King and Cr Sangster submitted their apologies. All other councillors (Cr Higgins, C Inglis, and myself) were in attendance.

As the information from the Auditor was considered confidential this meeting was closed to the public. Accordingly I am unable to report much on what was discussed. However, I can say that I came away from the meeting with confidence in our overall performance and reporting. Noting that our debt levels continue to be a major area of concern.

a copy of the agenda and minutes of this meeting can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/subcommittee-meetings/audit-subcommittee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/AuditSubcommittee/2014/2014-03-26.

 

The case against traffic lights – removing the roads to nowhere

As some of you will be aware, I tend to share my thoughts and musings on topical issues on my “greening tasman” facebook page (see http://www.facebook.com/greeningtasman). However, to ensure others can hear about my thoughts and ideas, I have summarised them below.

A traffic light obsession

Why has there been such a heavy use of traffic lights in Richmond?

Do we have to many traffic engineers looking for work?

The reason I ask these questions is the simple fact that we have a lot of traffic lights in Richmond. So many in fact, they we’re starting to look like parts of Christchurch. Yet, probably the most successful traffic management system Richmond has experienced is the roundabout at the Queen street and Salisbury road intersection. The design has stood the test of time and been incredibly successful and very cost effective. Yet there are rumours of its planned demise and the introduction of traffic lights.

The Queen street roundabout has proven that roundabouts work in Richmond. Given the communities drive for cost savings from council and the roundabouts proven success, I hope we do not waste our money converting it to traffic lights.

It also baffles me why more roundabouts were not introduced further down Salisbury road. Instead, we have more traffic lights, which as the case studies below show, cause more costs and time wastage than they are worth.

In my opinion, we need less traffic lights, not more.

Interestingly, several jurisdictions in North America have instituted policies whereby the feasibility of roundabouts must be evaluated for all new intersections, for existing intersections where traffic signals are warranted, or where capacity or safety problems have been identified. New York State is one example. The Regional Municipality of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is another (see http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/roundabouts-efficient-or-annoying/?_r=0).

Real life case studies

This brings me to the real life case studies against traffic lights. These case studies provide very compelling evidence for not using traffic lights. They show towns with traffic lights and then the effects after their removal. The case studies show improved safety and traffic flow. This is because cars slow down when approaching roundabouts, whereas they tend to speed up to get through traffic lights. Flow is also improved with a good roundabout design as the drivers are best able to self manage the process. As you will see in the cue studies, tacks of cars waiting to move to the next set of lights are removed and travel times actually improve.

The first case study is the regeneration of the small village of Poynton (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0).

The Poynton case study provides a compelling argument for why we should be removing traffic lights and using roundabouts. Especially in areas like the Queen street intersection and along Salisbury road.

Other case studies, for example the village of Portishead, have shown what happens when traffic lights are switched off or temporarily removed (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeryaK22ntw). If all this interests you then check out the theory behind these real life examples above at http://www.equalitystreets.com.

In my opinion, these real life case studies are a lesson for Salisbury road and Gladstone road.

 

Standing up for you

Mark Greening LLM, BA

Mark Greening LLM, BA

Hello and welcome.

My name is Mark Greening and I am standing for the Richmond Ward on the Tasman District Council.

Please give me you vote, so I can speak up for you, and our community, on Council.

I stand for:

(1) sensible spending decisions, so our rates are not wasted,

(2) fixing the big problems first, like storm water and those traffic lights!

(3) improving our water supply, not charging more for it,

(4) good town planning for all our community, not just property developers,

(5) investing in our libraries and recreational facilities for our youth, and those not so young,

(6) supporting WiFi and getting new ITC businesses established here, and

(7) a council that listens to your concerns, and does something about it.

Let me speak up for you.

Kind regards

Mark

PS: If you would like to know more about me click the “About” button above.

Authorised by Mark Greening at 52 Chelsea Avenue, Richmond, Nelson.