Tagged: Water

Engineering services committee meeting (10 November)

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

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

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

Public forum

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

Large developments

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

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

Undeveloped residential zones

Consented development

Development potential

Land area

Housing potential

Land area

Housing potential

Land area

Housing potential

Richmond

34.84

379

17.48

210

108.82

1259

Mapua

1.5

26

16.8

131

8.9

107

Motueka

10.5

124

6.9

85

38

496

Total

46.84

469

41.18

426

155.72

1862

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

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

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

Council received this report (no decision was required).

Renewal of water utilities operations and maintenance contract

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

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

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

Council received this report (no decision was required).

Minor improvement programme

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

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

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

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

Engineering services activity report

Highlights from the engineering manager’s report include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chairs report

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

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

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

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

Keeping our walk ways tidy – work request response times

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

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

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

Agenda and minutes

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

Draft minutes are available upon request from TDC.

Engineering committee meeting (14 April)

20160414-severerainfallevent-p49

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

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

Public forum

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

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

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

Richmond Car Parking Survey

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

Chair’s report

Highlights included:

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

Water services review and procurement

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

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

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

Water and wastewater reticulation – Mapua

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

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

20160421-tdc-mapuadevelopment

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

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

Rivers work review

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

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

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

Rivers contracts

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

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

Severe rain event

Council resolved to receive the report.

20160414-severerainfallevent-p53

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

Location

Total Rainfall (mm)

Aorere at Collingwood

298

Anatoki at Paradise

376

Takaka at Harwoods

267

Takaka at Canaan

336

Riwaka at Takaka Hill

254

Waimea at Appleby

124

Brook at Third House

145

Lee at Trig F

174

Nelson at Founders Park

105

 

20160414-severerainfallevent-p47

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

20160414-severerainfallevent-p50

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

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

20160414-severerainfallevent-p5220160414-severerainfallevent-p51

Road safety

Council resolved to receive the report.

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

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

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

20160414-crashes-p59

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

20160414-crashes-p60

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

20160414-crashes-p61

The graph below provides crash data from 2006 to 2015.

20160414-crashes-p62

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

20160414-crashes-p63

Engineering services activity update

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

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

Projects

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

Agenda and minutes

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

The Dam: Election Update

Given a series of articles have appeared in the papers over the last few months. I thought it might be worth recapping developments with the dam.

Consultation – a 100% funding model

The original proposal had council fully funding (100%) the total dam cost with the question of how ratepayers would be leveraged to fund it all. At the time the dam was estimated to cost around $74.6 million.

The cost was separated into three elements: (1) current consumption (40% of total dam cost: $30 million), (2) future consumption (30% of total dam cost: $22.4 million), and (3) environmental benefit (30% of total dam cost: $22.4 million).

dam-fundingmodel1

TDC currently consumes 15% of current capacity (or water extraction) from the Waimea plains (the aquifer). The remainder (85%), is consumed by irrigators. In terms of the current capacity portion (40% of Dam cost or around $30 million), ratepayers would fund 15% of the current capacity (6% of the total dam cost). This equated to roughly $4.5 million. Irrigators would fund the remaining part of the 40% (ie 34%) which equated to roughly $25.5 million.

The environmental benefit portion (30%) was originally proposed to be fully (100%) funded by the public. This part of the proposal changed after consultation – with 1/3rd of the 30% being paid on the basis of extraction, and remaining 2/3rds fully (100%) funded by the public.

The future capacity portion, contemplated TDC more than doubling it’s existing extraction (or water supply) from 6% of total dam cost (roughly $4.5 million) to 12% of total dam cost (roughly $8-9 million). In effect this would allow Richmond to double in size.

A 100% publicly funded dam was overwhelmingly rejected by the community. As it should have been. I was not surprised. It was totally unrealistic given the already burgeoning debt council was carrying. I suspect those advancing a 100% fully funded model probably knew that and were hoping the community would subsequently welcome a reduced contribution (33% of total dam cost). Moving forward, the public need to also be vigilant against TDC being exposed to an underwriting role – whereby council are left carrying the full cost of the Dam should the other parties evaporate.

Post-consultation – a 33% funding model

After consultation, council rejected a fully publicly funded dam model, but by majority (with Cr Higgins and Ensor moving the resolution, and Cr Bouillir, Canton and myself voting against it) agreed to provide $25 million towards a $74.6 million dam. This equated to roughly 33% of the total dam cost at the time. As Cr Higgins acknowledged in his rebuttal, the 30% environmental benefit portion was consistent with earlier water augmentation projects. However, in my opinion, just because one earlier project adopted such an approach, does not validate that approach.

Interestingly, a 33% level of funding was also consistent with an earlier (unofficial) funding model contemplated by members of WWAC when a dam was first mooted– whereby council would fund 1/3rd, irrigators would fund 1/3rd, and government would fund 1/3rd. So no surprise, where the Mayor, Cr King, and the rest of his flock, wanted the plane to land.

In my opinion, why should ratepayers be funding a disproportionate amount of the environmental benefit? In my opinion, extractors should pay in proportion to the amount extracted. Under this approach, ratepayers would only be funding 15% of the environmental benefit, rather then 66%.

Under this revised funding model – that the council majority arrived at, not the public – a $25 million contribution was proposed that roughly comprised: (1) $8 million for reticulated water (current and future water consumption), (2) $14 million for environmental benefits (being a 66% contribution towards the 30% environmental benefit portion, or 20% of the total dam cost), and (3) $3 million for establishing a council controlled organisation (CCO) and to fund other administration costs in establishing a dam (ie sunk costs).

Under this funding model it was not immediately apparent to the public how much water council was actually buying for the level of funding it was contributing. The focus was on the source of the funding. All the public knew, was they were funding about 33% of the total cost of the dam.

Interestingly, questions about the maximum level of public funds towards the dam (or for that matter, the percentage of environmental benefit to be funded by the public) was never raised in the consultation document. Instead a majority of councillors decided this on the day.

A revised model – design capacity of 34%

Earlier this year, a new model (design capacity) was proposed. Much of it is discussed in the Morrison Report (from page 53 of the Full council agenda of 31 March 2016). This was the first time water supply was explicitly tied to funding. The new model was also given more certainty using a P95 (95% certainty) estimated costing of $82.5 million.

morrisonreport-p95comparison

Under this model, it was much clearer what proportion of the dam council were funding, and what proportion of water council were getting for that level of funding. I supported this model in terms of greater transparency. It also meant, ongoing maintenance and operational costs were allocated on the basis of TDC’s proportion of subscribed (current and future) water capacity (roughly 12-13%). Although this appears to have crept up in the revised model to 18%.

morrisonreport-extractiveallocationmorrisonreport-costallocation

 

Under this model the total cost of the dam is attributed to the total hectares that the dam is capable of irrigating (7,765 hectares) based on the Dam holding roughly 13.4 million cubic metres of water. In hectare equivalents, TDC currently irrigates the equivalent of 620 hectares and was looking to subscribe to an extra 780 hectares.

 

Allocation Dam capacity Funding
Hectares Water supply percentage Funding percentage Total TDC Irrigators and other
Environmental benefit
TDC

2216

0.00%

20.00%

$16.48

Extractors

1112

0.00%

10.00%

TDC (15%)

167

0.00%

1.50%

$1.24

Others (85%)

945

0.00%

8.50%

$7.03

Total

* 3328

0.00%

30.00%

$24.75

$17.72

$7.03

Urban Water Supply
Current

620

8.00%

5.59%

$4.61

$4.61

Future

780

10.00%

7.03%

$5.80

$5.80

Total

1400

18.00%

12.62%

$10.41

$10.41

Other Supply
NCC

515

6.60%

4.64%

$3.83

$3.83

Total urban

1915

17.00%

17.26%

$14.24

$10.41

$3.83

Irrigator Supply
Current

3800

49.00%

34.26%

$28.26

$28.26

Future (direct)

1000

12.90%

9.01%

$7.44

$7.44

Future (indirect)

1050

13.50%

9.47%

$7.81

$7.81

Total irrigation

5850

75.40%

52.74%

$43.51

$43.51

Total Extraction

7765

100.00%

100.00%

$82.50

$28.13

$53.47

[*] The “3,328” hectares is only used for the purposes of allocating funding. Total extraction of “7,765” is based on actual water supply (ie 1,915 + 5,850 = 7,765).

Under this model TDC’s contribution is roughly $18 million for environmental benefit, and $10.4 million for water supply (current and future). A total of $28 million. Irrigators are tasked to find roughly $49 million, with NCC providing roughly $4 million.

The per hectare price for 7,765 hectares based on funding of $57.75 million (ie $82.5 million – $24.75 million, being the environmental benefit portion) is $7,437 per hectare. This is the cost per hectare for subscribers. TDC is subscribing to 1400 hectares at this price (ie around $10.4 million).

The use of the environmental benefit portion and the effect of a disproportionate loading of the environmental benefit portion on TDC ratepayers (roughly 70% of the environmental benefit portion is funded by TDC), results in the funding percentages being lower than the actual water supply percentages.

This means that irrigators are consuming a greater percentage of water (roughly 75%) than they are funding (52%), and in contrast ratepayers are funding a greater percentage of water (34%) than they are consuming (18%).

To put this new model into context, I have transposed the hectare equivalent’s across to the former first round dam consultation funding model (that had a 30:40:30 split in funding).

 

Allocation Dam capacity Funding
Hectares Water supply percentage Funding percentage Total TDC Irrigators and other
Environmental benefit
TDC

2216

0.00%

20.00%

$14.00

Extractors

1112

0.00%

10.00%

TDC (15%)

167

0.00%

1.50%

$0.50

Others (85%)

945

0.00%

8.50%

$7.5M

Total

* 3328

0.00%

30.00%

$22.00

$14.50

$7.50

Water supply (current)
TDC (15%)

620

8.00%

6.00%

$4.00

$4.00

Others (85%)

3800

49.00%

34.00%

$26.00

$26.00

Total

4420

57.00%

40.00%

$30.00

$4.00

$26.00

Water supply (future)
TDC

780

10.00%

7.00%

$4.00

$4.00

Irrigators

2050

26.40%

18.00%

$14.00

$14.00

NCC

515

6.60%

5.00%

$4.00

$4.00

Total

3345

43.00%

30.00%

$22.00

$4.00

$28.00

Total Supply

7765

100.00%

100.00%

$74.00

$22.50

$51.50

*The “3,328” hectares is only used for the purposes of allocating funding. Total extraction of “7,765” is based on actual water supply (ie 1,915 + 5,850 = 7,765).

Under the initial model TDC’s contribution was roughly $14 million for environmental benefit, $8 million for water supply (current and future), and $3 million for establishing a CCO (including admin costs). A total of $25 million – less a share of the already funded sunk costs. Using a design capacity approach the following diagram shows how the 74.6 million dam would have been funded.

20160331-fc-damstruc-74m

On 31 March 2016, the council (by majority) agreed to increase the contribution to $28 million ($25 million plus the sunk cost of $3 million) towards a P95 costed Dam of $82.5 million.

20160331-fc-damstruc-82m

Under this model, TDC’s contribution was roughly $16.5 million for the environmental benefit portion ($13.5 million plus $3 million sunk costs), and $11.9 million for water supply (current and future), which included the extractive contribution of 1.5% – less a share of the already funded sunk costs. Funding for the CCO appeared to have evaporated.

The table below provides a rough comparison.

 Dam (consulted) Dam
(Morrison report)
Dam
(re-proposed)
Total cost  $74.60 $82.50 $82.50
Environmental benefit  $14.00 $18.00 $16.50
Water consumption  $8.00 $10.40 $11.90
CCO  $3.00 ? ?
TDC funding  $25.00 $28.40 $28.00

If the uptake sought by WCDL is fully subscribed (4,500 ha), council staff have estimated there is a $14 million funding gap due to 1350 ha of unsubscribed land (or $20 million if NCC does not subscribe). At of present, around 3800 ha is currently irrigated so it would appear that irrigators are only planning to increase irrigation by an extra 700 ha.

morrisonreport-ha-costs

Given that WCDL only appears to have secure around 2,700 ha of subscribed land (because some of the current 3800 ha of irrigated land do not want to opt in) – the funding gap is even larger, with 3,150 ha of unsubscribed land, which equates to around $33 million (or early $40 million if NCC does not subscribe). Of course this all assumes TDC is happy to fund 34% of the Dam cost. The figures get worse for the irrigators if ratepayers only want to pay for what they are consuming (ie 18%).

morrisonreport-capacity

Key points

The environmental benefit portion is where the ratepayer’s contribution is inflated above what they consume. Had council adopted an extractor pays approach, TDC would only be funding 15-18% of the environmental benefit?

Interestingly, the media did not pick up on the disconnect between funding percentages and water supply percentages – a point I had emphasised several times during the full council meeting (see Nelson Mail, 1 April 2016). I was subsequently told by the Nelson Mail reporter, that they considered the public understood this. I suspect, that is probably what some politicians had led them to naively believe.

My own survey of residents, suggests otherwise. Many residents (but not all) do not realise that they are being asked to pay more for their water, than irrigators are. And when ratepayers become aware of the disconnect between funding the dam (34%) and the water they receive (18%), nearly all do not think it is a very fair deal. That in my book is hardly a fair deal for ratepayers. Especially when the opportunity cost (Plan B) is only around $15 million. And when you consider that ratepayer’s won’t be consuming 18% for some time into the future.

Some might argue that ratepayers benefit from future economic growth and will have the first call on water. However, if the dam is built there will be more than enough water anyway. So having first call, is more academic than reality. Leaving aside whether trickle down economics works (see The Guardian article), those at the top, get even larger benefits, than those down stream. Why should ratepayers be called on to help fund risk when they will not get a proportional reward for underwriting that risk? Surely benefits will still flow if ratepayers pay a fairer portion of the dam cost anyway?

I have no problem with business people risking more and getting handsomely rewarded for that risk taking. But why should ratepayers be asked to to take on more risk than they need too, without an equivalent reward?

Cr King has suggested there are a lot of unknowns with Plan B (eg, water harvesting), but the reality is that a resource consent is hardly going to be more than the $1 million already spent on the dam’s resource consent. In my opinion, its just an attempt to poor political cold water over some reasonable alternatives. So much for reasoned argument?

Irrigators are also getting the benefit of government funding (which reduces their cost). Not to mention the tax deductions that irrigators (as businesses) qualify for, on the interest cost of debt, borrowed to fund the dam. Something ratepayers generally do not qualify for.

Unfortunately, neither the irrigators, nor the mayor, appear very interested in securing a funding deal for the ratepayers contribution. In my opinion, the mayor is more interested in protecting the interests of some irrigators, than the wider community. That impression has come from numerous council meetings on the dam (often in secret), and the arguments and proposals put forward – nearly always in the interests of the dam company (and irrigators) over ratepayers.

So, does this sound like a fair deal for ratepayers?

Who is helping out who here? Lets take a quick reality check. This dam was driven by irrigators (ie, Waimea Water Augmentation Committee (WWAC) comprising stakeholder irrigators who wanted to mitigate the risk of drought) as they needed a consistent supply of water. That position has changed somewhat, now that rule changes proposed by council (affecting both water cut thresholds and water rights) come into force. Now everyone will be affected. WWAC was tasked with finding a solution for irrigators. It explored many options (and locations) but came to the conclusion that a large supply of water (ie a large dam) was the best option (in terms of the unit price of water). And only the lee valley could provide a dam of such a size.

From my own observations, very little research was put into weirs, which were quickly written off as to small (in comparison to a large dam). Yet those advocating the use of weirs have repeatedly asserted that they mainly assist in the recharge of the aquifers (the underground dam). As evidenced from the sudden drop in the aquifer water table, when weirs were removed from the appleby river. What remains unclear from this argument, is whether a weir would top-up the aquifer sufficiently (think a very full dam) to ride out a drought and longer water take reductions under new rule changes.

Another variable is climate change. We are expected to get more rainfall (see table below from NIWA at https://www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/information-and-resources/clivar/scenarios#regional). If this is true, then the trend to date, of more frequent and longer drought periods, is unlikely to continue. In which case, are we over-investing in a dam, when alternative options, might be more cost effective?

Climate variable Direction of change Magnituded of change Spatial and seasonal variation
Mean rainfall Varies around country, and with season. Increases in annual mean expected for Tasman, West Coast, Otago, Southland and Chathams; decreases in annual mean in Northland, Auckland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay ] Substantial variation around the country and with season (see Ministry for the Environment, 2008) Tendency to increase in south and west in the winter and spring. Tendency to decrease in the western North Island, and increase in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, in summer and autumn.

Another option that was written off early was piping water from the lakes. Again this option was never fully examined nor updated for new technologies, like plastic piping (used in the states), or taking into account the ability for electricity generation (from turbines located within pipes). In my opinion, these options need to be examined more closely, if funding for the dam does not materialise.

More recently, council (led by the mayor) has undertaken to fund 50% of the cost (roughly $1 million) of establishing a future procurement process, should the dam proceed. In my opinion, this is yet another move that front loads a disproportionate amount of risk on ratepayers should the dam not proceed, rather than those who benefit the most – irrigators. Remembering ratepayers are only getting 18% of the water supply and funding 34% of the total dam cost. Neither amount to 50%.

I could understand it, if we had entered into a joint venture (a 50:50 arrangement), but we have not. We are not expected to enter into that kind of arrangement until “Dam Co” (the irrigators investment holding company) have actually secured their part of the dam cost (roughly $49 million). Nor are we likely to in my opinion. I have received no assurances that Dam Co are able to raise anything. At best council has received letters of comfort (ie Dam Co think they can raise the money, but are unable to make any binding promise).

Further, Dam Co have barely secured any funds (cash or debt), than what they had proposed to raise when the dam’s total cost was only $42 million? In fact, I’m not aware of Dam Co raising any funds whatsoever. And until it capitalises (ie raises shareholder funds and\or debt), the company would appear to not be worth much at all. Information about the irrigators dam company can be found at the companies office (see www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/3365573).

I have challenged the financing of this Dam for some time (see 2015 Dam disclosure/, 2015 Dam economics revisited 2014 Dam decision on funding, and 2014 Dam consultation begins).

I strongly suggest ratepayer take a read of the Morrison Report and Agenda item (see Full Council agenda on 31 March 2016) for themselves – and get informed.

Dam funding model

I also note the continued questioning of the councils funding position (ie funding 2/3rds of the environmental benefit portion). I agree with Mr Horn, who says in the Leader (25 August 2016) at page 6 that “on a proportionate basis (ie based on the water take from the plains) ratepayers contribution should be around $12 million, not the $28 million proposed”. In response, the mayor has said, “the council and Waimea Community Dam Co Ltd are still working on the funding model”.

I find the mayors statement very misleading. I have repeatedly asked that council adopt an extractor pays principle to the dam, and on every occasion, the mayor and other councillors (who support the mayor) have opposed it. In march 2016, I challenged the mayor to adopt an extractor pays approach for all of the environmental benefit portion, when he sought to lift the ratepayers contribution from $25 million to $28 million, and he declined. His argument was it was to late to change? In my opinion, the current leadership has shown no willingness to change course. And to suggest otherwise, is very misleading.

Leader (page 6). www.neighbourly.co.nz/e-edition/the-tasman-leader/6575?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=e-edition_the-tasman-leader_2016-08-25_6575.

Tradable water debate

Since I am on the topic of water, I thought it worth while pointing to a broader debate over tradable water rights. Although my impression is that the debate is fixated on “ownership” rights.

RNZ (3 May) Nick Smith (National). See http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/73504764/new-115m-water-treatment-plant-opens-at-richmond

RNZ David Parker (Labour). See http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/304199/maori-have-no-greater-interest-in-water-labour

At present, no one owns water (at least located in the public domain). However, if you hold it (for example, in a bottle or storage container, that you own), then its yours. Generally, people acquire water rights by either capturing water as it falls from the skies, or applying for a resource consent to extract it from the ground (or river). The cost of a resource consent is not a great expense and is not tied to the amount of water you want to extract. The amount of water provided under the resource consent is generally only constrained by the science (and impact on neighbouring water extractors).

Perhaps removing water rights from the Resource Management Act (RMA) to a separate legislative instrument, that is better able to tie the amount of water to a unit price, requires some further examination. I wonder if water should managed under a QMS (quota management system), to ensure sustainable utilisation of water resources through the direct control of water harvesting for a specified geographical area.

Basically, rather than just pay a flat charge for a resource consent to extract a specified amount of water, you tie the amount of extracted water to a charge (like you do with the fishing QMS) – that charge then goes to the administrators of the water – to manage it. The base unit price for water would reflect the cost of ensuring a specified water quality level by the administrators of the water. However, the unit price could also increase depending on demand and supply in the market price (enabling water to be tradable, like the fishing quota). Thus the charging and price of water is tied to the amount of water, rather than just the cost of the consent. Charging for a the amount of water, (rather than consent) would incentivise more efficient water use.

 

Environment and planning (19 November)

Environment and planning (19 November)

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

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

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

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

National policy statement freshwater management

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

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

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

Wainui Bay mussel spat catching

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

Alcohol licensing costs

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

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

Period: 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Food Act 2014 – new regulatory process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annual Biodiviersity report

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

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

Environment services activity report

Highlights from the managers report include:

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

20151119EP-Rainfall-p78

Chairs reports

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

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

Agenda and minutes

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

Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Engineering services meeting (5 November 2015)

The engineering services meeting was held on 5 November 2015. Apologies were received from Cr Canton, Higgins, and Edgar (with the mayor arriving late). All other councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) chair’s report, (2) Wakefield development water development contribution, and (3) engineering activity report. A late in-committee (confidential) report was also received in relation to shared landfill services (York valley). There were two items in public forum.

Given the agenda was somewhat brief, I decided to ask a number of questions throughout the meeting. Much to the frustration of the chair (Cr Norris).

Public forum

Graeme Thomas, speaking on behalf of Richard Martin (property developer), spoke about his clients concerns with the Ben Nevis development in Wakefield. He raised a number of concerns that I will discuss below. He asked that the land be excluded from the contributions, or the development contribution be deferred until connection.

Martin Barlow spoke on behalf of the Mapua Boat Club. He raised concerns about the restricted access to the Mapua boat ramp. He thought the mayor had supported a range of solutions the club had offered. Yet none appear to have been implemented? Without access, they would be the only boat club in NZ without a boat ramp. They acknowledged the tension with health and safety issues (regarding public walking in the area vs cars and boats), but wanted a solution for the summer period.

Chair’s report

The brief report (a page of text) mentioned the pending draft speed bylaw review and the relationship with the NZTA’s speed management guide. Staff advised that the NZTA guide would have little impact on the review.

The report also mentioned joint land development manual initiative between Nelson and Tasman councils. This is an important initiative for ensuring the two councils better align. I asked the chair if a little more detail could be provided around the joint land development manual given its importance – perhaps including an update on progress, topics covered, or tension points. The chair refused, becoming very upset with my request. As I expected he would. However, I think its important council are kept abreast of developments rather than wait for a staff report at the end of the process. Its about being kept informed, so we can keep our residents informed.

Finally, my family want to share their sincere condolences with the family and friends of Paul Bennett (skipper), Jared Reese (Timaru), and Terry Donald Booth (Ruby Bay), who lost their lives at sea off the Canterbury coast on the FV Jubilee. Coming from a fishing family we are very aware of the risks of this type of work (as were they). These were three very experienced fishermen who were well known in their community. They will be missed.

FisherMemorial

Wakefield development water development contribution

This issue was discussed in public forum. Essentially, it concerned the charging of a water development contributions on a property development (known as Ben Nevis) comprising 100 lots located in the Wakefield area. The developer has been responsible for other property developments bordering this development.

The developer is installing “dry” pipes (for a future water reticulation system) as the development progresses. An extension of the reticulated water supply is planned to service this land in 2021-24 (according to the 2015 Long Term Plan (LTP). This was illustrated in one of the maps enclosed in the LTP set of documents. Until the site is reticulated, the developer is required to provide for on-site water collection, storage and treatment (as a condition of the developments approval). Generally, payment of development contributions is due when the development plans are approved. The contributions are a partial contribution to the cost of planned water infrastructure.

The developer raised two main issues (notification failure and a double up of water costs) to support his request for the development contribution to be deferred until connection.

Notification failure

The applicant argued that the council failed to notify the developer of any development contribution liability. He was unable to find any public notification or any information in the LTP. He also noted that an earlier adjacent development had not been subject to any contributions. Given his pre-existing relationship with council in relation to an earlier adjacent development, he thought he should have been advised of a change.

In response staff, acknowledged and apologised for failing to inform the developer of the plan change that created a new liability for development contributions. The issue would be addressed so that it would not happen again. However, the plan change (and corresponding development contribution) had been notified through the LTP process and therefore it was legally enforceable.

In response to questions raised during public forum, I asked staff to inform the developer of the location of the relevant plan changes in the LTP. Which staff confirmed they would do.

Cost double up

The applicant argued that the imposition of development contributions, as well as requiring the developer to provide an on-site water supply, placed a heavy financial burden on the developer, making it uneconomic to continue to lay dry pipes. This would mean that the council would have to dig up the road at a future date and lay pipes for the future water reticulation system. Again a way forward was to defer the imposition of development levies until the planned reticulation system was connected sometime in 2021-24.

This would mean that liability for the development contribution would lay with the property owner at the time of connection. However, owners could still opt not to connect. If an owner choose not to connect they would still be liable for the daily water charges (ie pipe maintenance costs), but not the water charges (as they would not be receiving water).

Decision

Council unanimously agreed that the development contribution would be imposed on connection. In my opinion, deferring the imposition of development contributions was the most pragmatic solution. This enabled the development to continue and for council to receive development contributions for infrastructure.

Engineering activity report

The manager’s report contained the following highlights:

  • Financials: I asked two questions. First, if the over spend in the transportation budget (ie operating expenses) was a timing issue (or not). Staff confirmed it was a timing issue. Second, if the financials could provide a similar level of analysis contained in the environment and planing (E&P) reports. The E&P reports provided detailed analysis of staff and contractor costs. Whereas, engineering did not. The question was put to other councillors. Unfortunately, I received no support from other councillors for more detailed analysis.
  • Health and safety: MWH and TDC managers are developing a safety training workshop for constructions site visits. Cr Mirfin questioned (rather rhetorically) whether this was at all necessary and wondered whether it bordered on over-kill. Especially as there had been no incidents to date in relation to on-site visits? Unfortunately the HSE Act imposes a number of obligations on council. Failure to show we have provided sufficient H&S training could expose council to potential liability should an incident occur. Effectively, training is a form of insurance against potential liability.
  • Parking strategy: A consultant (traffic design group) has been contracted to conduct dta collection and aid in development of a parking strategy. A final draft report has been presented to staff and a workshop for councillors is planned for early 2016. Public consultation is expected around March 2016. I will be watching this with interest. In my opinion, we need to be ensuring new commercial developments are providing more car parks (including under or within the development itself), as well as utilising areas on the fringes of the CBD, rather than widening roads for parking (at cot to the ratepayers). For example, Club Waimea have a large carpark that is under utilised throughout the day. Enabling them to promote a fee based carpark service would take the pressure off parking in other parts of Richmond. A similar arrangement could be developed as an income stream for A&P Society land. These areas could also be supported by a connecting bus service.
  • Digital systems (Confirm and Tardis): The “confirm” (asset) database has been altered to make it easier to operate (including a shift from printed reports to PDF reports). The “tracking and reporting of development information system” (TARDIS) is a web based multi-purpose relational database. It was developed in-house and is used for tracking subdivision and planning documents and was introduced to the resource consents team as a collaborative development. I asked that staff liaise with Nelson council when these opportunities arise in order to share and leverage technology. We should be aiming to align the same systems and processes in both councils to maximise cost savings and efficiency gains. There is no point reinventing the wheel.
  • New Richmond South developments: A request to relocate a storm water designation in Richmond South was received. I asked what this meant. Staff advised the request sought to divert storm water further south (along the bottom of the hill crest, parrallel to Harts Road). Land either side of Patons Road and Bateup Road has had its deferrment lifted, allowing development of 250 sections over the next couple of years. At the same time Bateup Road is being investigated for road improvements (for increased traffic), including under-grounding stormwater and road widening. I suggested to staff that any road improvements should give serious consideration to secondary flow paths (similar to the proposed inversion of Queen Street) as the Paton\Bateup Road was one of the 5 flooding hotspots in the 2011 and 2013 floods.
  • Fairise Drive development: Around 20 lots are nearing completion at the end of Fairise Drive. A new pedestrian connection will be provided from Hill Street into the new cul-de-sac. Lots adjoining Hill Street will direct storm water into Harts creek. Storm water from other lots in this development are to be piped via a detention pond. I asked staff (after the meeting) to provide me a detailed briefing so that I could keep downstream residents informed of planned developments.
  • Hill Street and Harts Road development: A proposed 33 lot development at the corner of these roads has been lodged with council for consideration.
  • Mapua water network: Major breaks on the Mapua water network have recently occurred. Staff are investigating and will be making a recommendation on the likely timing of an upgrade. Most likely bringing forward the planned upgrade in the LTP.
  • Waste: Recycling volumes continue to grow (23% up on the July to September period last year). This means less pressure on landfill. Landfill operations have focused on excavating cover material from on-site, and developing the next cell for refuse. Landfill volumes (for July to September) were 2% above budget.
  • LED lights: A total of 512 of 2400 lights (21%) have been converted to date.
  • School speed zones: 40km\hr advisory speed signs will be installed at 29 (of 36) schools. Priority will be given to 11 schools (Ranzau, Hope, Dovedale, Motueka Rudolf Steiner, Ngatimoti, Lower Moutere, Motupipi, Centrl Takaka, Brooklyn, Mapua, and Mahana) who either have no crossroads, are near high speed areas, and have no parking to drop children off. The other 7 schools are either on state highways (NZTA responsibility) or urban environments (low speed areas) where additional signage might be considered a hindrance to visibility. NZTA will be investigating use of 40km\hr signs for schools on state highways.
  • Rivers: Increased fly tipping (rubbish dumping) has been observed near the Waimea. River tracks between Appleby bridge and lower Queen Street may have to be closed (after the white bait season ends) to mitigate the increase.

I also asked for an update on the interim lower Moutere speed signage (discussed at the last meeting in relation to proposed footpaths). Staff advised that the speed signage had experienced a few glitches in providing data on road usage. It was hoped this would be available for the next meeting.

I also passed on an observation from a resident that the traffic lights in gladstone road were not sympathetic to motorcycles – and that this meant sometimes cycles had to run a red light to get across the road.

Unfortunately, the chair (Cr Norris) became quite upset with me asking so many questions during consideration of this report. He suggested that rather than ask questions in public, I should direct them to staff after the meeting. I disagreed and was not going to be intimidated by his bullying tactics. In my opinion, it was important questions were asked in public, so they could be minuted. Furthermore, preventing questions being asked, undermined the need for the meeting in the first place. I certainly do not consider my presence at council meetings to be a rubber stamping (or attendance) exercise.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/engineering-services-committee-meetings/.

 

Environment committee meeting (8 October)

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 8 October 2015. All councillors were present (Crs Bouillir, Edgar, and King arriving late), with apologies from the mayor.

The agenda items included: (1) residential density project, (2) residential building coverage, (3) annual bio-security (pest management) report, (4) coastal settlements groundwater survey report, (5) Ruataniwha and Motupipi estuary report, (6) river water quality report, and (7) environment and planning activity report (manager’s report).

I will summarise the topics that received the most discussion.

A confidential session was also held (before considering the above agenda items) to consider the proposed Brightwater plan change. The meeting was followed by a short workshop on the Golden Bay recreation facility building.

Public forum

The public forum received three presentations from Ray Hellyer, Max Clarke, and Max Rogers.

Ray Hellyer has appeared before the council before in relation to aircraft and resource consent matters. He raised his concerns over matters noted in a resource consent report (which he thought should be omitted) and the cost of the consents process (ie unnecessary meetings and peer review costs).

In response to Ray’s presentation, I am of the opinion that the consents process (and costs) is something in need of further review and improvement.

Max Clarke spoke about the Dam. He asked why a copy of the Beca report (which was commissioned to re-appraise the Dam price) had not been made public yet. He also asked if council had received the irrigators business model proposal (which the mayor had suggested at a Nelson Chamber of Commerce meeting in August, would be available soon), and when it would be made public.

Max also suggested that there was little support on the plains for the dam, because many cannot afford it. He stated that a WCDL representative (Nick Paterson) had told a farmer that they would have to contribute $1.3 million based on the size of their farm. Apparently the farmer did not sign up.

Max emphasised that it was time for the promoters of WCDL to “show us the money” after all, the promoters had constantly reminded everyone during the hearings how much money they generated. He also questioned if WCDL complied with the solvency test (under the Companies Act).

Max also opposed Plan Change 54 to 56, which he considered was “nothing short of blackmail”. He also asked if councillors had seen or read the document authored by Ron Heath that was sent to the CEO and mayor, or Fred diCenzo’s report (that referred to weirs), that was authored while he was employed at TDC. Max stated that these documents suggest that, through the use of weirs, the aquifers were able to store the water needs of the irrigators without a dam.

Max Rogers briefly addressed council, clarifying Max Clarke’s observations in relation to Fred diCenzo’s report.

In response to Max’s 3 main questions:

1. Reports. I have asked staff to locate and provide councillors copies of the reports and documents referred too above. At the time of publishing this post, staff were still attempting to locate all these documents. However, I have received Ron Heath’s presentation and the staff’s response to the questions Ron raised.

2. The Beca report. Councils approach to dam costing is to use a P95 approach, whereas WCDL appear to favour a P50 approach. The previous estimate of roughly $40 million for the dam (which the previous council had used) was a P50 price estimate. A P50 estimate means that there would be a 50% chance that the price came in at that estimate. And a 50% chance it would exceed that price. In contrast, a P95 approach means that there would be a 95% chance that the price would not exceed the estimate. And a 5% chance that it would exceed the estimate. The shift from a P50 to P95 estimate also saw the estimated price of the Dam move from $42 million to $75 million. In my opinion, any price review is unlikely to drift far from this estimated P95 price.

Council’s new approach to Dam costings is to adopt a very prudent approach to spending public funds that ensures that any risk of cost overruns are minimised. This is probably contrary to the approach of business, who might be prepared to take on more risk. However, if WCDL want council to be a financial investor in the dam, then they have to realise that use of public funds comes with such conditions.

Council is also in the difficult position of having to hold back on the public release of some documents (or selected content of some documents) in order not to compromise any future potential procurement process. Council needs to ensure that it will get the very best price – should the dam proceed. Again, this is all part of acting as a prudent manager of public funds. For myself, who likes to be transparent, this is always a difficult tight rope to walk.

However, councillors are regularly challenging any non-disclosure. I (and some other councillors), continue to ask for documents to be publicly released, so that staff have to justify any withholding of documents. This ensures documents will be released to the public as soon as it is prudent to do so.

3. Plan change 54 to 56. The essence of this plan change is to ensure there is no free riding from an enhanced water supply. The default position from earlier plan changes (if there is no dam) is that thresholds for water restrictions will begin earlier than before. Plan Change 54 to 56 provides that the restriction thresholds for dam funders will apply in a manner that allows them to obtain the water that they have flushed down the river from the dam (when restrictions have already been triggered).

In effect, the threshold for water restrictions will trigger at a later stage for funders, than non-funders. For that reason I cannot agree that it is blackmail or some form of funding coercion. Those who do not fund the dam, should be in no worse a position, than had a dam not been constructed. That is the fundamental premise of the plan change. My challenge to those who object to this plan change is to show where (and how) the rules do not meet this fundamental premise.

Submissions on the plan change will close shortly on 19 October 2015. Information on the plan change is located at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/plans/tasman-resource-management-plan/current-plan-change-projects/proposed-changes-and-variations/proposed-changes-54-to-56-waimea-water-management-security-of-supply/.

Residential density project

The Richmond residential density project was a one year project to examine how a high density housing policy could be managed (and implemented). The panel report (enclosed in the agenda), makes a number of recommendations.

While I agreed with the first resolution (to receive the report), I did not agree with the second or third resolutions that appeared in the agenda. In my mind, given the importance of getting this planning change right, council needed more time to get its head around what the recommendations would mean, and whether there was an opportunity to address some of the regulatory constraints identified by the panel.

An area that did concern me (which was not unanimously supported by council) was the suggested use of greenfield areas for high density developments. In my opinion, greenfield development should be avoided. Rather, council should be providing incentives for the development of brownfield areas (ie land circling the CBD).

Greenfield development diverts investment away from urban brownfield sites, and deprives existing urban centres of the vitality they need. Brownfield development can be characterised as a move from suburban sprawl to urban regeneration (see www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/15/greenfield-sites-cities-commuter-central-brownfield-sites). Brownfield development has also been described as “garden grabbing” (where back gardens are redeveloped). What we would call “infill” development.

To place high density developments on the outer urban fringes that are open fields (greenfields) just invites future additional infrastructural costs (eg, storm water expansion, and more roads to build, maintain and manage). In my mind, high density development needs to be near the CBD, where existing infrastructure is already present. High density living, close to the CBD (where services are already located), benefits not only elderly residents who want to walk into the CBD, but would also liven inner city business, from an increase in people. Developing higher density housing around the CBD which was already developed (brownfields), also provides an opportunity to replace old or poor housing stock, with modern, warmer housing.

In my opinion, what became apparent from the panel’s recommendations, was developers seeing high density development as a continuation of single level, detached, houses. Yet, this is not what high density housing should be about. I certainly do not want to see the outer fringes of Richmond turn into a sea of roofs – and nor do residents.

SingleLevelDensity

What they want is a lifestyle. Its why they come to Richmond, rather than live in Wellington or Auckland. They want open spaces. It’s why we have witnessed a growth in lifestyle blocks.

Unfortunately, it became very clear that established developers in Richmond had not got their head around a different type of development. They still appeared to see homes as single level detached homes. And the only way to perpetuate that paradigm of thinking was to allow higher coverage percentages over land, so they could squeeze more single level homes within the same land area they were developing. This also meant they could keep the price of such houses within the band of affordability (and sale-ability). Which is probably what is driving developers to ask for smaller sections and higher coverage allowances.

In my mind, high density housing should not mean a sea of roofs (from housing being closer together) and a loss of useable open spaces (because there’s only a metre of land circling the home). Its not about just infill developments. As one councilor appeared to think it meant. Thats just bad town planning, brought about by a simplistic view of what high density living means.

What it should mean is that the large open spaces are more communal. It also means that housing is not single level or detached. Rather it means that housing would be multi-level and attached. By going up, it means there is still open green spaces to enjoy, and the coverage percentage does not need to increase to achieve this outcome. The comparison between low rise (single level) intensification (from increasing coverage), compared to medium rise (multi-level) intensification is illustrated in the following diagram.

DensityCoverageCompare1

It’s for this reason, that I believe council needs to workshop the recommendations and to see the different possibilities that high density development can be. If we are not on the same page, then it will be impossible for staff to deliver the right incentives for owners and developers.

In my opinion, the main problem in Richmond is the under use of existing housing stock. And the presence of quite old housing stock. There are many residents sitting on very large (old) homes that have empty bedrooms because the kids have left the nest. These owners often want to downsize to a nice modern property, but there are very few new homes that are the size they want, in the location they want.

Why can’t council provide the right financial levers for owners to redevelop their properties and land (we are talking about groups of 6 or more adjacent properties) into a high density development (that might contain 12 or 20 modern homes, with large floor space), that provides the owners an upgraded home, perhaps also an income from owning a second home within the developed complex, and a profit to the developer from developing the land for those owners (by means of a fee and\or money from the disposal of surplus units).

I have seen such complexes in Europe (and Wellington). In some, they have included private tennis courts and swimming pools. In some, car parking is below ground level (beneath the complex). These are high value, spacious homes, in very good proximity to CBD services. Why can’t we incentivise the development of these types of complexes near Elizabeth Street or Edward Street areas?

The added bonus of this type of development, is it also opens up the availability of other housing stock to new home owners, as the owner shifts from their empty nest to the new higher density development. This takes the pressure of an expansion of greenfield development, that would further encroach onto rural land. And makes the need to increase coverage redundant.

Council resolved to received the report and sought to align any public consultation with the forthcoming wider Richmond CBD consultation process (effectively replacing resolutions 2 and 3, with new resolutions). This hopefully will give councillors some time to workshop the panel’s recommendations and for staff to come back with additional recommendations.

Residential building coverage

I found this report interesting. First, it started off on the premise that council had requested a plan change to increase building coverage from 33% to 40%. I was not aware of such a request, unless the reference to council meant council staff, or there had been a workshop I was not aware of.

I suspect it was a staff initiative following up from one of the recommendations from the urban density panel (discussed above).

While I agree that standardising our rules with Nelson (who already has 40% coverage rule) is a good reason to do it, having a different coverage rate is not something that creates complexity or confusion. Which is the purpose of rule alignment between the two councils. For that reason standardising the rules is not overly compelling argument. Furthermore, just because they have not thought through the consequences of their planing rules, should not mean we should follow them like lemmings?

In my mind, coverage of land was not the problem, nor the panacea. Coverage was a tool to address a problem, and that problem was housing demand and the availability of suitable housing stock. And that problem was itself due in part to a large part of the population sitting in large homes that were partially empty. Essentially, empty bedrooms they did not use (the empty nest) .

In my opinion, increasing the coverage percentage was not addressing the issue. Although it was allowing the developers to continue to perpetuate the development of single level detached homes. Basically increasing the coverage percentage allowed them to squeeze more homes into the same area of development. Thus ensure they had a product that would appeal to the desired price range. All that this would bring about is a sea of roofs and more greenfield development into rural land, rather than ensuring developers first explored brownfield development opportunities.

A sea of roofs is hardly the lifestyle that people coming to the Tasman region were wanting. They could get that in Wellington or Auckland (which is where many residents in the region have come from). If anything people were coming to the Tasman region to get away from crammed living. They wanted open space.

I also did not agree with the urban density panel’s reported recommendation that low site coverage was a barrier to achieving higher density (para 4.8 of the agenda). Density can be increased without increasing coverage, by going up, instead of out. The illustration below again shows the contrast (as discussed above). Medium rise developments provide for more open space that single level (low rise) developments that require more coverage.

DensityCoverageCompare1

For that reason, we should be putting policies in place to ensure open space is protected, not infilled. If the coverage percentage was not increased, developers would have to go up. And if we got our high density development rules sorted out, we would not need to change the coverage percentage.

Another argument raised by some councilors for raising the coverage percentage to 40% was the argument that the increase was not significant. However, if it was not significant, why do it?

In my opinion, increasing the coverage percentage was sending developers the wrong signals. Increasing the coverage percentage by 7% was just allowing a perpetuation of the current housing model into green fields (rural land) – but with something that looks like the low rise development picture above. Not doing anything would make development of Brownfields (existing residential land) a more compelling proposition. Especially if it was tied to additional planning incentives.

In my opinion, the coverage percentage issue needed to be considered in tandem with the council’s consideration of high density developments. They could not be considered in isolation. Because if we got the high density rules right, there would be no need to increase coverage percentages across the region. There would be enough housing stock for the 4,000 people projected to arrive over the next 10 years.

Council resolved to receive the report, and instructed staff to prepare a draft plan change on increased coverage, when the effects of increasing building coverage on storm water run off are understood.

While staff acknowledged that any increase in the coverage percentage was subject to better understanding of storm water run off (which is big concern for Richmond), I did not agree with this initiative, and I was the sole voter against it.

Annual bio-security (pest management) report

The decision for council was to receive the report and approve the council’s operational (pest management) plan for the 2015-16 year. Council unanimously did both.

The report identified councils: (1) pest eradication strategy (involving 13 plant pests, for example cathederal bells and african feather grass), (2) pest reduction (or progressive control) strategy (involving 18 plant pests, for example banana passion vine, old mans beard, and five species of fish), (3) pest containment strategy (involving 14 pests, for example ants, rabbits, feral cats, and magpies), and (4) boundary control strategy (involving 13 identified pests, most commonly weeds or horticultural disease, for example apple tree canker).

The report highlights a number of trends for each pest type. For example, trends in fish pest sites across the region show a resurgence of a number of identified pests in sites that were previously in decline.

FishPests

On behalf of Richmond residents I asked about the councils pest management strategy in relation to Ants. And for a trend graph for Ants (which I am still waiting on). And in particular, why the strategy was containment, rather than eradication.

Staff conceded that the ant problem was substantial and the cost of eradication was now, not only very expensive, but difficult to implement with any success. Its for this reason that the council no longer sprayed for ants along roadsides. The investment was not producing any substantive results to justify the expense. It was considered that the best strategy was to bait the ants during spring and that council would continue to inform the public on how best to do this.

I noted that recent news reports had showed that eradication had been successful in parts of the north island. Apparently, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) had used a sniffer dog (called Rhys Jones) to identify nests as part of a highly targeted nest eradication strategy. (The welshman in me loves the dogs name). And that this strategy had proved successful in bringing about a substantive decline in the ant population (see www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11522943). Apparently this has also been done with some success in Australia with fire ants (see www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-16/sniffer-dogs-help-fight-battle-against-fire-ants-in-queensland/6623876).

I asked if council staff were speaking with MPI. I was informed attempts had been made in the past to involve MPI in an eradication project, but MPI did not appear to be very interested. In my opinion, perhaps it was time to try again (with Richmond as a pilot project)?

River water quality report

This was an information only item (not requiring any decision).

Overall, water quality is good. With 13 of the 20 significant trends (eg pollution, water clarity, etc), showing improvement across the 57 river sites tested across the region. For example, the level of disease causing organisms has reduced in 4 of the 12 sites where such disease were present, water clarity has improved significantly in 8 sites, and concentrations of toxic nutrient ammonia has declined at 18 sites.

However, there is still room for improvement. Roughly 30% of streams in the region have low dissolved oxygen and high water temperatures. The presence of shade near rivers and streams would reduce this and improve water quality.

The full report on river water quality is available online (located at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/reports/environmental/state-of-the-environment-river-water-quality-2015/).

Coastal settlements groundwater survey report

This was an information only item (not requiring any decision).

The report showed that overall, there was very little change from past surveys undertaken in the costal settlements north of Takaka. As most of the surveyed wells are shallow, they are considered unsecure.

Bacteria testing showed that (24 of 38 samples) 63% of samples exceeded water drinking standards (1cfu/100mL ecoli count). Only two samples showed a greater than 250 cfu/100mL limit. In 2004-05, 68% exceeded the 1cfu/100mL guideline, and in 2006-07, 42% exceeded the higher 5cfu/100mL guideline.

Environment and planning activity report

Highlights from the manager’s report are outlined below.

Aorere river project

Congratulations to NZ Landcare Trust’s Aorere river project, which recently won the inaugural Morgan Foundation NZ river prize at the international river symposium in Brisbane. The project came about due to high faecal bacteria counts in aquaculture. Research and monitoring identified that dairy farming (not black swans) was the primary source of the problem. Improved effluent management resulted in improvements in water quality and longer aquaculture harvesting periods. Congratulations also to the many landowners (and council staff) who stepped up and played their part. Well done to all!

Wetland project

Roughly 60% of (282 of the 474) wetlands have been surveyed to date. About 90 of the 206 landowners who have been notified of wetlands on their property, have requested visits. Of that group 60% (56 of the 90) have been surveyed.

Climate change

The fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) has been received by council. Headline issues (based on measured data) include: increasing temperatures and sea levels.

Annual temperature for Nelson (1909 to 2014)

Temperature1

Relative sea level rise (1900 to 2007)

SeaLevel1

Rainfall and water

A recent NIWA report (see https://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/sco) has suggested that there could be a 10% reduction in rainfall over the eastern catchment (Waimea, Wai-iti, Motupiko) for next year. While there is a risk of drought (due to shallow aquifers), there is equally a chance aquifers will be replenished from a large storm. Generally, it takes 6 weeks for storage to be depleted before restrictions are imposed. Overall, aquifers are at a satisfactory level, with most at, or above, mean water levels.

Rainfall (January to August 2015)

Rainfall1

Aquifer status

AquiferStatus1

At this stage, given the wet spring and satisfactory aquifer levels, the irrigation season for the Waimea plains is in a good position.

Financials

We are 16% into the financial year. Overall, total operating income is ahead of budget (by $386,415). This is good. However, total operating expenses is above budgeted expenditure (by $4,626). Notably, the wage allocation is ($35,972 above budget), professional fees ($21,891 above budget) and overheads ($23,749 above budget). On the upside, operating costs are $81,466 below budgeted expenditure.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-10-08.

Media

(Nelson mail) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/72861781/el-nino-set-to-scorch-nelson.

(Nelson Live) nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2015/10/public-feedback-sought-richmonds-housing-density/.

 

Full council meeting (10 September)

The full council meeting was held on 10 September 2015. All councillors were in attendance.

The agenda included: (1) treasury policy change, (2) capital carry-overs, navigation safety by-law, (3) public transport regional plan, (4) speed limits review, (5) unmanned aircraft policy, (6) Nelson regional sewerage business unit, (7) economic development funding agreement, (8) mayor’s report, (9) Waimea community dam, and (10) CEOs report.

Two additional late items were also considered in confidence: (1) audit subcommittee independent member appointment, and (2) Waimea water augmentation project. I’m unable to talk to these items at present, as they were discussed in committee and have yet to have their confidential status lifted.

Finally, two items were raised in public forum – with one raising a very interesting legal issue.

Public forum

Michael Croxford raised (and tabled) an interesting question regarding the treatment of development contribution levies by the council. By way of background, a developer (being the “consent holder” at the time the development is approved) will normally pay the council a development contribution. This financial contribution helps fund downstream infrastructural impacts from the development or proposed infrastructure that the development would benefit from.

In some instances council might decide not to proceed with implementing proposed infrastructural improvements. In those instances, council refunds the financial contribution to the consent holder (the original payor). In this instance, the Motueka coastal pipeline was removed from the long term plan requiring council to refund the development contribution. In some instances the original developer (the “consent holder” at the time) is no longer operating or has been liquidated. If it is a company it is normally removed from the companies register. However, removal from the companies office does not prevent a company re-registering.

Michael argued that the refund of development contributions, should go to the holder of the consent at the time it is deemed no longer required. Accordingly, where the developer no longer exists, the refund should go to the land owner as the subsequent holder of the consent. Essentially, his argument turned on whether the term “consent holder”, could import a wider meaning from examining other provisions of the Local Government Act (LGA) or Resource Management Act (RMA).

This matter was subsequently discussed during the Mayor’s report. The outcome of that discussion was that the council felt it had discharged its duty to determine (to the best of its ability) the legal position. That advice suggested that the “consent holder” was the payor (the original developer) and did not include the subsequent owner of the developed land. As Michael had not received a copy of the council’s legal opinion, it was felt that he should be provided a copy, so that he (and other residents) could decide whether they wanted to challenge the council’s legal advice.

Kit Maling spoke to the Waimea community dam update report (discussed below) and tabled a document outlining a resolution from the Waimea East Irrigation Company.

Waimea community dam

This item was a second (regular) project update for councillors. At this stage the project has been in slow mode (to avoid unnecessary expenditure) as discussions with WCDL progressed. The confidential briefing to councillors, updated much of what was stated in this part of the report. Once discussions with WCDL have been completed, planned work streams should move forward a little faster. The proposed work streams were outlined in my earlier post (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/full-council-meeting-30-july/).

Work that can be expected to re-gather momentum once discussions with WCDL have concluded are:

  • formation of a biodiversity technical advisory group (BTAG) to prepare a biodiversity management plan (a resource consent condition).
  • construction procurement process planning. It is being suggested that a two stage process (that comprises construction and design planning, followed by price negotiation and construction).
  • business structure planning. WCDL has been considering a variety of options (prepared by Northington partners). Staff will present a report to full council in October that considers the various issues.
  • preparation and review of pre-purchase agreements with landowners. These are agreements that hold open the ability to purchase the relevant land (at agreed prices), without actually entering into land sales. Effectively, the council avoids having to purchase land until there is agreement to proceed with a dam.

By way of background, WCDL acknowledged council’s recent offer to share the resource consent as joint resource consent holders (a 50:50 ownership arrangement). This is a change from councils original arrangement, where WCDL were contracted to secure the resource consent on behalf of the council and handing over the resource consent by a specified date or the formation of a CCO (which ever was earlier). WCDL has attached several conditions to this offer which council representatives have since brought back to council. Hence the confidential session.

I would hope that once all discussions with WCDL are completed, that relevant reports withheld under confidentiality are made public. I will certainly be advocating for this to happen.

So where to from here?

In my opinion, the process is at a critical fulcrum (or tipping point). I believe council needs to re-evaluate its relationship with WCDL. It has become very confusing and the lines between council and WCDL are very blurred. This has resulted in a great deal of uncertainty (and confusion) about who should be doing what, and who should be funding what.

At present council is both (sole) funder and service provider. Council is carrying all the risk (hence the growing concerns of council about the escalating write-off cost). Those roles need to be formally separated. Council should no longer be the sole funder and certainly not the main funder of a water solution that is being developed for the primary benefit of irrigators (who will receive over 2/3rds of the augmented water supply).

In my opinion, (as I have said repeatedly on this blog), WCDL needs to capitalise (as an investment holding entity for interested irrigators), so that it can take over this project as majority shareholder and funder of the dam. Like all investment vehicles, it needs start up capital to come from those investors who truly believe in this venture.

Once initially capitalised, WCDL can invest in developing a prospectus to secure more funding from potential investors to eventually invest into a Dam holding entity. The dam holding entity can then fund the services (and work streams) it needs to bring about the construction of a dam. Council can then evaluate whether it wants to invest in the venture or not. And can also compete against others, to provide project management services and technical expertise.

The parallel issue of water allocation and restrictions

Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating elements of the dam debate for me, is the confusion surrounding the water management (allocation and restriction) rules – which are set to change. Hardly anyone I speak to understands how these rules operate or how they impact on the way water is currently managed.

In my opinion council has done a very poor job in communicating the changing landscape of water management. This should have been communicated by council well before it began its conversation about water augmentation. Because this is “the” reason why council is having a debate about water augmentation solutions. Ironically, council were the ones who brought about these change in the rules, by way of a plan change a number of years ago.

However, the good news is that council has got its act together and is beginning to have this conversation. As part of the consultation process for proposed changes to the district plan rules, council will be hosting 2 open days for residents to meet and discuss the proposed plan changes. These are:

  • Wednesday, 7 October 2015 at Richmond Council Chambers (focusing on urban water supply), and
  • Thursday, 8 October 2015 at Seifried’s Estate, Redwood Rd (focusing on rural water permit holders).

Changes to water management rules

There are three changes to the water management rules.

First, water allocation is about to change. Basically, the amount of water people receive is likely to reduce. For example, people might have received a water allocation right of 10 litres, but only actually consumed 5 litres. This resulted in an over allocation of water. To correct this over-allocation, council will be reviewing peoples actual water usage. The review will re-calibrate water allocations so that they equal actual usage.

This re-calibration will also have an immediate affect on the impact of water restrictions on some water right holders. This is because water restrictions step down from the allocation right volume. If the allocation right volume was higher than real water consumption volume, the restrictions had no impact on water right holders. However, if the allocation right volume is the same as consumption, then restrictions will immediately affect the amount of water available for the water right holder.

For urban water users the allocation right volume is virtually identical to consumption. Effectively council has not purchased more water than it needs. Whereas, some rural water consumers have. This means any re-calibration of urban water will not result in any change.

The second change is the threshold for imposing water restrictions. The thresholds have changed (by way of an earlier plan change) so that they bite earlier (ie, at lower thresholds). These changes are even more severe for water users who will have their water allocation levels reduced to historical consumption levels (or use).

The third change (currently being consulted on) is the introduction of a dual water restriction system – one for those who are allocated water and are funding an increase in water supply (a dam funder), and one for those who are not. Those who choose not to fund an increase in water supply, will operate under the above rules (ie, the revised allocations that are equivalent to historical use, and lowered thresholds for water restrictions).

Those that fund a water supply increase, will effectively have a system that imposes water restrictions that take into consideration the additional water being added to the natural water supply. Effectively, using a different water restriction threshold, so that they can extract the water they have added to the river, before restrictions apply.

If council purchases water from the dam for urban users (estimated investment of $9 million) then they are less likely to see water restrictions. It should be noted that council has voted to provide $25 million towards the dam. With $13 million (of that $25 million) considered to be the environmental benefit contribution that will be rated across the whole district, against water club members (those people connected to a council provided water supply).

As I have said in earlier posts, I consider that the $13 million should be apportioned between the extractors (urban consumers and irrigators), rather than imposed across the district. Adopting an extractor pays approach would have resulted in council only contributing roughly $14 million towards water augmentation, rather than the $25 million that council has undertaken to provide in the LTP (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/long-term-plan-meeting-full-council-28-may/). In my opinion, the community should continue to put pressure on the councils (majority) decision to fund $25 million of the dam cost.

Speed limits

The council unanimously agreed to release for public consultation the draft consolidated bylaws on road speed limits for the district (see the “attachments” document at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-09-10).

A number of changes to road speed limits across the district are proposed. For example, Ranzau Road will have its speed limits reduced. Consultation is expected to begin from 14 September 2015 to 16 October 2015.

My advice for people wanting to a submission is to read the attachments document. This is because the attachment document highlights the proposed changes (via track changes), so that you can quickly identify any proposed changes. While the public consultation document will highlight if a speed has gone up or down, it won’t indicate the speed it has changed from.

The attachment document also includes very detailed assessments and reasons for why speed limits were proposed for changed (or not). Those assessments include a recommended speed (based on model), additional staff assessments (that consider aspects not included in the speed modeling), and the working party recommendations (being Crs Norris, Dowler, Higgins, Bryant, and Sangster).

In relation to school zones, the draft bylaw proposes a managed roll out of advisory signs. The only exception is for Brightwater, where the Brightwater school zone will have the benefit of a reduced speed limit. This was achieved by the mayor proposing a separate resolution that proposed a speed limit reduction for the main road in Brightwater. A number of councillors were upset with this move, as it appeared to give special treatment to one particular street (and school).

While, I could agree with those councillors, that this treatment was not fair, I nonetheless supported the separate resolution, as at least one school would benefit from the proposed speed reduction. However, I agree with those councillors who opposed the mayor’s maneuvering, that all other schools zones should have had similar treatment. No doubt those schools will be making a submission to council highlighting the difference in treatment and inviting council to lower speed limits on their roads.

Treasury policy

Council’s current treasury policy requires any interest rate swap arrangements that are longer than 10 years to be approved by full council (which meets every 6 weeks). The proposed change sought to extend the delegated authority from 10 years to 12 years, to enable staff to take advantage of the swap market (which is very fluid at present), without having to wait 6 weeks for approval. Both the full council and corporate services meeting unanimously supported the proposed change.

This item was brought to full council from the corporate services meeting (held on 3 September) as the corporate services committee did not have authority to amend the treasury policy. This item was explained in detail at para 9.4 of the corporate services agenda (see www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-03) and discussed in an earlier post (see www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/corporate-services-committee-3-september/).

Capital carry-overs

Due to the nature of capital works, some projects planned to be undertaken in earlier financial years are either not started, or are not completed in the financial year they were planned. Often delays are due to weather or the cascading effect of other projects being delayed. This means funds that were allocated in an earlier financial year have to be brought forward into this financial year to enable the work to be completed or started.

Council unanimously supported the carry forward of $14.853 million from the 2014-15 year into the 2015-16 year. This does not have a financial impact in the 2015-16 year, as the funds for these projects has already been raised in the earlier years that these projects were planned to be completed. In the previous financial year, council carried forward around $20 million of capital projects. The reduction in carry forwards this year would suggest that council has made some progress in catching up on the delivery of these delayed projects.

A list of the projects being carried forward is listed in the agenda at page 15 to 23.

Navigation safety

Council unanimously adopted the proposed “Navigation Safety Bylaw 2015” which comes into effect on 14 September 2015. The new 2015 bylaw replaces the old 2006 bylaw. All bylaws are located on the council website at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/policies/bylaws/.

The new 2015 bylaw is the result of a review of the old 2006 bylaw that began in December 2013 and involved public consultation during early 2014. During that consultation period council received over 212 submissions.

Since the consultation period the government has further simplified the law. This has meant that the new 2015 bylaw does not have to reproduce all the rules contained in the parent Act. Therefore, anyone referring to the Navigation Safety Bylaw 2015 should also consult the parent Act (the Maritime Transport Act 1994, see www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1994/0104/latest/whole.html), associated regulations, and rules.

Public transport

The regional public transport plan for 2015-18 was received and adopted by council.

I took the opportunity to reinforce the communities concerns that the regional plan is not used to drive (forgive the pun) further road widening projects (Wensley Road comes to mind). In my opinion, any expansion of the public transport network needs to utilise existing infrastructure not place additional financial costs on the community.

For example, a loop around Richmond that uses Hill Street, Hart’s Road, and Bateup Road (which is already earmarked for widening due to the proposed supermarket development) would be more appropriate roads to use as they have the capacity to take buses.

Unmanned aircraft

This topic was discussed in an earlier meeting (see www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2015/2015-09-03).

Full council received and approved the interim policy on unmanned aircraft (also referred to as drones, model aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems, or UAVs). The policy should be read in conjunction with the civil aviation authority (CAA) rules (which came into force on 1 August 2015) and are located at www.caa.govt.nz/rpas/.

The council policy document is is located at www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/policies/flying-drones-and-other-unmanned-aircraft-over-council-land/. Essentially, the policy prohibits use of unmanned aircraft within 4 km of identified aerodromes (controlled airspace), unless permission is granted by the council.

In contrast, council has provided general consent to use unmanned aircraft on all other council land, unless prohibited. Prohibited land areas include: council offices, libraries, forestry plantations, Mapua commercial precinct and wharf area, various public and memorial gardens (such as, Washbourn, Pethybridge, etc), cemeteries, Motueka sandspit, leased land to other parties (such as, bowling greens, tennis courts, etc). If on doubt contact the council.

This policy does not cover privately owned land. However, the CAA requires unmanned aircraft operators to obtain permission from a private landowner or occupier before flying over private land.

Nelson regional sewerage business unit

Council agreed to renew the Nelson regional sewerage business unit (NSRBU) memorandum of understanding and reappoint the joint committee that administers the NSRBU.

This item came before full council because both councils failed to enter into a renewed memorandum of understanding before August 2015, resulting in the deemed discharging of NRSBU joint committee. The council’s resolutions effectively corrected this administrative oversight.

Economic development funding

Council received and approved the EDA funding agreement with Nelson council. The agreement looks to fund destination tourism and economic development initiatives for the Tasman region at a total cost of $400,000 per annum. These funds come from general rates. Nelson council will use the EDA and NTT (or other appropriate vehicle) to provide these services (and outcomes).

I note that the Nelson council has begun a review of both organisations and is not proposing to merge both entities (see www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/71888656/Nelson-economic-development-and-tourism-merger-could-save-100-000-a-year). I certainly support a merger as I have stated in earlier posts (see my discussion about tourism at www.greeningtasman.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/full-council-meeting-5-december/).

The council also established a liason group (comprising the mayor, Cr King, Bryant and Edgar) to improve accountability arrangements for service delivery for the Tasman district. In my opinion, this is an important element of the new process. Unfortunately the council in the past has not provided clear targets or outcomes for the Tasman district and therefore has struggled to receive anything meaningful in terms of measuring its return on investment.

While attempts had been made to target the cost of destination tourism to the commercial community (being those who directly benefit), rather than general ratepayers, the tools available to council were rather blunt (ie rating commercial land), and in the end the council opted in the interim to continue to use the general rating system.

CEO’s report

Highlights of the CEO’s report include:

  • strategy and planning. Council’s LTP consultative document was judged to one of the top 8 documents in the country. Council staff are reviewing the winning entry (and the other 6 documents) to make improvements for future consultation documents. Planning for the next financial year (including how we will consult with the public) has begun. A workshop was held on 3 September that discussed several issues including enabling the finance team to focus on forecasting (for the future), rather than just reporting on the past.
  • annual report. The annual audit process went more smoothly this year, with the annual report expected to be adopted at the next full council meeting on 24 September 2015. Appointment of an independent member to the audit subcommittee was addressed in a confidential session with the appointment being made by majority vote. The person appointed was Graham Naylor.
  • rules reduction taskforce. The government task force concluded that there were few loopy laws with many grievances stemming from service delivery and process problems. My experience has been that the interpretation of legislative rules by central government agencies is also an area of concern, especially in relation to health and safety standards (and there over zealous application).
  • people. Council are currently seeking 3 staff replacements. Collective employment agreement bargaining concluded with the union in August. This resulted in a wage increase of 1.2% for most staff – which was “just” within budget. A high level review of councils existing health and safety systems and processes has begun, with a view to implementing an improvement plan. Under the new Health and Safety Act councillors and officers have a duty of due diligence (ie taking reasonable steps to ensure compliance), but cannot be prosecuted for non-compliance.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda, attachments, and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-09-10.

 

Environment and planning committee and extraordinary full council meeting (16 July)

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 16 July 2015. Apologies were received from Crs Bryant, Edgar, and Mirfin. All other councillors were present.

The agenda included: (1) Golden Bay (Mohua) landscape project, (2) resource consent manager’s report, (3) contact recreation water quality annual report, (4) dog control policy and practices report, and (5) the manager’s report. Presentations were also received from the public and are briefly summarised below. At the conclusion of this meeting, an extraordinary full council meeting was also held. This is discussed below.

Public forum

The public forum received presentations from: (1) Gillian Bishop and Kevin McClintock on the importance of the Waimea inlet, and (2) Liz Thomas and Petra Stephenson regarding a rural land use petition that was tabled.

Golden Bay (Mohua) Landscape Project

The final report on the Golden Bay/Mohua Landscape Project was received from the small group. The rthe final report describes and evaluates 6 outstanding natural landscapes (ONLs), and 10 outstanding natural features (ONFs) in Golden Bay (Mohua) area. The draft (and final) reports are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/tasman/projects/environmental-projects/golden-bay-landscape-project/. At the time of writing this post, the final report had not yet been uploaded. It is expected to be uploaded once council has considered it as part of a plan change consultation workshop.

Changes to the draft report include a more detailed description of the qualities of the ONLs andONFs and a clearer narrative explaining how the Small Group came to its view in relation to each ONL and ONF. The biggest change from the draft report is a reduction in the number of ONFs. Many of them are now included within ONLs.

I took the opportunity to congratulate the small group for their efforts. It was always going to be a difficult process that had caused a great deal of robust discussion (and tension) amongst the group. I thanked them for their efforts in having that debate on behalf of the public.

Council resolved to support option 1 in the agenda, and hold a workshop in September 2015 in preparation for a draft plan change and public consultation on the proposed designations in early 2016.

The reasons for the project are summarised at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/tasman/projects/environmental-projects/golden-bay-landscape-project/golden-bay-landscapes-project-plan/. Essentially, its a statutory obligation of council.

Resource consents

The manager’s report presented a summary of the resource consents team performance for the 2014-15 year. A total of 1,319 applications were lodged, with 38 being withdrawn or cancelled, and 56 incomplete applications being returned. A total of 1,097 applications were completed.

Of the 1,097 applications completed 7 hearings were required. Of the 69 publicly or limited notified applications, 7 were able to be granted without a hearing because all issues were resolved.

Applications Lodged During 2014-2015 Year

Category 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15

Certificate of Compliance

2

10

6

4

7

3

Coastal

20

21

16

55

36

17

Discharge

124

202

133

152

171

231

Water

61

247

134

173

189

349

Land Use District

431

478

548

474

438

480

Land Use Regional

141

31

42

35

36

39

Designation

10

4

0

2

0

5

Outline Plan

19

15

14

6

8

15

Subdivision

188

137

151

120

130

131

Rights of Way

9

13

8

6

12

12

Totals 1,005 1,158 1,052 1,027 1,027 1,319

A total of 484 (45%) of all resource consent applications completed, had time extensions applied, 70% of those at the request of or with agreement from the applicants. 41% of non-notified applications had time extensions applied in the 2014-2015 year, compared with 24% in 2013-2014. 80% of the notified applications completed during 2014-2015 had time extensions applied, compared with 70% in 2013-2014.

For the 2014-2015 year, there were 7 non-notified applications involving 12 consents that were completed out of time, resulting in 7 fee discounts. These discounts totalled $3,000 excluding GST (compared with $436 in 2011-12, and $3,000 in 2012-13 years).

Timeliness of Non-notified Applications

NonNotified2015

Timeliness of Public and Limited Notified Applications

PublicNotified2015

Contact Recreation Water Quality Annual Report

Tasman District Council has monitored swimming holes and coastal beaches since the mid 1990s in accordance with national guidelines and responsibilities under s 35 of the Resource Management Act. A total of 11 sites (7 freshwater and 4 marine) were sampled for faecal indicator bacteria between November 2014 and March 2015.

There were a total of 11 exceedances of national guidelines, out of a total of 221 samples taken. All marine sites except Pohara were fully compliant this season in all weather.

Pohara Beach exceeded four times in dry weather. After sampling at a total of 4 sites along Pohara beach it was found that the beach water contamination originated from the Pohara Creek plume and that it only spread as far west as the campground boat ramp at worst. Pohara Creek was confirmed as a potential source of this contamination in 2005-2006 and again this season.

A sanitary survey was successfully undertaken over the 2006-07 summer. A significant faecal discharge was discovered and the household’s sewerage system was repaired to ensure it connected with the municipal system in 2006.

In 2015, sewage and stormwater pipes from several key properties were dye tested and sewer lines inspected. No obvious source of faecal contamination was found. The source of contamination remains unknown. Staff will be taking a fresh approach to testing in 2016.

Laboratory costs of around $12,000 made up the vast majority of the annual budget apart from staff time and vehicle running costs. Summer student employees do most of the fieldwork required.

Coastal beach locations

WaterQuality2015_1

Red results are over alarm levels (>280 Enterococci/100ml) and orange results are in the alert range (140-280 Enterococci/100ml).

Freshwater locations

WaterQuality2015_2

Red results are over alarm levels (>550 E. coli/100ml) and orange results are in the alert range (260-550 E. coli/100ml).

Sampling results (and locations) are displayed on a council webpage located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/environment/water/swimming-water-quality/.

Results for toxic algae monitoring in the regions rivers in are displayed on the councils webpage located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/framework/main.php/water/rivers/river-water-quality/monitoring-toxic-algae/?url=/environment/water/rivers/river-water-quality/monitoring-toxic-algae/.

Dog Control Policy and Practices

The Council reviewed its Dog Control Policy and Bylaw in 2014 adopting the Dog Control Policy 2014 and Dog Control Bylaw 2014 on the 18 September 2014.

Number of dog owners in the district is 6,778 (including probationary owners 1, disqualified owners 0). The number of registered dogs in the district is 10,391(comprising rural dogs 5,663 and urban dogs 4,728).

The number of dogs classified as dangerous was 9. The number of dogs classified as menacing was 68. A toital of 119 infringement notices were issued. The report provides a detailed summary of the types of complaints received by council.

Recently, dog control services had put out for tender and awarded to Control Services Nelson Ltd.

30 June 2015 was the deadline for registrations. At the time of the report, 70% of dogs had been registered. Penalties for late registration would be added in August.

Overall, dog control appears good, with very few incidents considering the number of dogs and dog owners in the region.

Manager’s report

Highlights of the report include:

  • Aquaculture. The Ministry of Primary Industries announced (on 5 June 2015) 2011 ha of new space available for aquaculture in the region. Council will need work with iwi and marine farmers to identify and allocate 20% of the space, as part of the settlement of Maori claims to commercial aquaculture.
  • National Environmental Standard on Plantation Forestry. The new standards propose standardising RMA rules for forestry activities across the country. In my opinion, while this might be beneficial for large forestry operations that cross a number of different regions (with different rules and plans), it fails to reflect the different environmental conditions of those different regions – which is the basis of the concept of sustainable development and management (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/71259064/nelson-city-council-submits-to-national-forestry-standards and http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/70328763/forestry-standards-will-harm-regions-biodiversity). Staff were asked to draft a submission on the proposal.
  • Water quality advisory groups. Waimea Flag and Takaka Flag have released its overall water management objectives for feedback. The Waimea Flag group is currently focussing on understanding more about potential changes to nitrate leaching under different land use patterns and the effect this has on the aquifer water quality in relation to the drinking water standards. Councilors raised questions over costs and staff undertook to report back on the issue.
  • Low impact design. On 2 June, a discussion workshop was held in Takaka about what is commonly referred to as low impact design (LID) standards for land development and its relevancy to the Rural Land Use and Subdivision Draft Plan Change 54. Crs Bouillir and Ensor were in attendance.
  • Development contribution refunds. Refunds are to be made to those people who paid contributions now that Coastal Tasman pipeline project has been removed from the LTP. The sum of the refunds is $915,967 and the credits total a further $37,442.
  • Dam safety regulations. The Government has decided that dam safety is better suited to being managed under the Resource Management Act (RMA) rather than the Building Act. Accordingly, the Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2008 have been revoked under the Building (Dam Safety) Revocation Order 2015, with effect from 30 June 2015.
  • Spa pool exemption. Section 6 of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act allows the council to allow an exemption from fencing by way of resolution where the exemption would not significantly increase the level of danger. Staff consider that spa pools with lockable covers would comply with the exemption test. In the spirit of removing unnecessary red tape, council resolved to provide an exemption from fencing a spa pool with a lockable lid.
  • Water data. The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) web site has recently been upgraded to include real-time data on river flow, groundwater and rainfall levels at over 1000 sites around New Zealand (see http://www.lawa.org.nz).
  • Air quality. Only 2 exceedences of the National Environmental Standard occured this winter in the Richmond.
  • House insultation rates subsidy. The Council has been operating the Warm Tasman Voluntary Targeted Rate (VTR) scheme programme since 2010. This programme enabled home owners to apply for a voluntary rate on their property that paid for the costs of upgrading insulation or upgrading a wood burner in the Richmond Airshed. The number of applications had dropped away over the last few years to 14 in 2014-15 (20 applications in 2013-14). Staff recommended terminating the scheme. The basis for this was the cost of administering the scheme. In my opinion, the argument was unconvincing. Numbers had dropped away, which meant very little time was actually spent on administering the scheme. On this basis, there seemed to be little gained in terminating the scheme. The majority of council resolved to terminate the scheme.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-07-16.

Extraordinary full council meeting

The meeting was a result of a request under section 2.15 of standing orders. The meeting was to discuss the full council’s prior decision to dispose of the portable seating on 18 June 2015. I was not present at that meeting as I was in the UK attending my brothers wedding. However, I was intrigued to see another instance of councillors re-litigating earlier decisions of council. This discussion was confidential as was the discussion on 18 June 2015. Although I really could not see why it could not have been held in public.

The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2015/2015-07-16.

The Dam – public consultation begins

Please make sure you have your say on the proposed Waimea Community Dam (formerly known as the “Lee Valley Dam”).

Some time ago (after the 2001 drought), the Waimea Water Augmentation Committee (WWAC) was formed, with a brief from the council ” To find a solution to acute water shortage on the Waimea Plains”.

After more than a decade of research and investigation, WWAC has proposed to council a solution – the construction of a Dam.

This is a supply side solution (ie store more water), not a demand side solution (eg reduce demand for water through pricing and more efficient allocation).

The WWAC proposal involves, not only the cost of construction, but also ownership and governance considerations. The funding and governance proposals are the ones being considered first. Once these have been decided, the decisions on whether a Dam is built or not will be decided after consultation on the Long Term Plan in 2015.

Make sure you speak up. If you do not, then you will be approving the preferred governance and funding options, as voted for by the majority (not all) of council.

All information (ie history and research reports) on the Dam proposal, including public consultation documents on funding and governance, can be found at http://www.waimeacommunitydam.co.nz. Alternatively, the consultation documents can be found at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/public-consultation/proposed-waimea-community-dam-funding-and-governance-options/.

See also, frequently asked questions (at http://www.waimeacommunitydam.co.nz/faq/) and WWAC’s June 2013 presentation to the Chamber of Commerce at http://commerce.org.nz/files/2013/05/Julian-Raine-Lee-Valley-Dam.pdf and http://www.eda.co.nz/edanew/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Murray-King-Presentation.pdf and http://www.mpi.govt.nz/agriculture/funding-programmes/community-irrigation-fund/community-irrigation-fund-funded-projects/cif-project-detail-design-lee-valley-community.

Update!

New NZIER economic analysis on the dam proposal was released (on 24 October 2014). See http://www.eda.co.nz/business/reports/#WAIMEA%20DAM.  New NZIER analysis on the public-private benefits of the dam was released (on 24 October 2014). See  http://www.waimeacommunitydam.co.nz/assets/Uploads/files/NZIERHowtopayforadam221014.pdf

Other information

Waitaki District Council, Post-Dam Social and Economic Benefits Study. See http://www.waitaki.govt.nz/Media%20Releases/WDC%20and%20NOIC%20Media%20Release%2017%20July%202014%20-%20Irrigation%20drives%20positive%20social%20outcomes%20in%20Waitaki%20district.pdf

The Government announces “Investment in regional water infrastructure will continue, to help these projects get underway. New water storage and irrigation projects can make land more productive and boost exports, while at the same time providing positive environmental outcomes”. But will this be via loans or grants? See http://beehive.govt.nz/speech/speech-throne-2.

Press releases

“The Lee Valley dam must be affordable,” says Martin O’Connor, Federated Farmers Nelson provincial president (24 October 2014). See http://www.fedfarm.org.nz/publications/media-releases/article.asp?id=1910#.VEmx-b46XQd

http://business.scoop.co.nz/2014/10/24/lee-valley-dam-must-be-affordable/

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/257646/not-everyone-happy-about-dam-plan

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/lifestyle-entertainment/primary-focus/9117060/Low-users-lead-opposition-to-Lee-Valley-dam

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10538732/Waimea-dam-price-soars-to-70-million

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10319419/Dam-bust-low-but-300-homes-face-risk

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10694343/Paying-for-dam-a-poser

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10694348/NCC-seeks-voice-in-dams-use

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10710303/Debate-over-dam-rages-on

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10715894/Comment-process-for-dam-under-fire

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63197958/Council-case-for-funding-dam-disputed

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63151591/Tasman-may-sell-assets-to-finance-dam

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63265996/Green-MP-urges-rethink-on-dam

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63440849/Dam-plan-based-on-bad-data

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63505249/User-pays-model-favoured-for-dam

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63585909/More-to-dam-than-money-hearing-told

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63631124/Objections-grow-to-funding-plan

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63859029/Time-for-pause-in-dam-process

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/63934082/Users-should-pay-for-Waimea-water

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/64007145/Don-t-add-to-debt-with-scary-dam

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/64041718/Pressure-builds-on-council-over-dam

Corporate services committee (5 June)

 

The corporate services committee meeting was held on 5 June 2014. Apologies were received from Mayor Kempthorne, Crs Dowler, Canton, and Inglis.

The meeting agenda received several reports including: (1) the corporate mangers report, (2) financial and treasure report, and (3) the shareholders report on Port Nelson. Within these reports a number of topics were discussed which I will highlight below. These include: (1) rating review compliance, (2) audit fees, (3) the corporate teams financial performance, (4) health and safety legislation (and its impact on the volunteers), and (5) the financial position of council.

A confidential session was held to discuss the minutes of the joint shareholders committee (involving TDC and NCC who are the joint shareholders of various entities such as Port Nelson, the Airport, and NTT).

Rating review

As some will be aware, the government recently passed a regulation to validate the imposition of rates in parts of Tasman, due to a failure to follow the correct rating process (see http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/local/2014/0001/latest/DLM4980307.html?search=qs_act%40bill%40regulation%40deemedreg_rating+validation+tasman_resel_25_h&p=1&sr=1). In order that this event does not happen again, council staff are reviewing council processes and will be taking legal advice on some matters to ensure rates are compliant with statutory requirements. Any changes will be incorporated into the Funding Impact Statement for the 2014-15 Annual Plan.

Areas being examined include: the richmond and motueka business rate, lump sum targeted rates, the definition of “separately used and inhabited part”, partitioning, the rating of dams, and disclosure of some targeted rates.

A consequence of this review might involve council considering a new rating remission policy for certain activities or assets. For example, it might be that assets, thought exempt from rates, may have to be rated by law. To maintain the same fiscal outcome, the council will then have to consider whether it wants to remit the rates for such an asset through a new remissions policy.

Audit fees

Annual audit fees are to increase by $3,800 from $115,206 (for the 2012-13 period) to $117,800 (for 2013-14 period). This comprises an inflation adjustment of $1,800 plus an additional $2,000 for the increasing scope of the audit, due to Local Government Act changes

Corporate team

The corporate team has undergone restructuring over the last year with the team being divided into three groups and the addition of some staff (which has been reported in earlier posts). In my opinion, the financial result of the restructure has had a positive impact on the financial management of council (and the team itself). For April 2014, the corporate services team reported a saving of $228,000 against forecasted budgets for this time of year from reduced operating expenditure.

Health and Safety

The Health and Safety Reform Bill is currently before select committee (see http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2014/0192/latest/DLM5976660.html). Submissions on the Bill closed on 9 May 2014. The Bill makes a number of proposed changes to the current law, including extending the definition of workers to include volunteers. While the existing Act requires employers to take all practicable steps to ensure volunteer’s health and safety is met, an employer will not commit an offence if they fail to do so. The proposed changes will mean employers will commit and offence if they fail to do so. This change may have a significant impact on the use of volunteers. For example, volunteers will be required to undergo health and safety training that would have only been provided to employed staff. This will place additional costs on any organisation using volunteers. Local Government NZ has asked that the current law is retained and the proposed changes are not made. Watch this space for further developments.

Financial and treasury performance

As at 31 March 2014, the council’s working capital was $3.346 million (compared to the year end forecast position of $4.4 million). Capital expenditure for the year to date of $14.4 million is also under budget. However, the positive variance is just timing, with capital expenditure on the Richmond Water Treatment plant to start in May which should return the amount of capital expenditure to budgeted levels.

Total income for council is $5.056 million ahead of forecasted budget for this time of year. Expenditure is also showing a positive variance of $370,00 below forecasted budget for this time of year. The net position is an accounting surplus of $9.068 million against forecasted budget of $3.662 million for this time of year. Outstanding debts remains higher than last year as some larger invoices have been questioned. This will need to be monitored. The March 2014 statements can be found at page 28 of the agenda.

As at 30 April 2014, the council’s total debt was $148.82 million. This is close to what is expected to be our end of year debt position for the 2013-14 year. Paying a weighted average interest rate of 5.161%. In lay terms, we are paying around $8 million in interest per year. With each ratepayer holding around $4,000 in debt each. At this time, the council had $130.78 million (88% of total debt) of interest rate swaps in place. In lay terms, this locks in our interest payments for set periods. However, as swaps mature, interest rate pressures will probably see new swaps negotiated at higher interest rates. At present, 70% of council debt matures before 30 June 2015. This could provide a financial bow wave for council in the future and will need to be carefully managed. Helpful table illustrating the councils debt is found on page 34 of the agenda.

As stated above, councils year end debt position (that June 2014) is expected to be around $148 million (thats $2-3 million lower than projections made in January this year). Projected debt (see full council annual plan discussions) at the end of the 2014-15 year (thats June 2015) is expected to be around $171 million. Much of the increase in debt (about half of the $20 million) is due to earlier expenditure being recognised in the 2014-15 year, as long term capital projects come are completed. The other half is a reflection of council approving new debt funded capital expenditure programs in the forthcoming 2014-15 year. Anyone who says we do not have a debt problem (and can debt fund “nice to have” capital items, like recreation centres) are deluding themselves. Unfortunately, this will mean that council will have to be tougher this year on cutting operational expenditure to turn this increasing large debt ship around.

Interestingly, council became non-compliant with its debt maturity profile in July 2013, when two banking credit facilities fell within the 0-3 year maturity bracket. Refinancing existing bank debt (ie credit facilities) with longer maturity dates should bring the debt profile back into compliance. At present, the councils debt is financed from two sources: 70% from the LGFA fund, and 30% from private banking facilities. As part of council reducing finance costs, the council has reduced its available credit facilities by 30%. In lay terms, this is like reducing our available over-draft facilities. Yes, council pays for funds that it could draw on but has yet to do so. A reduction in available funds will mean that council will have to carefully manage borrowing and cash flows. And avoid taking on any un-budgeted debt.

Richmond water treatment plant – update

Site works for Richmond Water Treatment Plant are progressing. Pipework installation in Lower Queen Street starts the second week of June 2014 and will cause some disruption for road users. Signs have been up for two weeks to inform people of likely delays and a media release was issued. Forty community members attended a meeting with Council staff on 26 May 2014 which was also attended by the Mayor and Councillor Mirfin. The issues of concern were around flooding, stormwater, and the increased speed of traffic on Lower Queen Street.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes for this meeting are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/corporate-services-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/CorporateServicesCommittee/2014/2014-06-05.