|Cr Bill Faulkner
The on again, off again Marine Precinct project got yet another kick start at the full council meeting this week.
The marine industry in Tauranga had a 600 tonne slipway facility at Sulphur Point up until about seven years ago. This capital intensive facility had been built by the then Harbour Board in the late sixties to service their tugs and other vessels. When they weren’t using it, other vessels did. It never produced a return on capital as was the nature of local government in those days. And still is today! The 600 tonne slip was demolished to make way for the second harbour bridge and with its demise went a facility that catered for larger (over 35 tonnes) vessels like trawlers through to super yachts.
Council/ratepayers own the waterfront property from Mission Cemetery to Sanford’s fish plant and there is opportunity to put in a new facility, facilitated by council but paid for by the private sector. Expressions of interest are being called for, with a three week window to respond. A successful application would then have three months to work up details before proceeding with an agreed proposal.
Council will now entertain all options, including selling the land, but will be looking to ensure that the local marine industry gets ongoing advantage from it. There is a caveat on the land title precluding residential development and there are existing tenancies. Council had considered selling off other property to help fund a new facility but this failed when a vote was taken, with two elected members absent, 5-4. Property sales if/when made should pay down debt, was the very creditable assertion. So it’s interesting that this argument is applied only when it suits and on other occasions it’s okay to run up more debt.
Take the ongoing upgrade of the northern and southern car park reclamations down town. A taskforce of Larry Baldock, Terry Molloy, Tony Christiansen and Bill Grainger are tasked with recommending to Projects and Monitoring (which comprises all elected members) what is to happen. So it was surprising to receive news that there had been an overspend of $141,000 in the 2011-12 Waterfront Project budget. Larry said it was much needed work that would mean the area wouldn’t have to be done later when a budget would be available. So on a vote of 10-1 (the one being me) the 2012-13 budget was reduced by $49,000 and the remaining $92,000 taken from Transportation and Open Space budget. I voted against on principle that the processes and mechanisms put in place to stop budget overruns had not been adhered to. This sort of overrun was supposed to be a thing of the past.
The Statement of Intent for the Art Gallery was also confirmed, unaltered, from a previous council meeting where it was referred back to the Art Gallery Board of Directors requesting that the Art Gallery “demonstrates a clear pathway of financial sustainability”. Chairman Graeme Horsley socked it to council/ratepayers in a 4 and a ½ page dissertation. Basically the sticking point is that depreciation on the building is required by the Local Government Act to be cash funded. That seems unnecessary as a well maintained building should increase in value. David Stewart expressed his reluctance to approve a forward budget showing deficit and suggested dialogue to arrive at a solution. I agreed but on a vote of 9-2 the unaltered SOI was approved. Terry Molloy and Murray Guy went further and indicated they would support reinstatement of automatic CPI increase on the ratepayer subsidy of around $850,000 to help them out. I note that this week there was a move afoot at the Auckland Art Gallery to scale back the director’s role and put more focus on making money, which was “met with gasps of horror in a small but powerful group of arts patrons”.
Next week council will be deliberating on its annual/three year/10 year plan and central government is telling councils to keep rates to the level of inflation. That’s what most of Tauranga’s elected members say, when it crops up, but then vote more expense when that crops up too. Just how this all works will be decided next week. I mean, pay for this, pay for that, hold rates? Something is missing here. No increases for councillors pay this year from the Government Remuneration Authority but the Mayor goes up by $4600 to $136,700. Deputy Mayor remains at $84,232.66, chairman $81,226.15, and councillors $74,171.15. Mayor Stuart Crosby said he wouldn’t be seeking a replacement to the mayoral car (Honda Accord) and would be providing his own car. The annual running cost is $17,915 which included $6780 depreciation and $4780 fringe benefit tax. For formal occasions City Hall rents flash cars. This doesn’t happen often.
Some Baywave Gym equipment will be replaced/upgraded at a cost of $286,283. This is funded out of the depreciation account. Baywave/TCAL accounting figures are confidential but I can say that the gym contributes significantly to reducing ratepayer subsidy to the aquatic network. Baywave Gym (Clubfit) is focusing on retention of members and improving service to them and in the face of a yet to be decided future direction for TCAL, it is prudent to keep the business up to scratch.
This week’s mind bender from Oscar Wilde – True friends stab you in the front!