|Cr Bill Faulkner
There was a stunning example of counting your chickens before they hatch at Full Council this past week as elected members deliberated on submissions to the annual/three year/10 year plan.
The Finance Controller told us of a hoped for rate surplus from this financial year of some $2 - $3 million. Some of this he said was from interest rates, presumably both the invested funds and council loans. Whether or not this set them off or not is hard to say but some elected members just wanted to give, give, give your money to every well deserving cause that asked. I’m not being off hand here – they were in the most well deserving causes but – and it’s a big but – not ratepayers business in many instances. I had reminded my colleagues at the outset that many ratepayers were up against it financially and also that just because people hadn’t submitted then their interests needed to be considered also.
On Monday, Terry Molloy and Larry Baldock were vociferous in their support for almost everything going – except for the Greerton Library. That’s what politics and the way resolutions are presented does and who gets in first to move which option. For instance of course Terry, Larry and Tony Christiansen support the Greerton Library – just not the option the rest of us voted for. So they felt compelled to vote against – the 200 m2 addition option if the Chief Executives proposal for a Private/Public Partnership for a new library on the site is unsuccessful. There is a raft of decisions being made so I’ll cover what I can but it’s by no means a comprehensive list. You’re unlikely to get one from the daily print media either as their reporter comes and goes.
The University Tertiary Campus proposal was accepted 7-4 with Rick Curach, Catherine Stewart, Bill Grainger and Murray Guy opposing. $100,000 for promised resource consent funding for a museum passed – I didn’t get to vote here but Cliff Road is a “preferred site” – not a done deal. There’s plenty of water to flow passed the failed waterfront museum site before anything is confirmed with this one.
The Waterfront upgrade at the Strand reduced from $20 million to around $4.9 million and will have small kiosks dotted around. The proposed playground at around $300,000 passed 8-3 with me, Rick and Catherine opposing. This playground could have been delayed while we saw how the project developed. Personally I question this is a place for a playground but I’m happy to be proved wrong. At $300,000 I hope I am!
Catherine moved $6,000 for signage at the Te Ranga Battle site but this was lost 10-1. Terry and Larry then tried for $5,000 for battle site maintenance but this failed too. Most of us felt that we should have discussion first on a partnership with iwi.
The Mobile Library will remain for another year pending the Library level of service review due next year. This proposal was NOT a cost-cutting exercise but a suggestion that the money could be better spent in the Library. The librarians turned up to deliberations all set to give yet another presentation/submission apparently unaware that this was totally inappropriate. Mayor Stuart Crosby quickly set them right.
On a vote of 6-5 the Art Gallery had its CPI inflation adjustment reinstated from 2013/14. Terry and Wayne Moultrie moved this one. Terry said that if Tauranga was to attract intelligent people and the right type of people then the huge imbalance between Arts and Sport (funding) needed to be reached. Tony Christiansen, Larry Baldock, David Stewart, Mayor Stuart Crosby supported also.
TCAL who operate the Aquatic Network received support for transfer of funding to pay for a new “exciting” hydro-slide in place of a water play feature and a moveable floor pending presentation of yet another business plan. I strongly opposed this. TCAL is costing the ratepayer heaps this year. They were doing okay, in my view, until they dropped the ball over the Mount Hot Pools refurbishment. This cost plenty and the ratepayers will pay their $1.2m deficit along with $1.185 million cost of the now defunct Hot Pool redevelopment project – canned by Council. Baypark and TCVL get their $5 million capital injection over three years.
A bid by Terry to provide $15,000 towards a salary for a Maori Housing project failed 6-5 with Terry noting with disgust that it was just a “pittance”. Interestingly this salaried position was Government funded which Government had now ceased. Larry gave us a lecture on what he said was our obligation to help Maori because “they had given up so much for us to live in this beautiful country” and our obligations, as he sees it, consequent to the land confiscations! Another bid for $20,000 for papakainga housing studies (housing on Maori land) also failed 6-5 with Larry, Terry, Bill Grainger and Mayor Stuart Crosby also in favour.
A 73 minute debate over what to do with future road resurfacing. NZTA subsidy for city roads and streets is 43%. This has been guaranteed for another three years and is worth around $35 million. There is a backlog of programmed maintenance for 85kms of work and one option was to redo every street with fine chip seal on the straight parts of streets. Intersection and cul de sac heads would still be hot mix where needed. Staff assured us your roading dollar is not wasted and a lot of work was done to repair UV damage and water damage that may not be apparent to a lay man. Chip is 3-4 times cheaper than hot mix. But on a vote of 6-5 the like for like maintenance will continue until the rules change with NZTA who are also cash strapped. Street lights though will only be replaced with standard Oclytes. The fancy ones are too varied and expensive. I noted that this should be viewed in a completely different light to the street refurbishing issue much to the delight of my colleagues.
Matapihi footbridge will be refurbished at an estimated cost $770,000 paid out of depreciation account – not this year’s rates! A consultant’s report ($44,000) presented showed that it’s not so good but subject to single file pedestrian use only will be alright until its fixed. A move by Mayor Stuart Crosby to close it in the interim failed 7-4. The majority were concerned that a closure would see people once again walking along the railway line – the reason the footbridge was built in 1959. There were at least 14 deaths on the rail bridge up until the footbridge was opened and we don’t want to repeat that. There is a risk with what was decided but there are warning signs up and people have to take some responsibility for themselves. But no, as The Weekend Sun goes to press the CEO has ‘taken advice’ from health and safety officers and he has had safety security officers installed on the foot bridge, 24 hours a day, apparently at 10 metre intervals to ensure you all walk in single file ‘for your health and safety’ at your ratepayer expense! This is OSH gone completely nuts.
We’re midway through deliberations as I write this and I’ll update the rest next week.
This week’s mindbender from Albert Einstein – It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education – how true.