|Cr Bill Faulkner
Regular readers will be aware that detailed city planning is not my forte.
It’s a good idea to have a plan but the detail and interpretations encouraged by the Resource Management Act and the consequent City Plans and interpretations turn a good idea into a technical expensive and legal nightmare.
Take an application this week by Progressive Enterprises to build a new Countdown supermarket on the Bureta site presently occupied by the Bureta Park Motor Inn. Previously I had written that you would have an opportunity to make submissions on the proposal. Wrong! This week staff advised elected members that they have agreed with the applicant that the application be only notified to chosen people who are deemed to have an interest. Elected members have no input into this decision – it’s under delegated authority. This, we are told, totals around 109 or so residents who live in the immediate vicinity. This is allowed under a 2010 amendment to the RMA that speeds up applications processing. It’s a good idea to speed up anything to do with the RMA – which has proven to be an extremely effective tool for people with no vested interest to interfere with the rights of property owners through the legal system. At huge expense to the property owner and sometimes virtually nil cost to opponents. But this proposal could have a big effect on the wider Bureta/Otumoetai area community.
Commercial interest opposition such as happened on the North Shore, where an opposition business successfully held up a new development for years, is no longer grounds for planning opposition, I understand. But to choose which residents are allowed to submit is setting up a potential minefield. If you want to submit, I believe that you can join with one of the chosen few, if you can find out who they are. It happens regularly doesn’t it with Government? One extreme to the other. Solve a problem and create more as a consequence. The other consideration is to think about what else could happen on the site that could be worse. The trees to the east of the site are a council park and will remain.
Elected members had a worthwhile meeting with the Toxic Agrichemicals Awareness Forum this week. This group rides shotgun on council’s contractors’ use of chemical sprays around the city. A voluntary group, they raised concerns at management of chemical sprays in the dunes at the Mount and Papamoa. Council is trying to eliminate all the rogue plants along this coastal strip and re-establish the natural flora. A lot of use of manual weeding, some mechanical and some chemicals are the present methodology. TAAF input is invaluable as it keeps a brake on indiscriminate spray use. However some suitable chemicals administered professionally is inevitable if the reinstatement programme is to succeed.
No daily media, once again, at Projects and Monitoring Committee to report the success of the Arataki Community Advisory Group. Following on from the opening of the new council Arataki Community Centre, this advisory group oversees the community involvement. We heard how the use of community facilities, skate park and park had turned around to a family friendly venue in the short time since opening on September 29 last year. Advocates for this facility have assured elected members that this would happen. Well done to all involved for such a turnaround. Previously this area had been a hot spot of ne’er do wells and a trouble spot for police, skate park users, graffiti and vandalism.
Last week’s meeting on the water and wastewater charging regime could prove a watershed (pun intended) on how you pay to receive and dispose of household water. The potential is for a truly user pays system where reduced use is rewarded. This was one of the potential benefits of water metering but successive councils shied away – probably because of the furore over water metering. Elected members agreed that staff bring back options and I moved on additional resolution that this be subject to consultant costs for the review being reported back for approval before proceeding. Out of this is the possibility of council supporting grey water systems in new housing, rainwater storage systems and further delay of new council intensive water processing plants and wastewater treatment plants. Consumption at peak use residential has been reduced from 700 litres per day in pre-metering times per ratepayer to below 450 litres per day now. It is reasonable to assume that with no water meters and one fixed charge that there was no incentive to turn off taps. Now we are investigating capitalising on that success by further reducing consumption and thus delaying new expensive infrastructure. A stepped tariff means the more you use, the more you pay per cubic metre and vice versa – thus rewarding careful use of water.
Our treasury department reports council interest rate now down to 5.97% average on ratepayer funded debt of $266.6 million on May 31. This is approximately $16 million a year in interest or $43,835 per day or $314 per ratepayer per year. As a mechanism to spread the costs/benefits to include future users of what council provides that’s as fair a method as you would get, given that the whole general rating system is unfair and according to the 2007 Government report into rating, unsustainable into the future. If interest rates increase things won’t be pretty – and not only for ratepayers! Most of the council refinancing is now being done through the Local Government Funding Agency – an organisation set up by member councils, of which Tauranga is one, to raise its own finance and bypass the bank lending system. It’s saving bank fees and marginally lower interest rates.
Another confidential meeting on Route K this week. There’s nothing untoward here, it’s just updating elected members on negotiations with NZTA. As circumstances changed, mainly the economic downturn, so did arrangements. As I noted last week we can’t have NZTA reading about our views in the media before meetings and that’s why the confidentiality.
This week’s mindbender from Leonardo Da Vinci – “Avoid studies of which the result dies with the worker.” – A good one for Governments!