|Cr Bill Faulkner
Welcome back for another year of what's really going on at City Hall. The meeting rounds started again this week with a full programme all week.
First up was another meeting in the on-going (too much on-going in my opinion) process of a new CEO appointment. It's all conducted in confidential to protect applicants' privacy so I'm precluded from letting you now details at this point. But I can offer my view that this has gone on too long. City Hall is in the process of a major reorganisation including all department head jobs being advertised. Obviously a new CEO would need to have an input into who the management team is for a new structure. So this has dragged on when it had been anticipated a CEO appointment would be made before Christmas. I supported the restructure, in fact I had anticipated the restructure to commence July 2011, and take around three months. But circumstances dictated otherwise and now we're in a not too happy position.
A new CEO is unlikely to be able to start within three months so the annual plan is unlikely to receive much influence or impact from the new appointee. Then there is the silly season leading up to the Council election in October and this has already started. There are reasons how we got to this position which I may be able to elaborate on in the future, some of which I'm unhappy about.
A belated acknowledgement to Trevor Wright – who retired at Christmas time from Council after 30 or so years' service. Trevor is one of those unsung heroes working at the coal face so to speak, who ensure you can live a clean and healthy life with Tauranga's pristine water supply. Trevor was plant operator at our water processing plants. Trevor was also part of the so-called (by the Bay Times) Famous Five who in 1996 tripped around the world inspecting some 20-30 different water processing and treatment systems. I've noted before that this project came in 20 per cent under budget, on time and has continuously delivered high quality water with, so far, no problems. It even kept up when we got ash from the Ruapehu eruption. Trevor's function on the trip was to get out the back and find out what the actual operators thought of their particular technology as opposed to what the politicians and engineers thought was happening. Despite what, in my opinion, was a sometimes vitriolic and unbalanced reporting regime from local media we made the right decision which has resulted in Tauranga enjoying leading edge water process technology at minimal cost – with, so far, no water restrictions. Thanks for your part in this Trevor – you helped make a difference. Tauranga's water supply could be under threat, along with the rest of NZ's, of a move by Central Government to privatise all water supplies. In your best interests of course. Just like electricity reforms.
Tauranga is a shining example of how to run an extremely cost effective water supply – with about eight staff – no director's fees, no profits, no tax. No dividends to overseas investment hawks. Don't be conned if and when this privatisation bid starts. Our water supply should be sacrosanct and I for one will be staging strong resistance if need be.
More good news with the Wairoa River being chosen as one of the two sites for a high performance canoe training centre. Government will fund $1 million for facilities to enhance canoeing prospects at Olympic Games level. This will a great asset combining with the cycling centre being built near Cambridge, so elected members were informed by the local canoe club who are coordinating the project.
More lengthy discussions in confidential on Council's part in the appeal by Progressive Enterprises against the Independent Commissioner's decision to decline their application to build a supermarket on the Otumoetai Trust Hotel site. This is a judicial procedure matter – hence confidentiality – and intensely legal. Read expense all round. Council is inextricably intertwined whether it likes it or not.
A three month option has been granted to a preferred developer to explore prospects for a 150 room hotel on the TV3 site at 21 Durham Street. With parking requirements being significantly reduced, along with easing on commercial development restrictions, this is yet another chapter in a long drawn out saga going back to the 80s. In my view anyone building such a hotel will be on a winner and once it's up and running everyone will wonder why it took so long. It may be that had Councils throughout the years relaxed the requirements then it would be there now, but it's been evolution, not revolution that has taken us to where we are now.
More great news for our city. ASB Bank have agreed to sponsor TECT Arena/Baypark Stadium to the tune of $750,000 which they have paid up front. Whilst it's great mileage, hopefully, for them it's also a wonderful gesture to our community.
Annual Plan deliberations continued and I'll bring you comments and views on the details next week. The good news is that the rates revenue requirement is not altering significantly from last year due in no small part to Council's efforts to cut expenditure without cutting levels of service. At time of writing it looked like a 1-2 per cent rise but there's still a long way to go – including your input – before a final decision.
This week's mindbender from Henry Kissinger. “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people they think it's their fault.”