RATES FREEZE DURING THE PANDEMIC 27 03.2020
The NZ Taxpayers’ Union’s petition to freeze rates during the pandemic is taking off. This is its latest report:
Some councils are already getting the message
Since we launched our campaign, Waikato Regional Council and Dunedin City Council have both signalled they'll be freezing rates. Dunedin's leadership team are even taking salary cuts!
• Marlborough District Council will vote on a near-freeze, and local MP Nick Smith has called on neighbouring councils to do the same.
• Wellington City Council has deferred a vote on a 9.2% rate hike while it considers options for rates mitigation.
• Hutt City Council plans a 'significant' reduction in a scheduled 7.9% rate hike.
• At Christchurch City Council, six councillors have asked the Mayor to consider a rates freeze.
• Auckland Council still plans to proceed with scheduled rate hikes.
All in all, we're confident we can push more many more councils over the line – so long as we maintain the pressure.
You can help by sharing our petition on Facebook. You can also ensure the petition reaches more ratepayers by chipping in to our campaign fund for online advertising.
Meanwhile, we are now contacting every councillor in the country, informing them that already more than 4,000 New Zealanders have backed the campaign. Watch this space.
Note 1: How can the government allow local authorities to increase their rates by the amounts shown above even during normal times? The cost of living increase is less than 2 per cent per annum. At this uncontrolled rate of increase council rates will soon become one of the largest expenditures in everyone's budget..
Note 2: The KDC has not yet responded to the financial crisis facing many of its ratepayers.
NATIONAL RATES FREEZE: Covid-19 23.03.2020
The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union has a started a petition to stop local authorities increasing rates during the Covid-19 crisis.
For details go to:
Please circulate these details to everyone within your circle..
KDC AND NRC RATES AND COVID-19
HAVE YOUR SAY 19.03.2010
Someone asked on Facebook for my suggestion as to what ratepayers could do about the proposed rates increase.
Here is the answer.
As stated in the post below, the KDC is increasing the rates for the 2020/2021 year (commencing 1 July 2020) by 5.49 per cent (being an increase on the amount for that year in the LTP of 4.83 per cent).
In respect of consultation with ratepayers, the KDC has this to say:
Council agreed at the December Council meeting that there would not be any material changes from the information provided in the last LTP and that there was no need to consult. Any changes to that originally planned in the LTP for 2020/21 will be highlighted in the Annual Plan documentation, and do not trigger the Councils Significance and Engagement Policy.
Because the increase in rates is not regarded by the KDC as being material or significant there will be no consultation on the rates increase or anything else.
The KDC effectively blames the increase on ratepayers’ aspirations for new amenities. (Read: walkways, cycle tracks, roundabouts, new offices in Dargaville etc):
Kaipara is a high growth council and has recently come out of a period of austerity while the Commissioners were concentrating on repaying debt. The community now want new amenities and their assets to be renewed at the appropriate time. Council sets the rates to charge the ratepayers what is needed each year.
We need to tell the KDC loud and clear that it is a going to be a matter of survival for many ratepayers and there should be a complete rethink on the rates increase and the priorities of the KDC in the coming year. These are going to be difficult times for everyone and the KDC has to face up to its social responsibilities.
The rates increase is a product of the KDC chief executive and her staff. It goes to the elected members as a recommendation. So it is the representatives whom you elected last year who will have the final say. If you feel strongly about the issue then let your representatives know how you feel.
The KDC councillors are listed at:
Their emails are:
The draft annual plan for 2020/2021 is open to consultation with ratepayers. The summary consultation document can be seen here:
The document has this to say about the proposed rates increase:
Our total rates were budgeted in the Long Term Plan to go up 4% in the 2020/21 year. We're proposing to increase this by 4.6% for a total increase of 8.6%. This extra 4.6% works out to an average of $13.60 per household, for a year-on year average increase of just over $30, taking the average estimated rates bill for the year to around $390.
Is that increase justified? The latest consumer price index increase is 1.9 per cent per annum.
The only reason the NRC increases its rates to such an extent is because it gets away with it. Most ratepayers do not take part in the consultation process and only complain on Facebook when they are hit with a fait accompli.
Given the financial consequence that the community is going to suffer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is over to the community to make sure that their elected representatives know how they feel about the proposed increase.
Note that the rates increase is only proposed. Now it the time to make your feelings clear to those who represent you. 27 March is the deadline.
You can make a submission on the plan:
If you have any feedback we’d love to hear from you by 27 March 2020. www.nrc.govt.nz/annualplan2020
You can also contact either your local councillor, or all of the councillors.
Details of NRC councillors can be seen on the NRC website here:
The email addresses of councillors are:
According to the NRC website:
Regional councillors are your community voice.
So the community must make its voice heard loud and clear.
Penny Smart, chair of the NRC, is the representative for Kaipara, which is in fact the eastern part of Kaipara.
Rick Stolwerk is the representative for Coastal South – the eastern part of Kaipara
COUNCIL RATES AND CORONA VIRUS 17 03.2020
The dire effects of the corona virus pandemic are just beginning to emerge, day by day and hour by hour. This disaster is going to hit every community and family throughout the world. Many of us are going to be in dire financial straits.
The government is reacting with various measures to try and help out. The banks have been encouraged to be generous to those who can’t help but default on their loans.
No one has yet mentioned local authorities and how they are going to react.
For some reason local authorities appear to be a law unto themselves. Whilst the watchdogs of our society keep tabs on profiteering and unfair price increases, local authorities are given an incredible amount of latitude. They have absolute freedom to increase their rates by as much as they like. There is absolutely no accountability.
But times have now changed. And very fundamentally. This pandemic is going to hit everyone very hard. Many of us will be struggling to meet our commitments and put food on the table. Mortgage payments, rent, rates, petrol, school fees, food etc. will all be a challenge.
The rates' slice of one’s income is getting bigger and bigger each year. This coming rating year, starting on 01 July, the NRC is going to increase its rates by 8.6 per cent on average, which will mean a lot more for many. That is unconscionable in good times (with the cost of living increase being about one per cent), but faced with such a crisis it is simply unsustainable and immoral.
Likewise the KDC is planning an increase that is way above the cost of living increase. For the 2020/2021 year the 2018 long term plan set a rate increase of 4.83 percent. The KDC is now proposing to increase that, without any consultation, to 5.49 per cent. Naturally, those in some areas like Mangawhai will be faced with an even greater increase.
Now is the time for the elected members of our local authorities to revisit the situation in light of the pandemic and the financial carnage that will result.
There needs to be a complete moratorium on rates increases for the coming year. Local authorities are used to simply charging higher rates to meet their expenses. With a fixed income they will have to pull up their socks and ensure that they operate within their budget and to do so without resorting to further debt.
It will mean complete reassessment of priorities and many of the plans for the future will have to be mothballed. Our councils will have to concentrate on providing the core basic services to ensure the safety and health of the residents, and any necessary work that it can squeeze into their budgets.
There may be redundancies. A huge amount of projects will have to be put on hold. Forget new council buildings, fancy footpaths and walkways and the dream projects of consultants. Our district, like everywhere else, will be in survival mode.
Also, it would be nice to see a much kinder KDC and NRC that respond to the wishes and the needs of their communities. They will need to understand the financial and emotional pressures that the communities are going to be subjected to and show a lot more understanding and basic humanity.
MANGAWHAI CENTRAL RESOURCE CONSENT 04.02.2020
Most residents of Mangawhai will be unaware that on 2 December 2019 Mangawhai Central applied for a resource consent on a notified basis for the subdivision of the commercial and retail lots, earthworks, roading and infrastructure.
It was publicly notified during the Christmas/New Year break in local newspapers.
The consent application is not mentioned on the Mangawhai Central Facebook page.
The last day for making submissions on the proposal is today 4 February 2020 at 4:30 pm
The consent application is listed on the KDC website here. Scroll down to RM 190282. Then click on the link for the Notification Pack. This includes all the details of the application.
A couple of features that will impact hugely on the community are:
There were mixed messages from the developers about the source of water for the development at the last public meeting. It is now clear that the NRC granted the developers the right to take water from the bore on the property (not exceeding 100 cubic metres per day) on 9 May 2019. That is long before the meeting. It is understood that this application was made without advice to the KDC
It is uncertain how that will impact on the ability of the aquifer to provide necessary water to Mangawhai residential properties and emergency supplies in drought conditions.
Rainwater will also be harvested.
Wastewater from the development will access the current Mangawhai wastewater system. However the current plant does not have the capacity to take such a volume. The consultants conducting the “Spatial Plan” for the future development of Mangawhai advised at a recent meeting that a completely new sewerage system would be required for Mangawhai by 2026. That means that planning and consenting should now be under way. The KDC has not yet fronted that major issue.
Mangawhai Central is holding a Sustainability Conference at the Mangawhai Club on 19 March 2020 at 10 am. Perhaps we will finally get down to the nitty-gritty of whether Mangawhai Central is actually sustainable and whether the residents of Mangawhai - already burdened with some of the highest council rates in the country - can afford the extra cost of the new infrastructure that they will inevitably have to bear.
BOTCHED CONSULTATION “KDC-STYLE” - YET AGAIN 01.02 2020
The KDC has failed once more to consult with the community as required by the law and good governance.
A few months ago it tried to bisect the narrow Alamar grassed reserve with a broad gravel track to be used as a walkway, cycle track and no doubt an electric scooter highway. It misrepresented that it was responding to the expressed wishes of the community in the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP). In fact the MCP simply sets out broad outline proposals for various projects that are subsequently to be fleshed out and consulted with the community before they are undertaken.
No consultation occurred. The widespread opposition from the community forced the KDC to go back to fundamental basics and consult on the details of each project with the community prior to implementation.
The KDC has learned nothing from that experience. Its latest example of an abject failure to consult involves the proposed roundabout at the junction of Moir Street and Insley Street
This project has been mooted for many years but has recently sprouted new legs. KDC consultants prepared plans and reports on the proposal some months ago, followed by workshops with KDC staff and some elected members. Those landowners and residents immediately affected by the proposal were then consulted.
I understand that most objected to the proposal because the new roundabout would reduce parking dramatically and restrict access to their businesses and properties. Despite that the KDC continued with the proposal, proceeded to the next step and advertised consultation with the community.
The consultation was advertised in local newspapers over the Christmas break. The KDC invited the wider community to have a say on the proposal. It advised that the concept plan was on its website.
If the community was expecting details of the proposal they would have been disappointed. The only thing on the website is what the KDC calls “a drawing showing what’s proposed”. It is simply a birds-eye view of the area – no doubt from Google - with a roundabout imposed on it. You are invited to email comment to the KDC.
The advertised consultation states that prior consultation has established that “roundabouts were preferred to traffic lights” so that appears to be a done-deal. That is also confirmed by the statement that “work should commence mid 2020 after consultation and plan adjustments”.
So what exactly is the community being consulted on? There are no details of the proposal, just a broad statement of “what’s proposed to improve congestion, access and safety”. There is no explanation of how this is achieved. No plans to show how parking and access is reduced. No mention of pedestrians and how they will cross the roads. Costs, and who pays, are not mentioned. Most importantly, there are no other options mentioned. It appears that the roundabout is already set in concrete.
What is alarming is that KDC advertised consultation on the project over the Christmas/Holiday break. Submissions ran from 23 December 2019 to 1 February 2020.
Was that a deliberate strategy to sneak the consultation through unnoticed?
But even worse is the total failure of the KDC to understand its legal obligations to consult with the community. Once a local authority decides to consult with the community on a project it is obliged to comply with the principles of consultation set out in section 83 of the Local Government Act 2002.
Section 83 sets out detailed requirements which can be summarised as follows:
The KDC has not complied with any of these requirements.
The consultation should not be about whether the community wants a roundabout but about identifying the problems at that junction that need to be resolved, and the options for solving those problems. Those issues may have all been covered in reports provided to staff and elected members of the KDC, but now is the time for the community to be provided with that information so that it can be fully and lawfully consulted.
The community will also have a keen eye on the costs of the various options and how they impact on ratepayers.
One also has to ask why this project is being advanced on its own, in isolation, when the spatial plan for the future development of Mangawhai Village and Mangawhai Heads is currently being developed by consultants. That plan will affect the development of this particular junction, define traffic flow-paths and the route of a bypass. The Mangawhai Central development, if it goes ahead, will also require a complete rethink on the layout of other commercial areas, including the one in the Village.
The community must bring pressure to bear on the KDC to revisit the consultation on this issue and go back to the drawing board. It must consult with the community as required not only by legislation but pursuant to the principles of transparency, integrity and open government.
I urge the community to make their opposition to the mock-consultation known to the Council and especially the elected members who ultimately make these decisions. Their email addresses are as follows.
KAIPARA DISTRICT COUNCIL
COMMUNITY CONSULTATION ON ROUNDABOUT AT MOIR STREET INSLEY STREET JUNCTION
Do you agree that a roundabout is the best option for the Moir Street/Insley Street junction and that it would improve congestion, access and safety?
Circle one of the following options: (Please circle only one)
Important: No other options are allowed.
Note: You are too late. This consultation expired while you were on holiday.
MAYOR SNUBS PETER WETHEY 24.10.2019
Newly elected KDC mayor Jason Smith has snubbed his previous deputy mayor Peter Wethey and appointed Anna Curnow as his new deputy.
Peter Wethey served as deputy mayor to both Mayor Gent and Mayor Smith and was seen to represent the eastern part of the Kaipara district. That balance has now gone.
This is the second blow to the representation of Mangawhai and Kaiwaka in the KDC. Earlier this year Mayor Smith pushed through new representation arrangements whereby the number of representatives for the fast-growing eastern district was reduced from 3 to 2, when in fact current population figures (now confirmed by the newly released census figures) justified 4 representatives for the east.
The representation arrangement was only passed by the Council because Mayor Smith voted twice. With the vote tied, he used his second casting vote as chair in circumstances that were arguably unlawful.
Peter Wethey, snubbed as Deputy Mayor
MAYORAL SUCCESS 24.10.2019
It is interesting to compare how different local newspapers reported the victory of incumbent Jason Smith in the KDC mayoralty race.
The Mangawhai Focus made this another photo opportunity for the Mayor and headlined his re-election with: Kaipara mayor back by popular demand.
It went on to say that his election was “a huge vote of confidence” with “an overwhelming margin, around 95 per cent”.
Compare that to the more restrained and perhaps more appropriate treatment from Mahurangi Matters. There is an article on Mark Vincent as a new face on the council (with picture) and a reference to Anna Curnow being elected. Mayor Smith gets a small final paragraph, almost as an afterthought:
In the mayoral race, incumbent Dr Jason Smith defeated film maker and former drug dealer, bank robber and escort agency owner, Moemoea Mahoawhenua.
MAHURANGI MATTERS HIGHLIGHTS KDC LITIGATION FOLLY 24.10.2019
The latest edition of the Mahurangi Matters has a front page article highlighting the millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money spent by the KDC in pursuing Heather and Bruce Rogan for a few thousand dollars in penalties, and putting a charging order on their home with a view to a rating sale.
The Mahurangi Matters also includes the following cartoon depicting the situation:
COUNCILLOR LARSEN CALLS FOR THE CROWN TO PAY THE LEGAL COSTS INCURRED BY THE CROWN MANAGER 24.10.2019
In the Mahurangi Matters article referred to in the post above Councillor Jonathan Larsen expressed his concern that the huge legal costs incurred by the KDC Crown Manager in pursuing Bruce and Heather Rogan had to be paid by the ratepayers of the district. He added:
This was a Crown-led action and, quite frankly, I think the Crown Manager should support Council in seeking reimbursement from the Crown.
He is absolutely right. Peter Winder was appointed in 2016 by the National Cabinet and the Department of Internal Affairs as an “enforcer” to ensure that the rates rebellion in Kaipara was crushed without any quarter being given. It was meant to be a message to all ratepayers in the country not to mess with City Hall.
Councillor Jonathan Larsen
To achieve that end the National Government ignored Cabinet protocols and the requirements of the legislation to such an extent that a huge legal question-mark now hangs over the validity of the Crown Manager’s actions during his term.
The current Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, has consistently refused to respond to allegations of illegality and non-compliance with the terms of reference.
The Department of Internal Affairs, which advises the Minister and provides her with draft written responses, has publicly acknowledged that in his first term the Crown Manager was unlawfully appointed and his terms of reference were unlawful.
However, the Department maintains steadfastly that because Mr Winder acted in good faith his actions were all lawful. That is incorrect and the Department, with legal advice readily at hand from the Crown Law Office, knows that it is incorrect. However, it refuses to resile from its position because of the unacceptable legal ramifications that would follow, the egg that would be splattered over its departmental face, and because it knows, from its position of power, that it can bully the ratepayers of Kaipara into submission.
In addition, Minister Mahuta had completely failed to ensure that the Crown Manager complied with one of the guiding principles of his appointment, namely that Ministerial assistance or intervention “should have regard to the costs and benefits of assistance or intervention”.
The Minister ignored the fact that the Crown Manager racked up over $2 million of Kaipara ratepayers money in legal costs pursuing the Rogans and yet recovered nothing. She also ignored the sheer crassness of the KDC refusing to accept payment of rates arrears and current instalments as they fell due unless disputed penalties were paid first, and then suing for those rates and the penalties added to them.
I say “ignored” because I advised the Minister time and time again of the facts, and every time she responded with a “rejection letter” drafted by her advisers.
Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta
It is abundantly clear that Minister Mahuta has failed to comply with her statutory and Cabinet obligations in dealing with the KDC Crown Manager issues and as a result the ratepayers of the KDC have been landed with legal costs that they should not have to pay. Councillor Larsen is quite correct: this whole unsavoury debacle was driven by the Minister and the Department of Internal Affairs and they should be held accountable for the costs incurred.
QC FOR THE ROGANS 09.10.2019
Bruce and Heather Rogan have filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in their ongoing battle with the KDC and NRC over the legality of penalties imposed on rates. To get leave they need to establish that their case should be heard in the interests of justice. If they pass that test then they will be entitled to plead their case at a full hearing of the Supreme Court.
The Rogans are claiming that they suffered a miscarriage of justice in the Court of Appeal because there were breaches of natural justice in the way that the Court dealt with their case.
Their appeal to the Court of Appeal involved one very narrow point of law. Submissions and legal arguments were limited to that one point. In its judgment the Court of Appeal rejected the views of the High Court and the District Court on that point, and should have allowed the Rogans’ appeal. However, the Court went on to consider a further legal point that was not raised during the proceeding and on which the Rogans did not have the opportunity to make submissions. The Court found against the Rogans on that point and dismissed the appeal, with costs against them.
The Rogans are arguing that one of the major principles of natural justice – the right to present legal argument - was breached, that right being affirmed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Dr Rodney Harrison QC, one of New Zealand’s most senior and respected courtroom lawyers, has agreed to act as senior counsel on the application for leave to appeal and the appeal itself (in the event that leave to appeal is granted). Rodney’s areas of expertise include public law and human rights. He also specialises in taking cases on appeal. He was involved as counsel in the Cartwright Inquiry into Cervical Cancer Treatment at National Women’s Hospital, acted in respect of many civil liberties cases, and is well-known as the lead counsel in the cases involving the rights of refugee Ahmed Zaoui.
Jeremy Browne from Henderson Reeves in Whangarei, who has been involved with all the Rogans’ cases, will continue to assist.
The KDC and NRC have until 21 October to decide if they are going to oppose the application for leave. Applications for leave are usually decided on the papers (without a formal hearing) but the Court may require a hearing in Wellington at the Supreme Court.
KDC’S PROPAGANDA MACHINE 09.10.2019
The press and news media constitute what is termed the Fourth Estate. They wield significant power and can influence and direct social and political outcomes. We are aware of the Nazi propaganda machine that controlled the German press and tricked a whole generation of Germans into supporting Hitler. The same thing is still happening in many countries around the world.
In New Zealand we have what we call a “free” press, but that does not stop media outlets from projecting views that are slanted and aimed towards a political outcome. There are few media outlets that report on the affairs of Kaipara and sadly most of those simply churn out verbatim the propaganda provided by the likes of the KDC. That may be out of sheer laziness or it may have a political motivation.
Take for instance a couple of articles published by the Northern Advocate about the achievements of the KDC just as the local authority elections are being held.
The article Kaipara District Council gets vote of confidence from Crown Manager of 6 October 2019 makes Peter Winder the Crown Manager look like some sort of Messiah who rescued the KDC and "guided it toward self-management". The article echoes Winder’s own view of his achievements, stating that he "fulfilled the terms of his role". This is followed by comments extolling the performance of the KDC, no doubt based on information provided by the KDC.
Those who read the posts on this website (scroll down) know there is another, very different side to this story.
Have a read also of The Fall and Rise of the Kaipara District Council of 9 October 2019 (behind a pay-wall) which is nothing more than propaganda that treats the shameful past of the KDC as an “unfortunate blip” in its history. It depicts the KDC commissioners as heroes fighting to keep the council’s functions running while faced with “a barrage of legal action and defences”.
Again, a completely slanted view of the KDC’s past and its current situation, seen through rose-coloured glasses, and published just at the time that the local elections are taking place. One could almost believe that the two articles were sponsored by the KDC to support the re-election of Mayor Smith.
With the local press so staunchly behind Mayor Smith, is it any wonder that there are no other viable candidates who are willing to stand for Mayor? If they are bright enough to qualify as being a mayor, then they will also be bright enough to know that they cannot compete against the local press that churns out KDC propaganda without any jounalistic scrutiny.
If you want another example of the Northern Advocates’ spin on council matters take a look at: Shared council service centre to relieve Kaipara ratepayers
You will recall that the KDC resolved to go ahead with the proposal for a new council office in Dargaville in secret and without any consultation with ratepayers. The KDC only came clean with the proposal when it was “outed” by this website. Note how the Northern Advocate simply regurgitates the spin provided by the KDC and NRC to make the proposal look like the best thing since the EcoCare sewerage scheme.
CROWN MANAGER - "sensibly resolve" 09.10.2019
The Kaipara Lifestyler quotes from the final report of the KDC Crown Manager Peter Winder on his legal actions against Kaipara ratepayers as he passes the baton to the KDC:
I have every confidence that the council will be able to sensibly resolve the remaining rates-related legal issue arising from the period before and during the Kaipara Commission.
Fine sentiments indeed. But why did Mr Winder not “sensibly resolve” the issue himself in the seven years that he was a Commissioner and Crown Manager in charge of the legal issue?
And why did Mr Winder create the issue in the first place when he and his fellow Commissioners reneged on their undertaking to MPs during the passing of the Validation Act (retrospectively validating 6 year of KDC illegal rates) that penalties on those rates would be remitted? That is the sole cause of the ongoing dispute and can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Mr Winder and his Commissioner colleagues.
And why did Mr Winder and his fellow Commissioners, and subsequent KDC chief executives, prevent ratepayers who were disputing those penalties from paying their rates arrears and rates instalment, and then have the audacity to charge penalties on them for non-payment? Was it all part of one giant rort?
Mr Winder commenced his legal onslaught against ratepayers in 2014. Since then he has incurred legal costs against Bruce and Heather Rogan of at least $1.8 million to try and recover – wait for it - a couple of thousand dollars in penalties? Was that Mr Winder’s idea of “sensibly resolving” the dispute? If so, why is it still ongoing and now in the Supreme Court, and Mr Winder has not recovered one cent?
How much did the KDC’s lawyers and barristers pocket from Mr Winder’s “sensible” resolution of the issue?
One also has to ask how in 2016 the National Government could have appointed as Crown Manager an “enforcer” like Peter Winder with a blatant conflict of interest, when someone with a bit of common-sense and less vested interests could have resolved the issue in a few hours.
The current Minister of Local Government under the Coalition Government, Nanaia Mahuta, has been no better. She has ignored the undeniable conflict of interest of Mr Winder and, with the aid of the Department of Internal Affairs, has “buried” the serious allegations that the Crown Manager was illegally appointed and had unlawful terms of reference. In addition she has refused to ensure that the intervention of the Crown Manager was justified on a cost/benefit analysis, being one of the guiding principles of his terms of reference.
It is clear from his comments that Mayor Smith believes that the Crown Manager did an excellent job in pursuing legal actions against the whistle-blowers of Kaipara to recover penalties on illegal rates. That is at odds with the views of MPs who passed the Validation Act that those whistle-blowers had performed a public service in holding the KDC to account for 6 years of illegalities, and that penalties on the validated rates should be remitted.
If Mayor Smith gets re-elected then he will be directing the legal actions. It will be interesting to see how he intends to “sensibly resolve” the outstanding legal issues.
MANGAWHAI COMMUNITY PLAN – LATEST 30.09.2019
Many of us have expressed concern that the KDC staff are moving ahead with the proposals under the MCP that are inconsistent with the proposals and the priorities in the Plan itself and without consulting on the details and costs with the community. Examples are the proposals for the Alamar Reserve, the continuous coastal walkway, and the shared pathway in Muir Street by the Domain.
It is felt that the KDC needs to get back to basics and consult with the community on proposals, their costs and who pays, before any action is taken.
Councillor Larsen has responded to those concerns by filing a Notice of Motion at the KDC meeting last week. The Notice of Motion was seconded by Councillor Julie Geange and unanimously adopted by the KDC.
4.1 Notice of motion 1, Councillor Jonathan Larsen
18 September 2019 1701.03
a) That Council directs the Chief Executive to prepare a report on the planning and implementation of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP); and
b) That the report include but not be limited to
i) Workstream and project priorities
ii) Budgets and funding
iii) Consultation plan
iv) Any proposed changes projects, priorities, budgets, funding sources, and associated consultation plan; and
c) That the report be brought back to the November 2019 Council ordinary meeting.
Hopefully the report will place the MCP on a sensible footing with full disclosure and genuine consultation.
THE "'ENFORCER" QUITS 29.09.2019
Peter Winder, the controversial Crown Manager of the KDC, has delivered his last report to the KDC. His term ends on 12 October 2019 when the newly elected council takes office.
Mr Winder was appointed in 2016 as Crown Manager to direct the KDC in enforcing the collection of rates from those withholding rates and to manage ongoing legal actions commenced by himself when he was a KDC Commissioner.
The KDC "Enforcer"
The report was tabled at the Council Meeting of 26 September 2019 with Mr Winder speaking to his report. He had little to say and let the report do the talking for him. Councillors showed a reluctance to ask him questions, except for Councillor Larsen who posed two simple questions.
He first asked Mr Winder how much money he had been successful in recovering from Bruce and Heather Rogan. (The Rogans were sued by the KDC in 2014 for $13,802.89 being arrears of rates and penalties. The case has been though many courts over those intervening years.) Mr Winder struggled to respond, said that the case was ongoing, and found some relief in pointing out that the Rogans had in fact paid all their rates arrears but not the penalties and the other amounts claimed.
The second question of Councillor Larsen had Mr Winder squirming. “How much of KDC ratepayers’ money had been spent on legal costs pursuing Mr and Mrs Rogan?” Mr Winder stuttered and said that he didn’t have the figure, and then suggested that the Chief Executive might have the figure available. The Chief Executive looked stony–faced. Her lips did not move.
Here are some facts that explain the situation:
* The Rogans, like many ratepayers, were happy to pay the rates that had been withheld during the 2012 rates strike that successfully forced the Government to appoint Commissioners. The Commissioners validated 6 years of unlawful rates through retrospective legislation. The Rogans tendered all their rates arrears in 2014, in full and final settlement. Mr Winder and his fellow Commissioners refused to accept the monies, returned the cheque, and immediately issued proceedings against the Rogans and over 100 other ratepayers.
* The key issue was that Mr Winder and the Commissioners wanted penalties on the retrospectively validated rates. The Rogans and other ratepayers refused to pay the penalties because the Commissioners had reneged on their undertaking to Parliament that when the rates were validated they would remit the penalties on the unlawful rates. Parliament considered that the striking whistle-blowers had performed a public service and should not be penalised by having to pay penalties on unlawful rates that had been retrospectively validated.
* Mr Winder and his Commissioners also adopted the “oldest debt first policy” which unlawfully prevented ratepayers from paying their rates instalment as they fell due unless they first paid their arrears of penalties. As Crown Manager Mr Winder continued to prevent the Rogans and and others from paying their rates, but continued to charge penalties on them.
• Following the receipt of submissions on the illegality of the oldest debt first policy, the KDC finally (after 4 years) allowed the Rogans to pay their rates arrears earlier this year without having to pay the disputed penalties.
* In pursuing a few thousand dollars owed by the Rogans in penalties Mr Winder used ratepayers’ money to meet legal costs totalling $1,827,394. In case you misread that, it is over $1.8 million of ratepayers' money. That figure does not include the legal costs in respect of the hundred or so other ratepayers who have been sued, nor the internal costs of the KDC which has handled much of the legal work. That quoted figure was supplied by the KDC Chief Executive following a LGOIMA request. It only covers legal costs to 21 September 2018. The Chief Executive has, for the first time, insisted that I pay for a LGOIMA request before she will release the amount of legal costs incurred in the last year. I suspect that the total amount will end up being around $2.5 million. The Chief Executive knew the figures at the meeting but clearly wanted to keep them secret from the elected members who are largely unaware of what has been going on.
The Rogans have applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds that there was a fundamental breach of natural justice in the Court of Appeal and that they suffered a miscarriage of justice. Details about the case will be provided soon.
SHOCKING REVELATIONS 29.09.2019
The KDC has consistently refused to reveal how many ratepayers are being sued for arrears of penalties or disclose the status of the various legal actions being pursued by the Crown Manager.
The Crown Manager’s report (see the post above) is short on detail but it finally reveals some shocking facts. There are over 100 ratepayers, presumably in the Mangawhai area, who are still being pursued by the KDC for penalty arrears. It also reveals that the KDC has secretly registered charging orders against the homes of some ratepayers with a view to carrying out rating sales of those properties.
Bruce and Heather Rogan found out through the report that there is a charging order on their home.
The Crown Manager has also indicated that charging orders will be registered against over one hundred homes with a view to them being sold to recover the penalties.
Most of them are the homes of good, responsible citizens who had never had a bad debt in their lives. Most of them are likely to be retirees.
They will all be fuming at the injustice perpetrated by the KDC reneging on the undertaking given to Parliament that penalties on the validated rates would be remitted. And, in addition, at the KDC unlawfully preventing them from paying their rates as they fell due, and then having the audacity to charge penalties for non-payment.
Successive Councils, including the current one headed by Mayor Jason Smith, have stood by and allowed the Crown Manager to pursue these good people. Mayor Smith even thanked the Crown Manager for his services and wished him “Godspeed” on his departure.
With the Crown Manager now gone, Mayor Smith (if he is re-elected) and his new council will be responsible for contiuing the legal actions against ratepayers.
The Crown Manager’s final report is at page 137 of the KDC September Agenda
WE CAN OFFER ADVICE ON WHAT STEPS TO TAKE. WE CAN ALSO ADVISE ABOUT THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN RESPECT OF THE APPLICATION TO THE SUPREME COURT WHICH WILL BENEFIT ALL RATEPAYERS.
MANGAWHAI’S BRAVE NEW WORLD? 28.09.2019
Heard the latest? New World is to be the supermarket at Mangawhai Central. It is scheduled to open before Christmas in 2021. The details can be found here.
Mangawhai Central is holding a public meeting at The Club on Thursday 24 October 2019 to reveal its latest masterplan details, along with streetscape designs and other interesting news.
MY PERSONAL VOTING PLANS 25.09.2019
The voting papers for the council election have now been sent out.
The biggest decision facing ratepayers and residents is who to vote for as mayor. There are only two candidates, the sitting mayor, Jason Smith and newcomer Moemoea Mohawhenua.
Moemoea Mohawhenua is completely unknown and has done nothing, or at least very little, to communicate with voters or promote his own candidacy.
Effectively that means that Jason Smith will most likely become the mayor by default because he is the current mayor and many voters will put the figure 1 in his box.
I am a great believer in democracy, but this time I have decided not to vote for either of the mayoral candidates because I do not believe that either of them will serve the best interests of the community. I will simply put a No in both boxes next to their names. This will invalidate my vote for the mayor but will still enable me to vote for the other candidates on the ballot paper.
My reasons for not voting for Mayor Smith are set out below. They are my personal reasons which I am sharing with anyone who wishes to read them. At the end of the day we must all decide individually which candidate will best serve the interests of the community.
• Mayor Smith is very gung-ho about his achievements as mayor and about the future of Kaipara. However, beneath all that spin there lingers a deep concern about the direction we are heading in, the competence of the KDC and its staff, and the lack of transparency and consultation of the KDC under Mayor Smith.
• Residents in Mangawhai in particular are completely frustrated at the failure of Mayor Smith’s council to rein in the KDC planning staff in respect of the saga of the water tanks for firefighting. The previous rules were ridiculous and were turning Mangawhai into a tank town. Residents fought successfully to remove the requirement for dedicated firefighting water tanks, but nine months down the track the KDC is implementing more draconian requirements in breach of its own District Plan. Mayor Smith has dithered and still refuses to take affirmative action.
• The consent process of the KDC has been widely criticised by those building or developing. Most were afraid to voice concern in case KDC staff delayed the processing of the consent or charged more for the delay. The recent B & A report on the KDC’s consent processes has vindicated the views of consent applicants with its damning comments on the competence of some of the KDC staff and the questionable legality of some of the consent conditions. Why did Mayor Smith not take action earlier and respond to the clear dissatisfaction of the community with his council’s performance?
• I am also concerned at the amount of money that is being spent, especially given that we have a massive debt to repay as a legacy of the incompetence of an earlier council and the government appointed commissioners. Over $20 million of the debt incurred on the EcoCare sewerage scheme is allocated to future generations. Only half the interest is paid. The rest is capitalised and added to the principal. According to the long term plan of 2018 it will take 30 years for that debt to be repaid. That is several generations. And yet the KDC is borrowing a further $20.5 million over the next 10 years to expand the same sewerage system to cope with normal growth. If Mangawhai Central goes ahead and connects to the system then it is likely that a completely new sewerage plant will be required. I feel that the full facts are being hidden from us and that we are going to end up with another mountain of debt.
• The KDC wants the community to express its views on the future of Mangawhai but cannot even provide the facts and figures to show what is happening and what is feasible. Developing a “spatial plan” sounds fine in consultant-speak but it is an exercise in futility without hard facts. Hard facts are whether Mangawahi Central will go ahead. Will it take all of our water from the main aquifer? Will it connect to the sewerage system, and if so will that mean that we will have to have a new system? Will there be a bypass, and will it be along Cove Road? Will there be a roundabout at the junction of Moir Street and Insley Street and will the owners of affected land be consulted at some stage?
• The proposal for a new district plan brings back dreadful memories of the last one. It cost over $5 million and was just a means of pouring money down the throats of consultants. The plan was not properly consulted, and included the dreadful reference to the Fire Service code of practice without any consideration of what the code said. Not only did the B & A report criticise the current plan, it also questioned the competence of the KDC to prepare a new plan. Despite that the KDC will go ahead and another $7 million, and probably more, will disappear down the gurgler.
• The amount of money being spent on consultants and proposals for the Mangawhai Community Plan is horrendous. Under the guise of having consulted with the community the KDC is going on a spending spree that defies any financial good-sense. The consultants recently let slip that the continuous coastal walkway could cost as much as $15 million. The super-duper shared pathway in Moir Street by the Domain is costing over $500,000 for 750 metres. Imagine the cost of that pathway from the Village to the Heads. Some of that will be funded by government grants but the KDC is reluctant to reveal where the rest will come from.
• The revelation that the KDC has secretly entered into a lease of part of a new building to be constructed by the NRC is perhaps the last straw. The lack of consultation with the community for such a major issue and the practical and economic concerns of such an undertaking all ring alarm bells about the competence and attitudes of the KDC under its present leadership.
• Another major gripe is the role of Mayor Smith in the disenfranchising of the community in Mangawhai and Kaiwaka. Mayor Smith promoted the reduction of the number of councillors representing the east of the district from 3 to 2 for this coming election. Despite huge opposition from the community he used a second casting vote to push the proposal through council and represented the KDC at the hearing before the Electoral Commission. The Commission accepted the proposal based on historic census figures even though it is clear beyond any doubt that the eastern part of the district, with its massive recent growth, was clearly under-represented at the time the decision was made. The situation can be reviewed by the Council in a few years but, given the attitude of Mayor Smith, I have my doubts that that will happen.
• Many of us have seen how the Tiller council created a massive debt for the Kaipara for many generations to come. All those responsible for the financial carnage got off scot-free while the community inherits the legacy and the debt. The Commissioners ensured that the debt was dumped on ratepayers and then swanned off to other junkets. We need to remember that. Mayors come and go with all their promises and spin, but once they are gone it is the community that has to bear the burden of the mess and the debt that they leave behind.
KDC CONSENT FIASCO 24.09.2019
The Mangawhai Focus in its edition of 16 September 2019 gave extensive coverage to the Barker & Associates report on the KDC’s shortcomings in respect of its resource consent processes. (Scroll down to earlier post.)
The same edition also reports on the stress and exasperation suffered by those applying for consents.
It is now 9 months since the amendments to the KDC District Plan ordered by the Hearing Commissioners and the Environment Court were adopted by the KDC as part of its operative District Plan. Those amendments relate principally to the amount of water that is needed for firefighting purposes at the subdivision stage.
For 9 months the KDC has dithered over deciding how those amendments should be applied to consents, but it appears that no decision has yet been made.
I reported that a few weeks ago Mayor Smith advised that he would get back to me on the issue in the very near future. I have heard nothing further from him.
CASTLES IN THE AIR? 24.09.2019
The KDC has sent me a copy of the public excluded resolution where it resolved to enter into a lease of new premises in Dargaville.
The vote was very close with five councillors for the proposal and four against.
Those who voted for the proposal were Councillors Curnow, Del la Varis-Woodcock, Joyce-Paki, Wethey and Mayor Smith.
Those who voted against the proposal were Councillors Geange, Jones, Larsen and Wade.
The lease from the NRC in a building yet to be built is to be for a term of 15 years but it is unclear if that is for a fixed term or for 5 years with two rights of renewal.
The rental payable is not disclosed but it has to be “within the costs budgeted in the LTP”. There are no costs budgeted in the current LTP.
There is no mention of the costs of the fit-out of the new premises which will be substantial.
The resolution also reveals what is to happen to current KDC offices, which are owned by the KDC. Following remediation they are to be fitted out as a new library for Dargaville.
The net result appears to be that the KDC will no longer occupy its own building and pay no rent (or rates), but will have to pay rent for the new premises and rates. it will also have to fund the fit-out of the new building and the fit-out of the new library in the old KDC offices.
The resolution says that the public are to be consulted on the cost of upgrading the current Council offices building and the relocation of the library. It would appear that consultation is a bit late. The lot has already been cast wth the decision to make the move into the NRC building.
I have asked the KDC for a copy of the report on the various options and their pros and cons that would have been provided to Councillors before the vote was taken.
GRAHAM SIBERY - THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN HANDSHAKE? 24.09.2019
The mystery surrounding the $240,000 golden handshake gifted by the KDC to departing chief executive Graham Sibery in 2017 still lingers like a bad smell that refuses to go away.
Graham Sibery was paid an annual salary of $241,866 a year. He worked for only one year and one month of his 5 year contract term. He left under a cloud. KDC Mayor at that time, Greg Gent, refused to give reasons why Mr Sibery left. That suggests that he was fired.
In the 2017/2018 rating year he worked for only two months of that year. His salary for those two months should have been about $40,000. Instead, Mr Sibery walked away with his pockets bulging with a whopping $297,994 of ratepayers' money.
The KDC refuses to explain how that amount was calculated. The KDC annual report for the 2017/2018 year states that for the two months of that year that he worked Mr Sibery received a total payment of $297,994. That was made up of “salary” of $241,866, plus other employment benefits of $8,359, plus a severance payment of $47,769.
The figures look as if they have to be fudged to hide the true size of the severance payment. However, they have been certified as correct by the KDC Chief Executive Louise Miller, and Mayor Jason Smith in the annual report.
Ironically, the KDC has acknowledged that the figures "look incorrect", but states that they are in fact correct. It has advised that the KDC’s delegated auditor, Deloitte, confirmed the correctness of the figure. Investigations have also revealed that the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG), the head auditor, also signed off on the figures.
The KDC and the OAG have both refused to explain how the figures were arrived at, citing the confidentiality of employment contracts which override the right to offiiclal information.
The problem is that the figures, as presented in the annual report, do not comply with the simple format required by the legislation. In addition the OAG has completely ignored its own guidelines on situations where there is an apparent anomaly in the information provided. Where figures do not make sense the OAG in its guidelines encourages local authorities to include information in the annual report to explain apparent discrepancies. Such information is necessary “in the interest of transparency and accountability to the public”.
Unfortunately the OAG failed to ensure that such an explanation was included in the Sibery case. That leaves the situation open to conjecture.
It could be that Mr Sibery was given a very generous employment contract which enabled him to secure such a large golden handshake when he left. It is understood that he had worked with KDC Commissioner Peter Winder during the Rugby World Cup in Wellington in 2011
Mr Sibery's appointment was quite bizarre given that he was appointed by the KDC Commissioners in 2016 just a short time before the election of a new council took place. Appointing a new chief executive should have been left to the new council. He had no experience in local government and had an appalling employment record. In the prior 10 years his LinkedIn entry shows that previous terms of employment were, in succession, 2 years and 1 month, 1 year and 11 months, I year and 9 months, 2 years and 8 months, 7 months, and 2 years and three months. It is also understood that during those terms of employment Mr Sibery took lengthy unscheduled leave for various reasons. Despite this, he was employed by the KDC Commissioners for the maximum term permitted of 5 years.
It may be that Mr Sibery’s employment contract, with its generous five year term, set him up for a substantial payment of salary if his contract was terminated early. Given the amount of his final salary payment there could have been a clause that he would be paid a full year’s salary in the year that his employment was terminated. If that is the case then the blame for the excessive payment to Mr Sibery must lie with the KDC Commissioners. However the secrecy involved must be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the OAG. It failed to insist that the KDC comply with the OAG guidelines for dealing with discrepancies in payments. It justified the non-disclosure of explanatory information by citing the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of employment contracts. But, again, it ignored its own guidelines:
However, public entities need to comply with disclosure requirements in the Act and accounting standards. These requirements override any confidentiality agreement or privacy considerations.
Graham Sibery is blissfully unaware of all this drama. Since quitting the KDC his Linkedin entry states that has been sailing his yacht Mistik around the Mediterranean, no doubt with the help of the generous windfall payment that he received from the ratepayers of Kaipara.
Footnote: I have lodged a formal complaint with the OAG about its handling of the matter. The Office of the Ombudsman is also enquiring into some aspects of the case.
REVIEW CRITICAL OF KDC CONSENT PROCESSING 17.09.2019
Many of those seeking RMA consents may have had doubts about the competence of the KDC consent staff and the reasonableness and correctness of their decisions. Most do not dispute such decisions because of the extra costs and delay. Even professionals and consultants seem to be reticent in challenging KDC planning decisions.
I have been closely involved in FENZ debacle and have been alarmed at the way in which the KDC staff have treated the issue. Whilst the staff were cooperative during the mediation process, things changed dramatically once the changes to the District Plan had to be implemented. It almost seemed as if FENZ had taken over the KDC and was setting criteria that totally ignored the RMA and the amendments to the District Plan.
It is reassuring for all of us who harbour these concerns that we are not alone. Barker & Associates (B&A) have just released the Kaipara District Council – Independent Planning Functions Review: 31 July 2019.
The review is an indictment of the competence of the KDC in the planning area and vindicates the views of those who at times feel they have been held to ransom by an out of control KDC planning department.
Some of the findings of the review are set out below. For those who want to read the full litany of criticisms the review can be found in the KDC Agenda of its August Council Meeting. Scroll down to page 25.
The review is not just critical of the KDC’s past performance. It also doubts its competence for the future. The KDC is already planning its next District Plan and holding meetings to try and develop a spatial plan which will be the basis for the new District Plan. The current District Plan cost over $5 million but has been a shambles. The review describes it more gently. It criticises “the lack of District Plan clarity which is creating confusion and differing interpretations”.
The new District Plan, which will cost even more, is boasted as being the new way to the future of Kaipara. In fact it is nothing more than a way of pouring ratepayers money down the gullets of consultants, and justifying unnecessary planning staff within the KDC. The B&A review doubts that the KDC has the competence for the task ahead:
The existing Policy Team will be lacking resourcing and expertise leading into the District Plan review, given the lack of planners in the team and the scale and complexity of the task.
The B&A review will be a major challenge for the KDC. There have been several instances where the KDC, its staff and some of its elected members have shown themselves to be out of touch with the views and the best interests of ratepayers. The KDC’s much vaunted transparency and openness sounds very hollow at times and serves to disguise a culture of secrecy and lack of consultation.The KDC is fast losing the confidence of ratepayers. It will be interesting to see if the B&A review will be given a pauper’s secret burial or whether the KDC will openly front up and “fess up” to ratepayers.
Some extracts from the B&A Review
Unreasonable consent conditions have been a major quibble. The reviews states: “Conditions were not necessarily drafted to be clear, specific or enforceable, which is a legal requirement. Some conditions were at risk of being ultra-vires.” That means that some conditions were possibly unlawful. The KDC staff’s interpretation of the District Plan was also highlighted:
Conflicting advice and interpretations of the District Plan is being received from KDC staff which was acknowledged to be a result of a lack of experience and knowledge of the staff as well as the nature of the plan; decisions between the staff are inconsistent.
“Processing time for consents, particularly simple consents, is too long”, and some “processes are perceived as too bureaucratic and time and cost expensive”. In some instances “the need for some resource consents was questioned”.
“Consistently non-RMA or non-relevant questions are being asked of applications which are outside of the scope of the consent process: there is a sense of confusion between compliance and the actual requirements of consents under the District Plan.”
One sample concerning the rejection of an application was “highly irregular, poorly communicated, and potentially procedurally incorrect”. The review warned:
Not implementing the RMA correctly in [the rejection process] is increasing risk of court challenge and negative Ministry of Environment review findings if they were to be audited.
The work of some outside consultants employed by the KDC is criticised as lacking “quality and consistency in the outputs, particularly in resource consent processing and decisions”. Their work “is inconsistent with Council’s quality standards and with the work being undertaken by in-house staff members”.
Many consent holders have complained of the way they have been treated by KDC planning staff. The review states that “customer responses are not being delivered to the customer well”. Communication from the planners is reported as being “overcomplicated” and “the customer appears to be feeling a lack of respect”. “The consent planners can be difficult to contact with staff often not being responsive via emails or phone calls”.
KDC REVEALS NEW OFFICES PLANS - FINALLY 14.09 2019
It didn’t take very long. The KDC has kept its deal with the NRC secret for months. I sent a copy of yesterday’s post revealing the plans to the Mayor, Councillors and KDC Chief Executive early yesterday. By the evening the NRC/KDC had issued a media release revealing some details of the plans.
The media release is in the name of the NRC but was posted on the KDC website yesterday evening. It can be viewed here.
The media release was clearly an opportunity for the spin-meisters at the NRC and KDC to come up with all sorts of justifications for the project, including Kauri die-back and Mycoplasma bovis.
KDC Chief Executive, Louise Miller, states that the project is “a strong financial decision”, but clearly one that ratepayers – who will be paying all the bills - have no say in. She notes that KDC Councillors have already “given their blessing” to the new shared building concept. That clearly means that the KDC does not intend to consult with ratepayers.
On the other hand, the plans are subject to the approval of new NRC Council that will be elected in the next few weeks.
What of the old KDC owned building that houses its current offices? It will be vacated, "remediated", and “redeveloped for other services”. According to the spin:
This working together allows for future opportunities to work closer in the future.
If this decision was a “significant decision” (defined by KDC staff according to the KDC’s Significance and Engagement Policy) then the KDC was obliged to go through a formal consultation process with ratepayers before making its decision. Even if the decision was not considered to be significant then the KDC was still obliged to consider the various options, and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. It was also obliged to give consideration to the views of ratepayers (but without necessarily consulting with them).
The report on the proposal prepared by KDC staff, and considered by Councillors before voting on the issue, has been kept secret. That report needs to be made public. We need to know the options, the costs, and the effect on the rates. In addition we need to know which Councillors voted for the proposal or against the proposal. It would also be appropriate for those candidates standing for election to express their views on the plans and on the fact that there was no consultation with ratepayers.
KDC’S SECRET PLAN FOR NEW DARGAVILLE OFFICES REVEALED 13.09.2019
A couple of different sources have revealed the KDC’s plans to spend a substantial sum of money in establishing new Council Offices in a brand new building in Dargaville.
It has all been done in secret without any consultation with ratepayers.
The first inkling came in the KDC’s “Kaipara Spotlight” on the back page of the Kaipara Lifestyler of 3 September 2019. It revealed that remediation work is to be carried out on the KDC owned properties at 37 and 42 Hokianga Road, Dargaville. They are the War Memorial Hall and the Council Offices respectively. The Hall has extensive issues and a repair budget of $600,000 has been allocated.
The Council Offices were built in the 1960s and have weather tightness issues with mould, and minor instances of asbestos. The cost of remediation has not been revealed and will be programmed for future years.
Interestingly, these proposals were omitted from the KDC’s “Kaipara Spotlight” on the back page of the Mangawhai Focus of 2 September 2019.
This news raises interesting questions about the future of the current Council Offices. When will the remediation work commence? What will it cost? Will the KDC be able to operate from the building while the remediation is carried out?
The proposals are reported as fact in the Kaipara Liifestyler, so presumably the decisions have already been made by the KDC. That would have involved a report on the remediation issues and a decision by the elected members on the various options.
I checked the agendas and minutes of the latest Council meeting but could find no reference to the decision. That means that it was decided in “public excluded”, or secretly. No advice to ratepayers and no consultation.
What I did find however was a brief note in the agenda for the KDC Council meeting of 29 August 2019 (Item 3.3 on page 151). It states very succinctly that the KDC has agreed to lease space in a new NRC building in Dargaville.
I figured that the NRC might be more open about such a proposal so I searched the NRC website to see if I could find out what it was all about. I came across a report from the NRC Chairman in June this year. It states:
As part of our council’s Shared Services programme with other councils we have been discussing the building of a new office building in Dargaville to share with the Kaipara District Council.
We are expanding our field staff in the Kaipara and Kaipara District Council’s offices no longer meet their operational requirements. Therefore, a new purpose-built building to be shared by the two councils makes great sense. Our council will provide the capital and KDC will become an anchor tenant.
Both councils get the office accommodation that they need to carry out efficient operations and our joint ratepayers get the savings that result. A classic win/win!
This refers to the property at 32 Hokianga Road Dargaville which was purchased by the NRC in late 2017. Presumably the current building on the property will be demolished and a new purpose-built building will be constructed, part of which will be leased to the KDC.
NRC Councillor Penny Smart of the NRC in front of the property at 32 Hokianga Road Dargaville where the new NRC building will be constructed.
Clearly that proposal has now been finalised. It is not known how long it will be before the new building is ready for occupation by the KDC.
So, it appears, the KDC will eventually be vacating its current offices in Dargaville and moving into the new offices in the NRC building. It will be moving from its own property where no rent is payable to a new building where, no doubt, substantial rent will be payable and the cost of fit-out into suitable offices will be considerable. So the cost implications are significant.
That also leaves a question mark over the current Council Offices that are owned by the KDC. The decision on remediation has been made. But to what end? Is the KDC going to occupy both buildings? Or is the old building to be sold once the defects have been fixed. If so, is there a market for such a building in Dargaville given the empty commercial buildings?
Is the cost involved justifiable given the debt situation of the KDC, and also given the likelihood of Kaipara being swallowed up into a larger super council in the not too distant future?
Ratepayers can only speculate at what is happening and for what reasons. It appears that this is another “done deal” of the KDC. Done in secret and without any consultation; not even the perfunctory consultation with ratepayers that it usually undertakes.
I am not sure of the legal implications at this stage. I recall a similar discovery when we found that the KDC had, in “public excluded”, secretly increased the cost of the EcoCare sewerage system. The KDC had acted in blatant breach of the provisions of the Local Government Act 2002 and the High Court subsequently held the decision to be unlawful.
It would appear to me, without knowing anything about the process that the KDC went through to make the decisions that it has made, that this may be a significant decision and the KDC may be in breach of section 76 of the Local Government Act 2002 by failing to consult with ratepayers. That section states:
(1) Every decision made by a local authority must be made in accordance with such of the provisions of sections 77, 78, 80, 81, and 82 as are applicable.
The other sections referred to require consultation with ratepayers. (For those who want to pursue the matter further you will find the sections referred to here.)
There is a Court of Appeal decision that held that the Bay of Plenty Regional Council breached the provisions of the Local Government Act 2002 when it resolved to shift its offices from Whakatane to Tauranga. It consulted with ratepayers but only after the decision was made. In that instance the offices moved from one town to another. (For those interested the judgment can be accessed here.)
Clearly any resolution approving the proposals must have been passed by the elected representatives. Why did they do so without consulting ratepayers? Why did they do so in secret? Was it because they feared that the decisions would not sit well with ratepayers and reflect badly on them in the upcoming council election?
Did they want to present the proposals as a done deal after the elections when ratepayers could no longer express their support or opposition through either consultation or the ballot-box?
Mayor Smith and his councillors have a lot of explaining to do to ratepayers before the election gets into full swing.
MOIR STREET FOOTPATH - FACTS AND FIGURES 06.09.2019
The Workboot Councillor, Jonathan Larsen, provides some very important facts and figures on the Moir Street situation on his website.
It appears that there was virtually no consultation with the community on the project. It also seems that the costs bear no relation to those set out in the Mangawhai Community Plan. This is what the MCP says:
Stage one – slow street Mangawhai Village Shared path and landscaping from: - Mangawhai School to Insley/Moir Streets intersection - Tara Bridge to Pearson Street (including Mangawhai Domain) $300,000
That includes three legs: Insley Street from the school to the Moir Street intersection. Moir Street from Tara bridge to the Insley Street intersection. From the Moir Stree/Insley Street intersection to Pearson Street. Total cost $300,000. It is unclear if that means the total cost or the cost after subsidies. Let's be generous and take the latter.
This current contract is for 750 metres of one leg only and only goes from the Tara bridge to about as far as the church on Moir Street. The contract price is $524,501.75. The cost to the community after a NZTA subsidy is 39 % of the total which comes to $204,555.68. On the basis of the total cost for the three legs being $300,000, as stated in the MCP, that leaves $95,400 to complete the Moir Street leg and the other two legs. On a rough calculation, and based on the current contract price, it looks like the total cost to the community will be somewhere north of $600,000. Twice as much as the amount consulted on.
Those who have been in Mangawhai through the financial debacles of the McKerchar regime, do you get a sense of deja vue?
THE FENZ DEBACLE - WHAT IS THE KDC'S SECRET AGENDA? 06.09.2019
Many people are asking me what has happened about the Commissioners' rejection of dedicated water tanks for firefighting. After all, it is more than 2 years since the hearing on Plan Change 4, and the Commissioners' decision was released in December 2017.
Have those ghastly tanks, which have blighted Magical Mangawhai, gone for good?
It is a long and very unfortunate story that does no credit to the KDC and how its is operating as a consent authority. I have been somewhat reluctant to reveal the details of what has been going on in the hope that someone in the KDC would take control of errant staff who appear to have agendas of their own. The KDC has by-passed the decision of the Commissioners and amendments to the District Plan, agreed in mediation, and effectively set FENZ up as a consent authority under the RMA at the subdivision stage. The rules that FENZ now applies are more far-reaching than the rules under its code of practice that were previously applied.
In 2013 when the Commissioners were in power the KDC adopted the Fire Service’s code of practice as part of its new District Plan. it did so without any consideration of its content and implications for the community, and without any consultation with the community as required by the Resource Management Act. At the time there was a clear conflict of interest as Beca acted as consultant to the KDC and to the Fire Service.
That decision and the implementation of the code of practice has created a festering sore between the KDC and the Mangawhai community for the past 6 years. The code of practice is actually a voluntary code that is only relevant to urban areas with a reticulated water supply. It does not apply to Mangawhai and other townships with tank water supply. The Fire Service, now Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), stepped outside its statutory authority and included non-reticulated areas in the code. It pressured the KDC into making it compulsory by including it in its District Plan.
The code contains rules that are extreme, illogical and completely inappropriate for New Zealand conditions. Despite universal condemnation of the rules, the KDC insisted on compliance at huge cost to those building and to the detriment of the visual amenities of Mangawhai. A sudden proliferation of concrete tanks turned Magical Mangawhai into a Tank Town.
Under community pressure the KDC tried to soften the effect of the code of practice with Plan Change 2. That was rejected by the community and followed by Plan Change 4. That again was rejected by the community. Tinkering around the edges was not enough, the community wanted the code of practice to be completely deleted from the District Plan. A hearing on Plan Change 4 was held before Commissioners in 2017. After hearing submissions from myself and others on behalf of the community, the Commissioners decided that the rules of the code of practice were unreasonable. The amount of dedicated water for firefighting was irrelevant to the risk of fire. All references to the code were deleted from the District Plan.
The victory for the Community was short-lived. FENZ appealed the Commissioners' decision to the Environment Court, which ordered mediation between the parties. There followed a series of meetings between KDC consent staff and the representatives of the section 274 parties - those ratepayers who supported the Commissioners’ decision. I ended up as the sole representative of the ninety odd section 274 parties.
In law the decision of the Commissioners was the decision of the KDC, so the community and the KDC were on the same side fighting FENZ. We fought hard to have the code deleted from the Plan. However FENZ threatened to proceed to a hearing in the Environment Court unless the decision of the Commissioners was modified. A compromise was eventually reached. The code of practice was to be referred to as an advisory reference only and it was agreed that at the subdivision stage the adequacy of water for firefighting was to be satisfied if 10,000 litres of water was likely to be available from any source within 90 metres of the proposed building platform. Council staff agreed that in virtually every situation a building with a single domestic water tank would meet the requirements of the rule.
FENZ accepted the compromise, the amendments were endorsed by order of the Environment Court, and the District Plan was amended accordingly and adopted by the KDC in Decembers 2018.
Subsequent moves by the KDC and FENZ
That is when the KDC staff who agreed to the compromise went off on a tangent. I don’t know what happened exactly but it appears that they cosied up to FENZ and started modifying the terms of the compromise agreement and completely misinterpreting and misapplying the new provisions in the Plan and the decision of the Commissioners. I tried to draw them back to the agreed terms but they ignored my approaches and refused to meet with me. I drafted a legal opinion pointing out that the staff were acting in breach of the amended terms of the District Plan and were introducing an assessment criteria that was not in the Plan, and was in breach of the RMA. In addition, FENZ was acting as a consent authority under the RMA which was in blatant breach of its limited powers under the FENZ Act which sets out its statutory powers. I sent to the legal opinion to the chief executive, Mayor Smith and all of the councillors urging them to take action. There was no response.
The end result is that the KDC has come up with a risk assessment document as part of the subdivision consent process that goes way beyond the legal scope of the amended provisions in the District Plan. It contains requirements that are even more draconian than anything that was in the deleted code of practice. The KDC has also allowed FENZ to set itself up illegally as a consent authority under the RMA. FENZ now has its own application form with requirements which have nothing to do with rules in the KDC District Plan. Private planning consultants and the KDC all appear to be deferring to FENZ.
I have written to the KDC chief executive Louise Miller pressing her to interfere and rein in the consent staff of council. No response. I spoke to Mayor Smith two weeks ago. He knew of the issue, was shocked at what has happened, and assured me that he and the councillors were taking action to remedy the situation. He also said that he had not seen the legal opinion that I sent to him. He asked me not to publish anything just yet as things were about to happen. Two weeks on and nothing has happened, at least that I have been informed of.
All this is happening just as an independent review has come out slamming the performance and competence of the KDC as a consent authority under the RMA. I will report on that in the next few days.
If you have been subjected to the new subdivision consent conditions imposed by the KDC and FENZ, Then I would appreciate receiving a copy. No details of names or property etc would be publicly revealed, just details of the conditions being imposed. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
PATUONE WALKWAY - 'just nuts' 05.09.2019
Auckland City has its own issues with a walkway through a reserve. See the NZ Herald article here.
SPATIAL PLAN MEETINGS 03.09.2019
I attended the first meeting last Friday 30 August at 2:30 pm.
The whole point of the meeting was to seek contributions from residents on the future development of Mangawhai so that their hopes and visions could be included as part of the new district plan and guide the development of Mangawhai for the next 30 years.
It was a bit of a fizzer.
Plans for the future must necessarily be based on the limitations of the infrastructure that is or will be available. The problem is that no one at the meeting had any idea where Mangawhai stands at present and what is actually feasible.
The presenter, Michael, from the consultant Kobus was friendly and receptive but, as he admitted, he does not yet have any detailed knowledge about Mangawhai. There was no one from the KDC to provide the vital information on which residents could base their opinions.
A major a factor for the future is the roading access to Mangawhai. There were vague ideas about opening up Cove Road as a by-pass but the traffic will still come in via Insley Street and cause congestion at the Moir Street intersection. A by-pass to avoid that intersection is apparently not on the cards but there was no one at the meeting to advise on the options and the funding available from central government.
Mangawhai Central is a biggie. If it goes ahead, it will dictate the future of Mangawhai - how it is structured and how it will grow. As someone said at the meeting, there are a lot of Chinese whispers being circulated about the developers and the uncertainty of their financial backing. We all remember at the meeting last year when the developers promised that they would not take any steps without consulting the community. Not a whisper since.
Water is a major issue. The developers of Mangawhai Central promised that they would to provide their own water, from a damn in the Brynderwyns as I recall. Now the KDC has confirmed that Mangawhai Central has applied to the NRC to draw water from the main aquifer in Mangawhai. Experts suggest that it will deplete water supplies for all those others who are tapped into the aquifer, included the emergency water suppliers who supply domestic water when tanks run dry in summer.
What is the situation?
We paid $62.4 million for the current wastewater system. It was called EcoCare but is now known as the MCWWS (Mangawhai Community Waste Water Scheme). It was supposed to cost less than half that price but price increases were secretly and unlawfully agreed to by the KDC under Mayor Tiller and chief executive Jack McKerchar. The incompetence of the KDC under the Tiller regime resulted in a massive blow-out in cost and resulted in a system that never met the specifications that were promised. Ratepayers were told that the system would service 4,500 properties and would service Mangawhai well into the future. The reality is that at present it only services just over 2,000 properties and only then because further investment has been made in the plant and the disposal system.
Apparently, and there is no hard information, the treatment plant has a little further capacity, but the disposal fields will soon reach capacity and a new disposal system will be needed. A couple of years ago the community advisory panel appointed by the Commissioners did extensive water tests and considered the options for alternative disposal of the water from the treatment plant. Nothing appears to have come of those investigations.
Is the MCWWS adequate?
Most of the current debt of the KDC is attributed to the sewerage system debacle. According to the Long Term Plan (LTP) $20.2 million of the debt incurred on the MCWWS has been allocated to the" future community", based on anticipated growth That means those who move to Mangawahai over the next 30 years. Only 50 per cent of the interest is paid on that amount through the general rate and paid by all ratepayers throughout Kaipara. The other 50 per cent of the interest is capitalised and added to the debt. The LTP anticipates that it will take 30 years to pay off the current debt on the MCWWS. However, while the next few generations are paying of the old debt, further new debt is going to be incurred to increase the capacity of the system. The Mangawhai Community Plan on page 25 sets out the anticipated costs of extending the current plant and disposal system:
Extending the wastewater scheme including the number of connections
Extend irrigation system, upgrade existing reticulation and extend reticulation, augment treatment plant. Priority 2018-2020. Cost $5.72 million
Extend reticulation. Priority 2021-2014. Cost $6.17 million
Extend reticulation and augment treatment plant. Priority 2025-028. Cost $5.87 million.
New disposal system, extend reticulation and augment treatment plant. Priority 2028 onwards. Cost $17.0 million.
The MCP states: It is considered development contributions will be the main funding stream.
However the 2018/2028 Long Term Plan contradicts this by stating that the cost over 10 years to 2018 will be $20.05 million ‘funded through debt”.
The KDC has now confirmed that Mangawhai Central will, if it goes ahead, connect to the existing sewerage system. The facts and figures tell us that is that the MCWWS could not cope with that number of connections. Will that mean a new sewerage system? That will have to be funded by debt. And yet we will still be paying off the debt on the old MCWWS for the next 30 years.
The status of the MCWWS sits behind an impenetrable wall with the KDC reluctant ro reveal any realistic facts and figures. If the community is going to have an effective input into the future of Mangawhai then the KDC and its consultants need to come up with some hard facts on which our vision for the future can be based.
Is the KDC competent enough to provide the guidance, the planning and the consent processes that ensure that the future vision for Kaipara is achieved?
Most of those seeking building or resource consents over the past few years will tell a story of a KDC that appears to go out of its way with to make it difficult for any consent applicant, imposing conditions that appear inappropriate, arbitrary and unnecessary. The result is delay, high cost, poor design, and a community that has lost trust and confidence in the KDC as a consent authority.
Even the MCP community panel agreed with some of those criticisms. It had this to say at page 7 of its feedback document:
Feedback from the community is that poor urban design in some recent subdivisions has contributed to a loss of character and amenity in Mangawhai. Examples referred to include poor pedestrian connections, inappropriate fencing, poor location of building platforms, garages, above-ground water tanks, large areas of concrete and removal of vegetation. In many cases the Mangawhai Design Guidelines included in the District Plan, which were created to mitigate these issues, appear to have been ignored.
An Independent Planning Functions Review was presented at the Council meeting on 29 August 2019. It was an independent audit of the processes and procedures used in the assessment of resource consents processed by the KDC.
The conclusions of the Review are not pretty reading. I will go into more detail in a later post, but the Review confirms the opinions of many consent applicants about the poor standard of the KDC’s consent processes. Perhaps one of the most telling comments relevant to the Spatial Plan and the proposed new District Plan is:
The existing Policy Team will be lacking resourcing and expertise leading into the District Plan review, given the lack of planners in the team and the scale and complexity of the task.
The community’s vision for the future? Well that depends on the KDC and its consultant providing the real facts and figures, and on the KDC taking steps to improve its game and earning the trust of the community.
MOIR STREET FOOTPATH - GOING, GOING , GONE 03.09.2019
The concrete footpath outside the Domain in Moir Street has gone.
CONTINUOUS COASTAL WALKWAY – some hard facts 01.09.2019
We are hearing a lot about the continuous coastal walkway these days. It played a very minor role in the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) but in recent months it has appeared to consume a lot of the KDC staff’s time and an awful lot of money. That’s ratepayers’ money.
What is the MCP?
The MCP is a vision for the future of Mangawhai. It was largely the work of a panel of community advisers appointed by the KDC Commissioners in mid-2016. The draft was adopted by the KDC in July 2017. It was consulted on with ratepayers and over 100 submissions were received.
The MCP came to life a couple of months ago when the KDC tried to construct a 2.4 metre wide gravel joint cycle track/walkway through the heart of the grassed Alamar Crescent beach reserve. When confronted by the locals the staff said that it was a “done deal” and the contract had been let. They stated that the ratepayers has been consulted on the project through the MCP and the KDC was simply carrying out the community’s wishes. The KDC clearly took the view that it had carte blanche to proceed with the various projects without any further consultation or input from the community.
In the face of the protest the KDC backed down and went back to the drawing board.
Continuous coastal walkway
The KDC and consultant Resilio got together and came up with a completely new, very detailed proposal for a continuous coastal walkway from the Heads beach right through to Mangawhai Village.
The KDC held a couple of open days in June followed by an online survey. It was called a feasibility study but it appeared to be more of a tick the desired option box without any consideration of desirability, or feasibility to assess if ratepayers wanted or could afford the proposals.
The online survey was difficult to find. For some reason the KDC’s new website only has historic references to the MCP. For those who could locate the survey it was very simple. It had options to tick for the type of finish for the walkway (gravel, timber, etc) for each leg of the project. No costs were mentioned, or who was going to pay. It was like a menu for a multicourse meal that you were invited to order from but with no idea how much each course cost, and more importantly, who was footing the bill.
Somewhat surprisingly the detailed proposals are no longer available on the internet.
The next step is, apparently, that the panel appointed by the Commissioners will advise the KDC on what the ratepayers want and then work with a representative of the residents adjacent to that leg of the walkway to decide what that leg of the walkway will entail and what it will be constructed from.
In the next few weeks the community will need to decide whether it agrees with the philosophy behind the coastal walkway. Do we want a formed walkway along every metre of the Mangawhai coastline? Or do we just want to walk on the beaches and the grass reserves? Should the walkway be available for cyclists and, inevitably, electric scooters? Is it feasible to make such a walkway accessible for all, even those in wheelchairs?
As I understand it, only those who live alongside each leg of the walkway will have a say in that part of the development. And yet the MCP is funded by all ratepayers in the greater Mangawhai area stretching to Baldrock Road, and all residents and visitors will use the walkway
It is fine to present a smorgasbord of options for the construction of the walkway, but there is no mention of the cost and who pays. We all have wish-lists in life but that is necessarily tempered by affordability. The cost of the MCP has the potential for being another financial black-hole. The MCP itself states that the total cost of the MCP over ten years is $26.9 million and close to $50 million to completion. However, it has just been revealed by the consultants that the continuous coastal walkway - which was scarcely mentioned in the MCP and was costed at $1.742 million – is on its own going to cost $15 million. That figure is based on all legs of the walkway being constructed in the most expensive way.
he Community Advisory Panel’s input contained this comment on finance:
Just like a household a Council must live within its means. As Council seeks to provide the infrastructure to support a growing community, it must ensure that it is affordable for the community which ultimately pays the bill.
The panel recommended to Council:
Develop a financial strategy to support the draft Mangawhai Community Plan so there is clear visibility on cost implications of the Plan and how it will be funded.
Council has failed to provide the community with details of the cost of the project. According to the latest Long Term Plan it is funded through a 20% district-wide general rate and an 80% differential rate levied on properties located within the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration area which extends to Baldrock Road.
To get some idea of the walkway’s impact on rates, divide $15 million by the approx 4,000 targeted properties in greater Mangawhai. Each property will have to pay $3,750 for the walkway alone.
Time for some serious reflection on what we want as a community.
MOIR STREET MADNESS? 29.08.2019
The latest public relations disaster of the KDC is unfolding in Moir Street outside the Domain. A 2.4 metre wide concrete shared path has been constructed opposite the Domain. It is apparently the first stage of the “slow street” part of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP). The shared use means that it is footpath and cycle way and will eventually extend to the Insley Street junction and then eventually along the causeway to the Heads.
You will find no details of the MCP on the KDC website. It has its own separate website and the information on the slow street proposals can be found under Projects here.
There is also a link to a fact sheet.
More information can be found in the MCP itself. This can be found here.
In the MCP it is the first stage of the “slow street” on page 23. Details and costings are shown. P1 means priority 1 which indicates that it will be completed between 2018 and 2020.
Stage one – slow street Mangawhai Village Shared path and landscaping from: - Mangawhai School to Insley/Moir Streets intersection - Tara Bridge to Pearson Street (including Mangawhai Domain) P1 $300,000
Roundabout at Insley/Moir Streets intersection P1 $1,000,000
Roundabout at Moir Street/Molesworth Drive intersection. P1 $882,900
Review parking provisions PI TBC (to be costed)
Improved arrival experience from the south. P1 Included above
I understand that in the next few days the concrete footpath on the Domain side will be ripped up and replaced with a similar 2.5 metre wide shared concrete pathway.
The present footpath is in excellent condition and residents have expressed their concern at the need for, and the cost of, such unnecessary vandalism when there are places where there is no adequate footpath at all. (For example: the goat track between the Heads and the Village.)
This is no ordinary pathway. It is a specially wide, shared use pathway and the concrete used with special tinting and additives is twice as expensive as normal concrete.
As for the cost. Heaven knows. There is a growing suspicion that the costs of the MCP are running out of control. The MCP itself states that the total cost of the MCP over ten years is $26.9 million. However, it has just been revealed that the continuous coastal walkway - which was scarcely mentioned in the MCP (and costed at $1.7 million) but has now secretly grown as many legs as a centipede – is on its own going to cost $15 million.
The total cost of the MCP to completion is indicated to be close to $50 million. One can imagine that will be greatly exceeded. We already burdened with a massive debt due to the incompetence of the KDC in the EcoCare debacle. We don't need another costly blow-out.
Who pays? At the moment there is an extra levy in the rates for all properties in Mangawhai and extending to Baldrock Road. Mayor Smith when questioned on who pays, and whether ratepayers in Mangawhai afford such a grandiose scheme, suggested that Council was trying to secure monies from other sources…………….
I have filed a LGOIMA (official information) request with the KDC to find the cost of the MCP to date. I will today file a further request for the cost of the current contract to lay the shared path along Moir Street. I will advise details when they are to hand.
New concrete footpaths were laid at the Domain end of Tara Road fairly recently. This is what they look like now:
KDC WORKSHOP ON COASTAL WALKWAY ETC 22.08.2019
A KDC workshop is being held on FRIDAY 23 AUGUST (tomorrow) from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm at the Mangawhai Library Hall (Moir Street, Mangawhai Village) to discuss progress on the following matters:
• Moir Street Intersections Plan
• Coastal Walkway Feasibility Study report and priority projects
• Spatial Planning
• Other Project updates
Representatives from Resilio (consultants) will be there along with KDC Team members and Councillors. Also present will be the Community Panel appointed by the KDC Commissioners to represent the wishes of the Mangawhai community.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what proposals are being mooted by our representatives for the future of our community.
Note that this is a Council workshop. Whilst the public is allowed to attend, the public has no right to contribute in any way. That will come next month when a public forum will be held.
WORKBOOT COUNCILLOR LARSEN 22.08.2019
If you want to know how you are paying for the Mangawhai Community Plan take a look at the post of 16 July 2019 on the WorkBoot Councillor's Facebook page
LOCAL ELECTIONS 2019 PROVISIONAL NOMINATIONS 22.08.2019
Provisional nominations for Councillors and Mayor for Kaipara are as follows:
Dargaville Ward (2 Councillors)
Kaiwaka - Mangawahi Ward (2 Councillors)
Otamatea Ward (2 Councillors)
West - Coast Cenral Ward (2 Councillors)
Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock
Voting documents will be sent to all eligible electors, by post, from Friday 20 September 2019. The voting period is three weeks (Friday 20 September 2019 to noon Saturday 12 October 2019). Electors may post their completed voting documents back to the electoral officer using the orange pre-paid envelope sent with their voting document. Polling places for the issuing of special voting documents and for the receiving of completed voting documents will be available from Friday 20 September 2019 to close of business on Friday 11 October 2019 at all Council offices. On Saturday 12 October 2019, the issuing of special voting documents and the receiving of completed voting documents will be available at Council’s Dargaville and Mangawhai offices only. To be counted, all completed voting documents must be in the hands of the electoral officer or an electoral official by noon Saturday 12 October 2019. Progress results will be known early afternoon, and preliminary results will be known early on Sunday morning, 13 October 2019. These will be accessible on Council’s website.
MANGAWHAI COMMUNITY PLAN: COASTAL WALKWAY - ON-LINE SURVEY 11.08.2014
In the post below I alerted you to the on-line survey re the feasibility of the Mangawhai Community Plan's coastal walkway.
That survey closes on 12 August 2019.
The KDC boasts of being transparent, open and communicative. It wants to know what you want. But by golly it does not make it easy. You won’t find any reference to the on-line survey anywhere on the KDC website. At least I can’t find it. You can find the website reference on the back page of the latest Mangawhai Focus in the KDC adverts. It is also in the earlier post on this site – scroll down.
Before you go through and tick the boxes, read the post below and decide if we really need what is being offered and are you personally prepared to pay more rates to have those extra facilities?
I have done the survey. I have ticked the first option for every project. That is I don’t want any of the projects that are spread out like a free smorgasbord in front of me. I want the whole sorry saga of the coastal walkway and the Mangawhai Community Plan buried. What I do want is for us as a community to decide on what we can afford and then work out the priorities within our budget. From what I hear, you can forget all the fancy Resilio concepts and just put in a decent walkway connection between the Village and the Heads.
MANGAWHAI COMMUNITY PLAN (ALAMAR RESERVE) - LATEST NEWS 14.07.2019
Following ratepayers objections to the KDC’s proposals for Alamar Reserve, the KDC has regrouped and come back with a total revamp of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) proposals.
The proposal to construct a walkway/cycleway through the heart of the Alamar Reserve was ill-conceived. It was unclear which of the projects it was meant to be - footpath, shared cycleway and pathway, access to the coast, or part of the continuous coastal walkway. Perhaps it was mixture of all of them.
Suddenly with the new KDC proposals the continuous coastal walkway now has the starring role with the other projects not even mentioned.
In the MCP the continuous coastal walkway was not mentioned in the body of the document but simply referred to in the chart on page 27. The initial stage was to be the stretch from Head Beach to Pearl Street with a walkway over the rocks to Picnic Bay. The map on page 12 referred to it as "all tide coastal access".
The new proposals take a totally different approach. The coastal walkway has taken centre stage with immediate priority, whilst the other projects are not mentioned.
An advisory group of 5 or 6 members will be appointed by the KDC to oversee the whole project. In addition each segment of the walkway will have its own project advisory group which will be made up of the KDC appointed advisory group and representatives of the local community.
But before we get too carried away there are some important questions to ask.
Do we need a continuous coastal walkway?
The new proposals say this:
At present, the Coastal Walkway is disjointed, and in certain circumstances, non-existent. Difficult access and terrain in certain segments make it unusable by certain groups and creates challenges to accessing the coastal environment.
Surely difficult terrain is what the coast in New Zealand is all about. Can we expect to be able to walk (or cycle - it is a cycleway as well) along every metre of the coast? Do we want or need to have an uninterrupted walk/cycle around the coastline of Mangawhai?
One of the proposals is to build a wooden walkway from the KDC Campsite in Alamar Crescent over the rocks to Picnic Bay. Is that environmentally appropriate? And what of the cost?
And what are the groups that find certain segments of the coastline unusable? The reference is to those with mobility issues though age or illness. The consultant firm, Resilio, believes that all people irrespective of their age or health should be able to walk or have wheeled access to the coastline. Is that really sensible or feasible?
Can we afford the proposals?
Most ratepayers in Mangawhai are unaware that they are already paying a premium on their rates to meet the cost of the MCP. Those costs are huge. Have a look at all the number of reports that were prepared by consultants before the Plan even got off the ground. The current KDC consultant Resilio will be costing a small fortune. And the ground work has not even started yet.
There are estimates for the costs of the projects but you can expect them to be nowhere near the final costs. Those costs will be met by the ratepayers of Mangawhai. KDC and NRC rates increase for Mangawhai for the 2018/2019 rating years proably averaged over 20 per cent. In the new rating year (that has just started) the average increase across the district increase is 5.26 per cent. These are already way above the increases in consumer price index and the local government cost index, and they will continue to increase if we spend money on such projects.
Kaipara has a massive debt brought about by the incompetence of a previous council. Should we not be concentrating on getting rid of that debt and avoiding projects such as this - which we cannot afford and which are not really a priority for our community?
Rather than ticking the boxes of projects that are dangled before us as if they were freebies with no financial consequences, perhaps we should call out “Stop”, consider the cost, and look at what is essential. From what I am hearing coastal walkways, slow roads and all those fancy new ideas have no relevance to Mangawhai. Most residents simply want a footpath/cycleway between the Heads and the Village that goes alongside the road, rather than meandering for kilometres along the coastline. Footpaths would also be welcome in places where they are missing.
A couple of years ago the KDC developed “designer” options for Alamar Crescent and the Reserve. The residents rejected the proposals because they were a waste of money and would have a negative impact on the natural amenities of the location. That might be an example which we should follow in respect of the MCP.
The online survey document has plans of each segment of the proposed walkway. They are difficult to understand because of symbols in circles which are not explained on the plans themselves. To find out what the symbols mean you have to go to Path Improvement Options towards the beginning of the document which shows the different types of paths with a symbol representing each one.
The proposals for Alamar Reserve have changed substantially. The feedback from the community is that the grass reserve functions perfectly well as a walkway and there is no requirement for a formalised path. There is a need for a footpath but not through the reserve. One of the plans shows a 2 metre wide concrete footpath close to the row of pohutukawa trees. This would either impinge on the reserve or the parking area for cars.
The consultants appear to have a mind-set about defining walkways in gravel, wood or concrete. Where the walkway or footpath crosses the two boat ramps in Alamar Crescent they propose a raised 2 metre wide concrete walkway with zebra crossing type painting. It will be intersting to see what the boaties have to say.
If we commit to this project it may turn out to be a millstone around ratepayers’ necks. It did not start well with the rather dictatorial attitude of KDC staff and their “high end” aspirations. Perhaps this is the time when we should step back and consider if this is what we want, and whether, as a community, we can afford it.
HALT ON FOOTPATH A WIN FOR LOCALS 25.04.2019
See the latest from the Mangawhai Focus on the community’s fight to save the Alamar Reserve.
COUNCILLOR LARSEN 18.04.2019
Councillor Larsen’s column in the current edition of the Mangawhai Focus sets out the latest information on several matters that are of importance to ratepayers.
He reports on the three items that he has successfully argued before the council. He also summarises the outcome of the representation review appeal, and the reduction of the number of councillors in the east.
Importantly, for those who are justifiably irate about the KDC’s proposals for the Alamar Reserve, he sets out clearly how the KDC has responded. Measures have been put in place to review all the priority projects, which will then be consulted on with the community. He gives the assurance that all physical work have been put on hold until that has happened.
Councillor Larsen adds that if anyone has any community projects or issues that they would like assistance with, he can be contacted on 021 185 8389 or Cr.Larsen@kaipara.govt.nz. Or check out his ‘The WorkBoot Councillor’ Facebook page for regular updates.
ALAMAR RESERVE UPDATE 12.04.2019
There has been some concern about the mysterious blue crosses suddenly appearing throughout the Alamar Reserve. All sorts of sinister theories have been floated as to their significance. However in a post on its website the KDC has now scotched all of those rumours:
From Wednesday 10 April to Friday 12 April, a drone operator will be capturing footage around the coastal area of Mangawhai, from around the estuary to the Heads beach.
This is in order to get footage of the entire area, so that we can better align any proposed walkways, and to better understand the areas that may need further work.
The spray paint marks allow for better measurement from the aerial footage as GPS Markers.
In the same post the KDC states:
There is no physical work being undertaken until a further meeting is held in May with the community of Mangawhai.
That is a very sensible response from the Council given the strength of feeling about the issue within the community.
DEMOCRACY AND CONSULTATION TAKE ANOTHER BEATING 11.04.2019
Democracy and the concept of ratepayer consultation took a severe beating with the release of the Determination of the Local Government Commission (LGC) on the representation arrangements for the KDC in the forthcoming local body elections later this year.
The representation review defines the wards for the election, their boundaries and the number of councillors representing each ward.
In a surprising move the LGC endorsed the proposal advanced by Mayor Smith despite the majority of ratepayers’ submissions being opposed to the proposal, and despite its apparent conflict with some of the guiding principles for assessing fair and effective representation.
The proposal adopted by the LGC was promoted by Mayor Smith. In a vote to adopt the proposal the elected councillors were tied, which meant that the vote was not carried. However Mayor Smith used his casting vote (second vote) to ensure that the proposal was adopted. This was despite the fact that of 81 submissions the majority of 53 were against the proposal.
Whilst the LGC emphasised that it is required to form its own view on all matters within the scope of the review, it decided to endorse the proposal of Mayor Smith in every respect. This was despite a very strong argument that, because of the communities of interest, the Otamatea ward should not be separated from Kaiwaka/Mangawhai.
The LGC also ignored the advice of its own adviser Gavin Beattie who noted that, as the KDC had adopted the STV electoral system, it was generally agreed that larger multi-member wards (at least three-member wards) or at large systems are necessary to achieve proportional representation under this system. Mayor Smith’s proposal did not meet that requirement. The LGC neatly side-stepped that issue by suggesting that that issue should be considered in three years’ time.
Perhaps the biggest concern expressed by the appellants (Helen Curreen, Clive Boonham and Paul Smith) was that the fair representation rule was breached by the Mayor’s proposal. For the purposes of fair representation for the electors of a district, section 19V(2) of the Act requires that the population of each ward divided by the number of members to be elected by that ward must produce a figure no more than 10 per cent greater or smaller than the population of the district divided by the total number of members (the ‘+/-10% rule’).
Based on historic figures from 2017 the KDC proposal showed that Kaiwaka/Mangawhai was +9.40 % and Dargaville -9.93 %, both on the cusp of legality. With the growth of Mangawhai and Kaiwaka in the intervening years, and the decline in population of Dargaville, it seemed absolutely clear that the +/- 10% rule had already been exceeded in both cases on a factual basis.
Whilst technically the old figures had to be used, the LGC’s adviser Gavin Beattie stated that: “While projected population is not a statutory criterion, Commission officers consider it can be used as an argument to support a particular decision.”
The Commission did not consider Mr Beatties’s comments and stated bluntly that the KDC’s proposal complied with the +/- 10 % rule without further comment.
Legally another representation review need not be undertaken for another 6 years, so in fact this coming election and the next one in three years will use representation figures that are completely out of date. The LGC referred to Mayor Smith’s statement that “he would like to see the council undertake another representation review in three years”. Referring to that very nebulous statement the LGC concluded: “On that basis we have decided to endorse the council’s final proposal”.
The end result is the Kaiwaka/Mangawhai will have only 2 councillors out of a total of 8. When it comes to voting they will have two votes against seven (6 councillors and the mayor).
The sad thing is that this whole affair has illustrated that the consultation with ratepayers by the KDC is simply a charade. No matter what the ratepayers say, it appears that the outcome is a done-deal. Likewise with the appeal process. Those who took part in it will probably agree that it felt like a formality, with the outcome predetermined. Taking part was like swimming against the tide in the Mangawhai Estuary.
If consultation is meaningless then the only power that ratepayers wield is at the ballot box. Unfortunately ratepayers in the east have been seriously disenfranchised by the KDC’s proposal and will find it difficult to vote in representatives that have any say in the future of Kaipara.
As a matter of interest, the elected members voted as follows:
For the KDC’s proposed representation review:
Councillors Curnow, del la Varis-Woodcock, Joyce-Paki and Mayor Smith
Against the proposal:
Councillors Geange, Jones, Larsen and Wethey
Councillor Wade was absent and did not make an arrangement for a telephone vote.
With the vote tied 4-4 Mayor Smith used his second casting vote to carry the resolution.
HOW DID THE ALAMAR RESERVE DEBACLE HAPPEN? 05.04.2019
According to Councillor Larsen’s post, the chief executive of the KDC, Louise Miller, reported as follows:
Mangawhai Coastal walkway design and construction project tender has closed and staff are now working with Resilio as the preferred tenderer. Stage 1 (Pearl Street to Sellars carpark) of the coastal walkways physical works has been awarded to Broadspectrum with work due to start early April 2019.
This reflects what KDC staff have been telling ratepayers, that the project is a done deal and the contract has been let. Clearly that is correct.
However, KDC staff have also been telling ratepayers that they were consulted on the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP), that they supported the proposals, and that the KDC is simply implementing the wishes of ratepayers.
That’s where the KDC heads into la-la land.
The MCP states on page 2:
The Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) is a document to provide guidance to Kaipara District Council in the management of growth in Mangawhai.
The Plan lists proposals that are very general in nature. The intention was that these proposals would be subsequently fleshed out in consultation with ratepayers. This is what the Plan says (page 2):
Every three years as part of the Long Term Plan process, the costs, priorities and projects will be reviewed.
The proposals in the Plan are incredibly vague. There is an all tide coastal access, footpaths, shared footpath/cycle ways and a continuous coastal walkway. The KDC has confused and conflated these various projects and come up with a hybrid for Alamar Reserve. It is called a coastal walkway, but is in fact a shared pathway/cycleway.
The issue is that none of these proposals in the Plan has ever been finalised and consulted with ratepayers. There is no map of the proposed coastal walkway and where it is to be situated. There is no mention of how the walkway is to be formed. The presumption was that where a walkway crossed a reserve it would simply be signposted, as it is at present. There was no indication that it would be formed according to the specifications for a cycleway (see paragraph 4.2 of the Opus report on Mangawhai Cycleway Connection, which is one of the Technical Reports used in drafting the MCP).
The Plan states that any pathway/cycleway would follow the road carriageway (page 8), No mention of it going through the heart of a reserve. In fact no plans or details of the proposal have ever been finalised. Page 26 of the Plan refers to the walking and cycling strategy and states:
Prepare and develop a strategy to determine future walking and cycling connections, formalising the routes in this plan
The formulation of that strategy is an immediate priority (P1) but does not appear to have been undertaken. Or, it has been done in secret.
The priority afforded to the Alamar Reserve hybrid conflicts with the priorities in the Plan. Priority 1 for the coastal walkway is Head Beach to Pearl Street. Alamar Reserve is part of the future stage scheduled for 2021- 2028 onwards. There is no strategy and therefore no priority for the walkway/pathway.
Presumably the KDC staff finalised the proposals in secret and decided not to consult with ratepayers on the final strategy. They also prepared responses to rebut ratepayers’ objections – “You asked for it, we are just implementing it”, “it’s a done deal, the contract has been let.”
The cost wastage is enormous. There will be a very expensive contract with Resilio and a large part all that work will be wasted, not because of Resilio, but because the KDC staff jumped the gun and gave Resilio instructions based on proposals that has not been consulted with ratepayers.
We are now back to square one. Someone needs to put a boot up the KDC staff and ensure that the proposals and strategies are consulted with ratepayers through every stage. There is a lot of good common sense out there in the community and this is an occasion when the KDC, including CEO, staff and elected members, should all be listening.
ALAMAR RESERVE 03.04.2019
No definite news yet from the KDC. However, it appears that the protests have had an effect and the project is being revisited.
Information will be provided as it comes to hand.
ALAMAR RESERVE – LATEST 27.03.2019
The meeting with Council staff
An excellent turn out, some strongly expressed opinions, with the result that the KDC is now going to reconsider its options.
Well done everyone.
Contacting the community
The KDC obtained email addresses of all of those interested in the issues. However we do not have those details ourselves. If you would like to be kept in the loop as to what is happening then simply send an email to me at email@example.com I will use the information to send updates to you and it can be used by anyone wanting to share information or ideas.
Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP)
The MCP can be viewed here.
Council staff repeat the mantra that the MCP was approved by ratepayers, adopted as part of the current long term plan, and that the KDC is simply implementing it.
That is not correct for the following reasons.
Trying to understand the MCP
The Connections map on page 12 of the MCP sets out the various projects which affect Alamar Crescent. Unfortunately the scale is so small you will need to use the enlarger at the top of the page, and even then it is not clear.
Alamar Crescent is not identified but it is the blue road heading north at the eastern end of North Avenue. Alamar Reserve is not shown at all.
The following projects appear to be relevant to Alamar Crescent.
Te Araroa Trail
This is shown in ochre running along Alamar Crescent on the map on page 12. There is no explanation of the Trail in the MCP.
All tide coastal access.
This is the purple strip around the coastline on the map on page 12. It merely gives access to the coast. It is not a walkway. The Alamar Reserve gives access to the coast so there is nothing further to do in that location. (I suspect that KDC staff has confused this project with the coastal walkway.)
Mangawhai Heads Loop
The Mangawhai Heads Loop is shown on the Slow Street Map on page 7 of the MCP.
It is referred to again on page 21 as: “cycle/walking on road shared paths” and described as:
Mangawhai Heads loop shared path (Wood Street / Robert Street / North Avenue / Alamar Crescent / camping grounds / Mangawhai Heads Road including Wood Street upgrade.
On page 8 it states that “a shared use path for cycling and walking would follow the road carriageway for its full length. It would therefore follow Alamar Crescent rather than cutting though Alamar Reserve. It is P2 priority which means 2021-2024 and is costed at $775,000 (page 21).
This loop also appears to be the blue strip along Alamar Crescent on the map on page 12 with the legend: “walking and/or cycling connections-proposed”.
It is unclear where this shared path will be located.
On page 21 is a list of the proposed works, their priority and cost. This list includes:
Footpaths: Footpath along Alamar Crescent. P1 = 2018-2020. Cost: $47,000
This is an immediate priority. A footpath is a concrete walkway about 1.5 metres wide alongside the roadway.
This is described in the list of projects on page 27 as follows:
Continuous Coastal walkway: Initial stage - Head Beach to Pearl Street. Priority P1: 2018-2020. Cost: $300,000
Future Stages to Mangawhai Village Priority P2-P4: 2021 – 2029 and onwards. Cost: $1,442,366 (right down to the last dollar and yet it will not be completed in the next 10 years!)
Surprisingly there is no mention of this coastal walkway in the body of the Plan. No map. No indication where it will go, and how it is to be formed. It is clearly a coastal walkway only, not a cycle path.
It appears that the walkway across the Alamar Reserve is intended to be part of this walkway simply because the recent letter from the KDC is headed Development of Mangawhai Coastal Walkway.
At the recent meeting the KDC staff were adamant that the coastal walkway should be useable by all people including those with disabilities and must therefore have a formed, hard surface. The reality is that KDC does not have the money or the space available to provide such a facility. By its very nature a coastal walkway will consist of all sorts of different terrain, gradients and steps that would test able-bodied people. The KDC should concentrate on providing a concrete footpath for those who need a hard and level surface.
Note that this project is of immediate priority (P1) but that only applies to the section from Head Beach to Pearl Street. Alamar Crescent is not mentioned but would comes within future stages with a P2 to P4 priority (2021 – 2028 and onwards). Why then has it been brought forward?
It is clear that there is a need for properly formed footpaths. The "mule track" from the Heads to the Village is a fine example. We need one in Alamar Crescent as well so those with wheels or those who need a firm footing are catered for. But we must not confuse that issue with the coasal walkway. That is a separate matter altogether and cannot, because of the terrain, be accessible by everyone. I suggest that we concentrate on sorting out the location for the footpath, which by its very nature must be alongside the roadway. Once that need has been met we can revisit the concept of the coastal walkway where it crosses reserves (signposts as at present?). Cycleways are the "in thing", but is there enough space for one along Alamar Crescent?
I am happy to publish any views on the issue.
For earlier posts go here.