Fifty or so of the Mangawhai community crowded into the Club in Mangawhai last week to watch the KDC in action.  It involved a briefing for the elected members on the Mangawahi Community Plan (MCP).

The KDC staff made presentations to the elected members to confirm some of the proposals under the MCP and to brief them on the proposed funding.

The original Plan was adopted in 2017.  It is a rather vague document with airy-fairy projects and very light on specifics, priorities and funding.

The unfortunate and ill-planned foray by KDC staff last year into the Alamar Reserve showed that the KDC staff simply did not understand the mechanics behind the Plan.

Clearly the intention, and the correct procedure, was for the bare bones of the proposals in the MCP to be fleshed out in detail in the 2018/2028 Long Term Plan (LTP) so that the appropriate consultation with the community could be undertaken.  Only then could any action be undertaken

The MCP itself stated on page 2:

Budgets included in this plan are estimates at this point, and will be confirmed as part of the development of Council’s next Long Term Plan 2018/2028.

A KDC fact sheet sets out the process for the MCP that was to be followed.

Mangawhai Community Plan
In mid-2016, Council set up a panel of community representatives to make recommendations for Mangawhai.  Their recommendations were received and approved by Council in July 2017.  The MCP was received by Council at its 20 January 2018 meeting.  The MCP was adopted by Council at its 28 February 2018 meeting.  Moved by Geange/Wethey, carried.  Mangawhai Coastal Connections was identified as a priority one project to begin construction 2018/19.  The Priority One projects identified have been provisioned for in the Kaipara District Council’s Long Term Plan.

Long term Plan
The Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) requires every council to produce a Long Term Plan (LTP) every three years.

The LTP outlines our activities and priorities for the next 10 years, providing a long term focus for decision-making.  It also explains how work will be scheduled and funded.  Under the LGA, LTPs must be reviewed every three years with full consultation with the public each time.  An Annual Plan is developed in the years in between.

The Council held briefings across the district to discuss options and directions for setting the Long Term Plan 2018/2028.  These meetings were open to the public.  Council adopted the Long Term Plan 2018/2028 at their Council meeting held Tuesday 26 June 2018.  Moved by Smith/Wethey, carried.

So far, so good.  The recital above suggests very strongly that the higher level MCP projects were confirmed in more detail in the LTP 2018/2028.  It also suggests that the LTP included details of how the MCP projects were to be scheduled and funded, (See emphasised text above.)

A KDC letter of 9 September 2019 advised:

The Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) was adopted by Council on 28 February 2018.  Projects were prioritised and budgeted in the current Long Term Plan which was adopted by Council on 26 June 2018. 

The report presented to the KDC last week at the briefing meeting last week also states:

The projects identified by the MCP were included in the 2018 Long Term Plan.

Statement untrue
The problem is that most of the above is untrue. 

The consultation document for the LTP 2018/2028 contains few references to the MCP.  On page 14 it lists four options for funding the MCP.  The adopted option was set out on page 11 of Part One of the LTP:

Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP)

Agreed to commence implementation of the MCP from 2018/2019 funded through a 20% district-wide general rate and an 80% differential rate levied on properties located within the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration area.

Under Community Activities on page 45 of the consultation document under What’s Planned, it states in broad terms that over the 10 years of the plan $62.7 million in operating expenses and $7.9 million in capital expenditure is to be spent delivering agreed programmes.  Five different programmes are included, including the MCP, but with no amount is specified for the 5 different programmes.

The actual 2018/2028 LTP has remarkably little to say about the MCP in respect of the details of projects and financial aspects. The MCP is only mentioned 5 times in the whole Plan, and then only in passing references.

There is the funding detail referred to in blue above.  Interestingly there is no mention of funding through the NZTA either in the consultation document or in the LTP itself.

In Part One there are also vague references on page 44 and 46 referring to implementing the MCP “as budgets allow”, and similar vague references on page 179 to implementing or developing various “infrastructure projects” in the MCP.

On page 187 of Part One of the LTP there is reference to the capital expenditure for the Wood Street development for the first three years of the Plan.  There is also reference to capital expenditure for Pearl Street to Sellars Reserve (Heads Loop) walkway for the first two years of the Plan, but without a specific figure being stated and without mention of the MCP.

And that is it.

In short, the KDC failed to make the MCP part of the 2018/2028 LTP.  It failed to include detailed information relating to each project, the options, the time-frame adopted, detailed costings and funding etc, as required by the LGA 2002.

The plan therefore sits in a legal limbo or no man’s land.

It seems to me that the KDC staff have realised this fundamental omission and are now glossing over the failure to comply with due process.  They are misrepresenting to elected members that the MCP has followed the statutory procedure and that it has the appropriate legal status.

The briefing document presented to the KDC elected members last week sets out details of funding that the document states is included in the current LTP.  Examples are $2m for shared paths, and detailed funding for parts of the Heads to Village shared pathway,  I can find no reference to any of these (except Wood Street) in the LTP.  

No consultation
The nub of the legal issue is that the KDC has not legally consulted with the community on the MCP via an LTP.  An LTP, and all the proposals that it mandates, has to go through the special consultative procedure under section 93A of the LGA 2002.  This requires the KDC to provide all the details of the MCP required by the LGA.  These are broad and demanding requirements that cover the various details of the proposals, the various options considered, costings, funding and budgeting.  The community can only be “consulted” when it has access to all that information.

The KDC failed to do that.  It has subsequently stated that it has “consulted” with the community, but that is not correct in the legal sense of the word under the LGA.  It has sought “feed-back” from the community, but without providing all the information required by the LGA to enable an informed consultation to take place.

As an example, at last week’s meeting a KDC staff member stated that feed-back from the community was that two roundabouts were preferred in the Village rather than one.  That was accepted as fact by the elected members, no doubt on the understanding that KDC staff had followed the correct legal procedure.  They had not. 

What next?
The elected members need to get some very clear answers from the chief executive and the KDC lawyers to see how they can extricate themselves from this mess.  None of the projects under the MCP can proceed until a proper legal basis is established.

Fortunately the meeting last week was only a briefing session.  No decisions were made by the elected members.  There is still the opportunity for correct procedure to be followed by the KDC via an amendment to the LTP.  That will trigger the special consultative procedure and proper consultation with the community.

The KDC elected members might take the opportunity to reconsider whether the expenditure under the MCP and whether the extra financial burden placed on the community is appropriate in the post Covid era.

The Mangawahi Focus' report on the KDC briefing can be seen here.

The KDC is under considerable amount of pressure from the community to make this shared pathway a priority.  As a result the KDC has come up with an estimate of $16.8 million which will be allocated over the next four LTPs.  That is from 2018 to 2030.

It is unclear how long construction will take.

It was revealed at the briefing meeting (see post above) that a Business Case has been submitted to NZTA for partial funding (61%).  It is uncertain at this stage how the balance is to be made up.  There was talk about using Reserve Contributions for the parts of the pathway that cross reserves.

I am concerned that in their eagerness to get this project on the road, the KDC staff have not given adequate consideration to what is actually required to construct a shared path over this route that meets all safety requirements.  There seems to be a lack of knowledge as to how such shared paths should be constructed.  The pathways are to be used by all users, pedestrians, cyclists, mobility devices, electric scooters, etc.  The only consideration appears to be that the shared path is 2.4 metres wide so that 61% funding can be obtained from the NZTA.  There is apparently no concern how all of those users will cope – safely - with the shared usage.

In countires like the Netherlands and Norway, where shared use paths are common, there are strict regulations relating to separate lanes, minimum widths, speed limits etc.

I am surprised that there was no mention at the briefing meeting of the recent Resilio Report on the Coastal Walkway dated May 2020.  

After the Alamar Reserve fiasco, Resilio has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a more detailed consideration of the proposed Coastal walkway.  The report considers each stage of the walkway in considerable detail.  Relevant here is the shared use path from MAZ across the causeway to the Village.

Unlike the other stages, there is little detail about this stage (page 76).  Under Community Considerations and Ecological Constraints it states that the path should be concreted for the whole way, and that “there are limited opportunities for continuing along the water’s edge”.  Under Cost Considerations it warns:

  • Involvement with roadway so will require more intensive design.

  • Structure across main arm of the estuary will be expensive

Under Technical complexity

  • Concrete or aggregate walkway alongside roadway adds complexity due to safety considerations such as buffer zones, safety barriers between pedestrians and vehicles on a main arterial road.

  • Connection of a structure to bridge or widening of road bridge required to achieve a consistent level of service for this section of the walkway.

  • Retrofitting of road bridge may be required.

The Resilio Report also sets out the specifications for safe shared pathways.  The diagrams on page 13 show that the minimum width of a shared pathway for multi-use – including cyclists in both directions - is 4 metres.  That makes the development of this stage even more complex.

KDC staff need to take a close look at what Resilio is saying about safety, and take steps to ensure that the shared walkway that is proposed is safe and fit for purpose.

This is an important issue for the community.  The KDC has fumbled the ball by failing to include details of the Mangawhai Community Plan in the 2018/2028 LTP (see post above). That will have to be remedied.

In addition, this shared path project needs very careful planning.  The space for a shared path is tight along most of the route and close to the water’s edge.  It may need to built in part over the water.  It will need to be of adequate width for a safety barrier (being on a main arterial road), and for all users to use the path safely.

The Mangawhai Community Plan was largely the work of consultants with minimum input from the community.  It is what is called a “high level” plan.  That means that it had very general proposals with no details how they were to be implemented, a vague time-frame, and very little about costs and the source of funding.

It had to be filled out at a later stage after consultation with the community.

Details were supposed to be included in the 2018/2028 LTP but there are only very vague references to it.  

We had the unsavoury episode last year when KDC staff tried to put a cycle/walking track through the centre of Alamar Reserve, while stating, quite incorrectly, that it was what the community wanted. 

After protests, the KDC went back to the drawing board and has now come up with proposals for priority works and details of how the plan is proposed to be financed.  These proposals are to be put to the elected members at a briefing meeting In Mangawhai this week.  The community is invited to attend.

A copy of the briefing document can be seen here.  Note that the meeting starts at 10:00 am on Wednesday 1 July 2020 at the Club in Mangwhai Heads.  While it is open to the public, it is strictly a briefing for the elected members by the KDC staff.  So those in attendance can observe but not partake.

Some thoughts about Mangawhai Community Plan ............

Despite the rebuff from the community last year and the huge financial crisis brought about by the Covid epidemic, the KDC has come out of lock-down with its plans and proposal for the future all intact.  It very reluctantly reduced the rates, slightly, but it motors on with its grandiose schemes, totally oblivious to the new world that Covid 19 has created.  And, bear in mind that we still do not know the full extent of the financial carnage facing the country and our communities.

Now is the time for wise heads, for pulling back from excessive spending, for cutting back on unnecessary projects.  It is a time when our elected representative should be demanding that the financial burden on ratepayers is reduced, not added to.

The Mangawhai Community Plan has not been touched by Covid.  Originally it was a questionable project full of some whacky proposals, but in the new world facing us it seems to be totally out of place.  The KDC consultants have not skipped a beat and with the KDC staff are corralling us into adopting  proposals that we may not want, that may not be what they seem to be, and are going to cost us much more that we have been told.

This is not a free feed.  So far the KDC and its consultants have been very shy of revealing the cost of the promised goodies.  They are now trying to remedy that with the Briefing meeting referred to above.  They will try and convince you that others like the NZTA will fund a large part of some of the proposals, but whatever they promise, you can be certain that it will, in the end, cost you personally considerably more.

You need to ask yourself if we really need the proposed Insley Street roundabouts at this particular point of time.  Is there really a problem that needs fixing?  Is the proposed solution going to fix that problem, or will it create more problems of its own?

The coastal walkway is a luxury and fantasy.  How many of us feel it essential that every person should be able to walk or go by mobility vehicle along every inch of our coastline?

Shared pathways for pedestrian and cyclists are all the rage.  Loved by consultants and keen cyclists, but only in the abstract.  The reality is that the shared pathways in Mangawhai, being built at huge cost, are inviting major safety issues for the future. 

I hear the elderly saying that they want safe footpaths, or mums and dads appealing for the same to ensure that their children are safe from cars.  But the shared pathways being built are the minimum 2.4 metres that is funded by the NZTA.  They do not have a line down the middle separating pedestrians and cyclists.  They are disasters waiting to happen.

The desired minimum width for safe shared pathways is 3.5 metres with an absolute minimum of 2.5 metres.  That is with a line down the middle indicating separate use for pedestrians and cyclists.  Even that minimum width is questionable.  Measure what width a couple walking side by side take up.  (1.25 metres is a tight fit.)

In most parts of Mangawhai it is not even feasible to have 2.4 metres wide shared pathways because of the narrowness of the existing roads.  But that does not concern the consultants.

World-wide experience shows that narrow shared pathways are dangerous unless they are wide, separate use is delineated, and there is a speed limit for cyclists, scooters and motorised vehicles.

Be careful what you wish for.

Details of the Mangawahi Central consent and plan change applications can be seen here .

The Commissioners' consent for the supermarket etc can be seen here.  

In the latest Mangawhai Focus, Mayor Smith's penchant for self-promotion comes bursting through.  He is highly critical of the Electricity Authority’s Transmission Pricing Methodology (TPM) and is “taking the fight against this injustice to the next level”.

Effectively, those in the North Island will be charged more for power because they are further way from the source of the power.  He is quoted as saying:

Large pockets of Northland are deprived and poor and energy poverty is very real in the North.  It is a major problem and people are already struggling to survive financially, particularly on the back of Covid and the severe drought we have experienced.  Heaping more economic stress on people could have dire impacts on wellbeing,

Absolutely right.  But, sadly, when in comes to the "deprived and the poor" in Northland and the issue of rates, Dr Smith takes a completely different tack.  He ignores the incredibly high level of rates in the eastern part of the Kaipara district, the high annual increases, and the significant post Covid increases.  He scrapes the barrel of poor arguments to justify increases that are simply not acceptable in the new world that we are facing.

The Mayor’s Memo in the same edition of the Mangawhai Focus contains his justification for rates increases that are even more unwarranted that the TPM increases.  He suggests that the in a “rapid response” to Covid the rates were “substantially revised downwards”.  In fact they were very reluctantly reduced by a mere 1.5%.  And that is just an average.  Those in the east will pay significantly more than the average increase.

He trots out again the overworked threat of impending roading disaster if rates are reduced:

“Any rates increase less than 3.97% would certainly mean worse roads for Kaipara people and that would be very impactful and negative.  At a time when so much progress has been made that would set Kaipara back years.  Council has left no stone unturned in seeking improvements of our roads, including getting extra government money from the Provincial Growth Fund as part of the Kaipara Kickstart Programme announced in Feb 2019.  Now is not the time to turn away from progress that’s being made here.  Instead we are taking a balanced view for our way ahead.

Absolute rubbish.  A balanced view?  Think of the wastage.  Several million dollars spent on pursuing Bruce and Heather Rogan to recover just over $5,000 in penalties that were not legally justifiable.  The failure to disclose why departing chief executive Graham Sibery was paid $240,000 as a bonus salary entitlement after just over a year’s employment in circumstances that suggest a serious mismanagement of money.  The empire-building and secret decision to be part of the NRC’s Kaipara folly in building new offices.  How about the plethora of staff and consultants who are soaking up millions of ratepayers’ money pursuing fantasy projects unwarranted in the post Covid era.  Then there is the spectre of the secret deal done with Mangawhai Central which has all the hallmarks of another EcoCare disaster for the community.

The highlight of absurdity was reported in the Lifestyler of 9 June 2020.  The KDC made a very bold move to reduce rates to respond to the chilling financial effect of Covid on the community:

 To reduce rates for the 2020/2021 year, the council looked for areas where it could reduce costs,”

So what did it do?  It decided to abandon the mowing of residential berms as a cost-cutting measure to "drive down rates".  So residents now have to mow their own berms.  If they are unable to do so, they have to pay someone to do it.

The last word belongs to those who signed the Open Letter to Kaipara District Council in the Letters to the Editor section of the Mangawhai Focus.

The letter opens with:

We, the undersigned, have major concerns about what is happening in Mangawhai as the economic effects of the pandemic roll through our community, noting that Kaipara Council rates are already a heavy burden for many local ratepayers.

Despite being advised that local economic activity is expected to reduce, Council has still voted to increase everyone’s rates by 4 per cent.

We heard about various business sectors of the local economy and what KDC is doing to support them financially, while increasing ratepayer rates.  The $1.25 million council is forgiving rates – or subsidising businesses and other groups in the form of hardship packages – would go a long way toward a zero rate increase.

In summary, the letter states:

We are a concerned group of ratepayers who have had enough.

We call on Kaipara District Council to:

1. Implement no more than a zero-percentage rate increase for the 2020/2021 rating period.

2. In this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, reduce services to the essentials.

The letter is signed by:  Debbie Aislabie, Joel Cayford, John Duffin, Ken Fountain, Sue Fountain, Matt Guzik, Simon Hardley, Ross Hinton, Colin Leach, Doug Lloyd, Ian Margan, Adam Minoprio, Peter Nicholas, Darryl Reardon, Kevin Stirrat, Neil Tolich.

The new rates are due to be set at the Council meeting in Dargaville on 24 June 202 at 9:30 am.  Under the Local Government Act 2002 the annual plan must be adopted  prior to 1 July 2020.

Normal procedure took a bit of a beating in the application by Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) for consents for a supermarket, Main Street, roads, subdivision etc.  The consents all breach the rules of Chapter 16 (Estuary Estates) of the current operative District Plan.  But they do accord with the proposed changes to the Plan under PPC78.  But that is only a proposal.  It had no status in law.

The appropriate procedure was for the MCL to apply for a plan change, and if that was successful, to apply for the resource consents based on the amended District Plan.

However, the parties – MCL and KDC – agreed to hijack the appropriate procedure by applying for the consents before the plan amendment was approved.  The consents were all granted.

How did they get away with it?

The decision is located as shown below.  I found it buried deep in the KDC website but access appears to be limited by the KDC.


The Commissioners stated in their decision:

10. According to the Applicant, the site has not been developed due to the very prescriptive and rigid planning provisions which required a very specific form and scale of development.

The Commissioners relied on the submissions of Mr Gordon, legal counsel for Mangawhai Central limited (MCL) that Chapter 16 of the District Plan, relating to Estuary Estates, is seriously flawed.  This view was also shared by others:

11. Mr Colegrave, the Applicant’s economist, Mr Munro, the Applicant’s Urban Designer and Mr Tollemache, the Applicant’s planner, all addressed the flawed nature of the District Plan as submitted by Mr Gordon.  We have relied on the evidence of those experts, as well as the Council’s experts.

Note how the representatives of the parties have been treated as independent expert witnesses whose opinions can be relied on.

The Commissioners acknowledged PPC78:

15. We note that Private Plan Change 78 – Estuary Estates, which seeks to rezone 130 ha of land contained within the Estuary Estates Structure Plan of the operative District Plan, was publicly notified on the 30 April 2020, with submissions closing on the 28 May 2020.  …….  This Plan Change has no legal effect until it is approved and we have not considered it in relation to these resource consents.

Not considered, but coincidentally the consents were granted in line with the PPC78 proposals.

If you have a look at Activity Status on page 5 to 12 you will see that most of the proposals in the consent application were non-complying with the operative District Plan.  The subdivision consents on page 12 were also inconsistent with Chapter 16.  The consents were treated as a non-complying activity (para 18).

The Commissioners ruled that the proposal would have no more than minor effects on the environment (para 20).  They also held that although the proposal was not consistent with a number of the rules in Chapter 16, the implementation of those rules would result in an unsustainable development.  Also, the proposal was consistent with the District-wide policies in the District Plan associated with the natural and urban environment, or growth management.

Mr Chandra for the KDC recommended that the application be granted consent subject to a suite of conditions.  Unsurprisingly, in this mutual back-scratching exercise, those conditions were accepted by MCL.

Community challenge

What this decision means in practice is that the hearing of PPC78 will, to a large extent, be a rubber-stamp exercise.  With the KDC having endorsed every aspect of the consents, with the same Commissioners hearing the PPC78 application, and with consents having already been granted for some aspects of the development under PPC78, there is little room for the community to challenge the outcome.

Jo Gough was one of the three objectors.  The Commissioners dismissed her concerns as follows:  

54. With respect to Ms Gough’s submission, while we acknowledge her concerns (which are essentially that the scale and pace of development is inappropriate) we find that ‘the horse has already bolted’.  Significant development is provided for in the District Plan in this locality (Chapter 16 – Estuary Estates).  This has been addressed above, and as set out in the legal submissions and evidence, the Applicant is proposing a much smaller development than prescribed in the District Plan.  We note that the District Plan provides 17,000m2 of retail/commercial GFA while this proposal is for 6,225m2 , consisting of 3,260m2 of retail/commercial and 2,965m2 for the supermarket.

The horse may have bolted in respect of the retail/commercial areas for which consent has now been granted, because they are smaller than the development prescribed in Chapter 16 of the District Plan.  But the number of residential lots, and the capacity of the infrastructure to support them was not part of the supermarket consent process.  That horse is still in the stable and open to challenge. 

The maximum number of residential sites under Chapter 16 is 500.  There is no limit under PPC78 although the figure of 1,000 is mentioned in one of the reports.  The reality is that there will be many more.  Some suggest as high as 1700.  So the residential development will be much greater under PPC78.  That means that the community still has the opportunity to establish that such a huge development will spoil the amenity values of Mangawhai, and that there is insufficient infrastructure to support such a development.

We have two further opportunities to make our case.  First, when the KDC publishes a summary of the submissions on PPC78, the public will be invited to make further submissions on the points raised.  Second, we will have the opportunity to have our submissions heard at the hearing before Commissioners.  This is anticipated to be later in the year.

At the KDC council meeting of 27 May 2020 the elected members considered, in public excluded, the Mangawhai Central Development Agreement Draft one.  This agreement is also mentioned in various reports attached to the PPC78 and the supermarket consent.  It is the sweetheart deal which sets out the favourable treatment being afforded to MCL by the KDC. 

If you do the maths on the proposal, MCL is going to make a very tidy profit on the sale of so many lots and the KDC is going to score nicely from the fees and financial contributions from all of those consents.  The development's effect on the community seems to be a distant consideration.

Elected members cannot reveal the details of the secret agreement because the item was public excluded.  The mayor and deputy, along with the chief executive are using the ploy of claiming commercial prejudice to justify the secrecy.  But we do know that a deal is being done in respect of financial contributions.  This is what the Commissioners' decision on the supermarket consent had to say:

25. Mr Chandra also advised that all of the conditions and advice notes he recommended be imposed if consent was granted, had been agreed with the Applicant.  These included the issues relating to financial contributions and development contributions – and that the Applicant and Council are in discussions regarding a “Private Development Agreement” to determine the level of contributions that will be payable.

The expectation is that lots in the new development will have a bulk discount when it comes to development and reserve contributions, while other private developments will still be subjected to the full treatment by the KDC gouging machine.

That is the headline in an article in the Mahurangi Matters relating to the submissions on PPC78.  It appears that there were 208 submissions and 198 opposed the proposal.  Andrew Guest may have sweet-talked his way through the various public meetings when Mangawhai Central was launched, but his subsequent silence and his faiure to consult or advise have made the community realise the pitfalls of the proposal. Now that he has the KDC firmly under his control, tied up with binding legal agreements (as was predicted), the good will of the community is no longer necessary.

While the rest of us are licking our wounds following the emotional and financial outfall from covid 19, the KDC planners are back on deck launching into the coastal walkway aspect of the Mangawhai Community Plan (MCP) as if nothing has happened.

What seemed an unnecessary and pointless exercise then, has become even more questionable in a post-covid world.

The KDC has spent lock-down dreaming up the latest version of the MCP, but so far, only in relation to the continuous coastal walkway. During that time the KDC and its consultant Resilio have final seen sense to a certain degree. The “continuous” coastal walkway is no longer continuous. Following a feasibility study and a consideration of costs they have finally realised that having a continuous walkway along every metre of the coastline was nothing more than a pipe-dream.

The KDC has abandoned the idea of community consultation. It maintained that the original MCP of 2017 was community-led and that the final plan was based on the wishes of the community. That was never correct, but even that pretence has now disappeared. The latest document dated May 2020 is the Mangawhai Coastal Walkway - Summary Document - HIGH PRIORITY ROUTE SUMMARY. The document suggests that the new proposal for each stage of the walkway and the new priority given to each stage arise from consultation. Rather, they are the superimposed views of the consultant and the KDC.

However, the community gets its say in appointing two community representatives who live alongside each stage of the walkway to be part of the old Commissioners’ panel that was responsible for the original plan. That super-panel will make the final decisions for each stage, and that will then be opened up to the community for comment.

The new proposals and the new priorities can be seen here

It appears that the boardwalk from Picnic Bay to the Wintle Street Reserve, across the rocks, has been abandoned.

It is unclear what is intended in Alamar Crescent including the grassed Reserve and the boat ramp by the campsite. The new proposal is short on information but the fact that it states that a resource consent will be needed suggests that the most ridiculous proposals such as building a concrete walkway ramp across the boat ramp in Alamar Crescent and bisecting the Alamar grassed reserve with a 2.4 metre wide cycle path walkway may still be planned.

The document states ominously:

Project Challenges

Community support - The local community (primarily focused around Alamar Crescent) have demonstrated resistance to change within this section of the walkway.

The truth is that the whole of Mangawhai and the visitors to Mangawhai are opposed to the KDC’s crazy ideas. There is absolutely no need for any work to be done in Alamar Crescent. All it needs, at the very most, is a few new “wayfinding markers” to identify the route of the walkway and that is it. No need for Resilio and no need for the KDC staff who try and impose unwanted and completely unnecessary proposals on the community.

Bruce Rogan is one of the community representatives for Alamar Crescent. He is seeking input on what the community wants for the Alamar Crescent stage of the coastal walkway. It is difficult task because we do not know what the KDC is proposing. And, as usual, there is no indication of cost, and how much ratepayers will have to pay.

But is you want to have your say at this early stage, Bruce can be contacted at either 431 5413 or 02108180162 or brucerogan2017@gmail.com

In a previous post I suggested that Mangawhai Central is a done deal, a fait accompli.  There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge with proposed plan change 78 still to be heard and decided, but the direction of the flow is - if I can mix metaphors - already set in concrete.

The decision whether to go ahead with Mangawhai Central, as proposed, is one of the biggest decisions facing Mangawhai since the EcoCare debacle.  It is even more important because it will affect the whole character of Mangawhai as a delightful coastal township and, if allowed to proceed as proposed, is likely to turn it into and overcrowded metropolitan suburb with a lack of infrastructure.  The costs to current residents to fund the infrastructure needed for the proposal have never been revealed.  

If not handled properly, the development has the potential to be an even greater disaster than EcoCare.

EcoCare was all done in secret with a shonky chief executive, incompetent consultants, a devious developer, and elected members who fell asleep on the job.

Is that going to happen again?

Who is responsible for the KDC’s almost total endorsement of the proposal?  Who is looking at the big picture and representing the best interests of the community?

I asked one expert: Who is making the decisions for the KDC in respect of the Mangawhai Central development?  The response was quick:  “Andrew Guest”.

Funny, yes, but sadly it may be not too far from the truth.

Let’s work backwards.  We know it is not the elected members, at least not the councillors.  Some of them did not even know that the application for a consent for the supermarket etc was advertised just before Christmas last year (in the LIfestyler but not in the Mangawhai Focus).

That only leaves the chief executive and her staff.  That would mean the planning and consent staff.  The chief executive herself can have little input because, I presume from her HR background, that she has no experience or expertise in assessing such a critical development.

The planning and consent staff do not look at the big picture, whether the proposal is desirable and appropriate for Mangawhai, or in the best interests of the community.  They look at it strictly from a narrow RMA (Resource Management Act) point of view:  Does the proposal meet the requirements of the district plan and the RMA?

Even that examination is not objective.  Planning and consenting in New Zealand has become a game.  The RMA has been used and abused to achieve ends that were never intended.  It has become a tool for avaricious local authorities to gouge money out of their communities.  There is also a power struggle that has been won by expert consultants.

In a proposal such as this, the applicant assembles an army of the top consultants in the county who bombard the local authority, and commissioners who are appointed, with a mass of reports supporting the proposal.  The local authority’s staff have no chance.  They know they are outgunned.  They know that the reports from the applicant’s consultants will be treated as independent expert reports and will invariably be adopted.  They surrender abjectly.  There are a few minor rebuffs, accepted by all parties, just to pretend that the process is kosher.

So, how do we stop this happening?  How do we ensure that in the hearing for plan change 78 the commissioners are obliged to consider the views of the community?

The first step is to encourage the elected members to assume the powers that are vested in them under the Local Government Act 2002 and in the KDC’s own Local Governance Statement 2020.  

That document sets out the role of the elected members.  In short they are the decision-makers of the council.  With relevance to this issue, they are responsible for the following:

  • representing the interests of Council

  • formulating Council’s strategic direction and relative priorities through the Long Term Plan (LTP), which determines the services and activities to be carried out by Council over a 10 year period

  •  overseeing, developing and/or approving all Council policies, administration, legal, financial and strategic including formal regional, city and/or district planning matters within Council’s geographical area of responsibility

In the post below, Greg Gent suggested that the elected members have a duty of care towards the community, and that it is the responsibility of the mayor and deputy mayor to ensure that all councillors understand the nature of their role and that the opportunity for training is provided.  That is clearly not happening with the present council.

In contrast, the chief executive is responsible for implementing the decisions of the elected members and providing advice to them. 

The problem with the KDC is that the chief executive and her staff have usurped the role of the elected members, no doubt assisted by a dominant mayor who appears to have scant regard for the rules of good governance.  In most instances the elected members are expected to simply rubber-stamp the advice from the  KDC staff.

There are blatant matters of concern in the Mangawhai Central proposal that scream out for further consideration.  These include the lack of a maximum number for the proposed residential sites, the lack of provision for schools, for sports fields, recreation, green areas etc.  Then there are the fundamental infrastructure issues.  KDC staff have stated that there is adequate capacity for wastewater treatment at present to cope with Mangawhai Central.  We all know that that is not true.  Likewise the capacity of the aquifer and harvested water to provide a water supply has not been established.

It would be appropriate for elected members, without the mayor, to form a sub-committee to consider not only the obvious shortcomings of the KDC staff’s conclusions, but also the broader picture of the Mangawhai Central proposal to see how it should be modified to ensure that the best interests of the community are protected.  The chief executive can then be instructed accordingly.

We elected our representatives to act on our behalf.  The least we can expect is that they be allowed to perform their statutory duty and support the community in ensuring that Mangawhai Central is an asset in the future development of Mangawhai, and not something like EcoCare that we will regret for generations.

How refreshing to read a post from a KDC Councillor who understands his role as an elected representative and makes his mark in the sand over rates rises.

In Facebook posts and in the Mangawhai Focus, KDC Councillor Jonathan Larsen (the “Workboot Councillor”) has offered his views on the relationship between the elected representatives and ratepayers and his views on the incessant and unjustified KDC rates rises.

He believes that the interest of ratepayers should be paramount: “Fundamentally I believe that the Council should be run for the benefit of the ratepayers (its “shareholders”).”

There is little doubt that that our elected representatives have been sidelined by the current regime under Mayor Dr Smith, just as they were sidelined, for those who remember, by the dreadful McKerchar/Tiller regime that was responsible for the financial problems that the KDC still faces today.

Councillor Larsen’s comments bring to mind similar comments made by the Review Team in 2012 in its final report when it recommended to the Minister of Local Government that the KDC elected council be replaced with commissioners.

The Review Team consisted of Leigh Auton, Peter Tennent, with Greg Gent as chair. Greg Gent was subsequently elected Mayor and served in that role for short period. He was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to the dairy industry and corporate governance.

For those who know little about the awful period in the KDC’s history the whole document is worth a read. Many will say that it should be confined to history, but others will see that the KDC of today has many of the same issues as the KDC of 2012.

In respect of governance and how a local authority should operate, the report had this to say:

24. A fundamental element of the governance responsibilities of a Council is to set policy. In this regard a council’s role is to decide what it should be doing. At the heart of this is the dichotomy between governance and management. The elected members set the policy and this is implemented by the Council’s employees, led by its chief executive. While management provides advice and makes recommendations to elected representatives, it is the councillors’ responsibility to make decisions and to test the veracity of advice it is receiving. If decisions are made based on flawed advice, the elected members are still responsible for that decision.

The report considered that there here was failure of governance within the KDC:

26. At the heart of this failure there appears to be a poor understanding amongst councillors of what the governance role of elected representatives is. Councillors spoke to the Review Team about not having received governance training (although there is evidence that some has been provided). Others spoke about not fully understanding their governance role. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the elected representatives – the Mayor and Deputy Mayor – to ensure all councillors understand the nature of their role and that the opportunity for training is provided.

27. It is apparent that the Council’s elected representatives have relied heavily on the advice and direction of the Council’s Chief Executive. The Review Team has been told that the previous Chief Executive was very judicious in what information he presented to the elected representatives and that in many instances they were making decisions based on inadequate information. However, an elected representative is obliged to ensure they have sufficient information to make informed decisions, and as the employer of the Chief Executive can direct him/her in this regard.

28. An example of this is the financial information that has been provided to the elected representatives in the past. It is the view of the Review Team that it would not be possible for the elected representatives to discharge their fiduciary duty in relation to the Council’s financial management with the information that they received. Or put another way, it would be impossible for the elected representatives to adequately exercise their duty of care to the ratepayers of Kaipara.

In respect of the community’s relationship with the KDC:

35. Effective local government requires communities being afforded opportunities to participate in Council processes and the decisions that most affect them. This relies on there being a level of trust and connectedness between the community and its Council – both its elected representatives and officers.

36. From the Review Team’s meetings with interest groups and community representatives it concluded that in the Kaipara district there has been a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the Council and the community it serves. A community member spoke of a ‘festering climate of mistrust in both the governance arm and the management arm of the Kaipara District Council’. People spoke of a lack of transparency in the Council and said that they were not provided with timely or accurate information. The perceived failure of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors to front meetings with the community was seen as a serious problem.

As a final comment, which resounds as much today as it did in 2012:

38. Restoring this relationship between the Council and the community is fundamental to addressing the problems the Council is facing. It is arguable that no solutions to any of the Council’s problems, regardless of how technically sound they are, will be tenable unless there is buy in from the community.

See earlier posts