Posts Tagged ‘Local Government’

Council Services Affect You All Day, Every Day

30 September 2016

This comes form the NZ Herald and is about Auckland, but it actually applies to the whole country.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/transport/news/article.cfm?c_id=97&objectid=11719192

 

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Super City?

12 June 2015

image

Street sign not too far from the centre of the 4 million urban conglomeration known as Melbourne. No sign of a super city there!

The Future of ECan

7 January 2014

On New Year’s Day there was an article in The Press on the future of Environment Canterbury, currently governed by Government-appointed commissioners.  I was quoted with a couple of lines from an interview that went for about ten minutes.

I strongly support a return to a fully-elected Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) but it seems to me that a mixture of elected (the majority) and appointed ECan members could be a way to go for the 2016 elections before getting back to a fully elected body in 2019.  I haven’t been a member of Amnesty International for 35 years to not believe in democratic rights.

People need to realise that of the current Canterbury mayors, only one (Kelvin Coe of Selwyn) was a mayor at the time the commissioners were put into Ecan in 2010.  There is now a very different group of people in place.

One problem that ECan has always had to deal with is that the major part of their work (water and land)  actually happens in rural areas and affects farmers in particular.  Individually, farmers pay substantial rates to ECan, although the total rates paid into Ecan mainly come from the urban area of Christchurch – it’s just that Christchurch has so many ratepayers, each paying a relatively small amount.  That also means that the voting power lies with Christchurch. In my observation, most of the opposition to the insertion of commissioners came from urban voters, because of the loss of democracy, and most of the support came from rural voters, because they felt that they had been having little say in how their rates were being spent.

I think the model of the Water Zone Committees, which are community committees jointly appointed by ECan and the relevant District councils (we have just one in Waimakariri, covering the whole District) has possibilities for the future.  These bring together farming, environmental and recreational interests and so far they are working well. If that model works, the greater voting power of urban Christchurch shouldn’t be an issue.

Minister Adams came to the last Canterbury Mayoral Forum and didn’t indicate any Government preferences.  It is entirely possible that the Government does not yet have a view, because she came to ask questions, not to tell us anything.  What is different from 2010, is that I will be doing my level best to make this discussion a public one that all Canterbury people have access to.

Despite what was said in the same article, I don’t detect a desire on the part of the mayors to do away with ECan.  Christchurch has long argued that they want to be a unitary authority, but I haven’t heard Lianne express a view herself.  Some of the other councils are arguably big enough to be unitary authorities (Waimakariri, Selwyn, Timaru, Ashburton) but others (Kaikoura, Hurunui, Mackenzie, Waimate, Waitaki) are probably not.  Talking about unitary authorities thus leads to a discussion about amalgamations, which I don’t think many in Canterbury want.  I certainly don’t.  There is the other problem that water is Canterbury’s big issue but the main rivers (Waimakariri, Rakaia, Rangitata, Waitaki) are all, for good community-of-interest reasons, District boundaries. Unitary authorities based on current boundaries would have trouble dealing with the rivers consistently.

One significant ECan function that could be dealt with at a District/City level is public transport.  Timaru is stand-alone anyway, and our main concern with the Christchurch system would be to make sure that Waimakariri and Selwyn have a proper say.

The issues are therefore Canterbury issues, not just Christchurch or even “Greater” Christchurch.

A Chief Executive – the Waimakariri Story

14 September 2013

While some council chief executives get into the headlines for unfortunate reasons, it needs to be remembered that most don’t – and for good reasons. The Hurunui District Council has just appointed a new one after their previous CE, Andrew Dalziel moved to the CE position at Ashburton District Council, and I am sure that all in North Canterbury will wish Hamish Dobbie well as he takes up his new post.

Meanwhile, you will probably have seen that the Waimakariri District Council has been pleased to reappoint Jim Palmer for a further five years. This will be his third five-year contract (the maximum allowable under the Local Government Act). Over the last three years he has worked with three mayors and the usual changes that occur amongst elected members and has done an outstanding job.

I can comment on the last three years particularly. This District has faced unprecedented challenges a result of the earthquakes. Christchurch and Waimakariri are the two Districts easily most badly affected, which is not to downplay what other Canterbury districts and Environment Canterbury have had to deal with. Jim led a Council team which responded magnificently in the immediate aftermath and which has also had to deal with the all the tasks and changed circumstances that have arisen in the recovery.

That recovery is by no means finished yet and we are very lucky that Jim will be at the helm over  few years.

 

 

How About a Super Waimakariri? – Watch out Christchurch!

10 September 2012

Back in the 1960s, Ghanaian one-party ruler Kwame Nkrumah went to China on a state visit and while he was away the army overthrew him.  He couldn’t even get back to his own country.

I go to Aussie on grandad duty for 5 days, and the Minister of Local Government announces a review of Canterbury local government in 2014. People start talking amalgamations.  I should have paid closer attention to history.

So should we look forward to a super-city? Some points to consider …

  1. Auckland city and district councils had a history of poor co-operation.  Canterbury city and district councils have cooperated well since the 1989 reorganisation.  Examples include the Greater Christchurch Development Strategy and the shared landfill at Kate Valley.
  2. Before the recent organisation, urban Auckland was run by 6 or 7 cities and districts. Urban Wellington has four. Urban Christchurch already has only one.
  3. Canterbury is not a city.  It’s a region or province stretching from beyond Kaikoura to beyond the Waitaki River.  It takes five or six hours to drive from one end to the other.
  4. A question for those who think Waimakariri and Selwyn, or parts of them, should be absorbed into Christchurch. What are their proposals for the rest of Canterbury?
  5. Waimakariri and Christchurch share one, repeat one, piece of infrastructure: the old Waimakariri Bridge on the Main North Road. No pipes, no other roads, connect the two areas.

Of course, the other option is for Waimakariri to absorb Christchurch.  Perhaps we could put that to a vote in the city.

 

Another Thought About ECan

9 September 2012

I’ve just tweeted a summarised version of this:

Question: Is the real reason for the delaying of the ECan elections that the Government has an agenda for all Canterbury local goverment but can’t implement it in 2013 because of the earthquakes?

ECan Commissioners to Remain in the Meantime: Some Thoughts

7 September 2012

The Government has announced today that Environment Canterbury, the Regional Council, will continue to be governed by commissioners until 2016, with a review on its future to be conducted in 2014.

One of the reasons for the delay in reaching final decisions has been given as the effect of the Canterbury earthquakes.

I have to agree with that.  Councils in the Greater Christchurch area (Christchurch, Waimakariri, Selwyn and ECan) do not need the distraction of a governance debate while our focus has to be on earthquake recovery.  My direct experience of the 1989 reorganisation was that a lot of time and energy was sucked up in the process. While the future governance of ECan would not necessarily affect the three territorial authorities, public speculation and debate on amalgamations, etc. had already started and would have intensified.  No thanks – we in Waimakariri have much more important work to do in the meantime.

The matter of having unelected commisisoners governing ECan will certainly raise some hackles – I have already received a tweet about it!  In the longer term, it is my view that a Council dealing with regional environmental and development issues and with regional resources, and responsible for regional regulation, should be answerable to the regional electorate. In the interim, however, I have been impressed with the performance of the Commissioners. Dame Margaret Bazley and her team have worked closely with the 10 territorial councils in the Region and have engaged very well with the community.  In other words, they have behaved as good elected  councillors should.

An important focus has been the implementation of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. In our case the Waimakariri Zone Committee has worked very well, consulted our community on a number of occasions and has set a clear way forward through its Zone Implementation Programme. Commissioner Rex Williams has played a full part in this Committee.

Looking to the future, a key issue for the Region is the fact that the majority of its population lives in Christchurch which therefore holds the electoral power but the most significant work lies, and has greater impact, in the rural areas. The greater part of ECan’s income probably comes from the city, but individually rural ratepayers would, on average, pay higher ECan rates than their city counterparts.

The distribution of representation is therefore an issue. In the end we have to remember that we are all Cantabrians and our urban areas (which are not just in Christchurch, of course) and our rural areas are interdependent.

Statements on councils’ internal borrowing plain wrong, says LGNZ

6 September 2012

MEDIA RELEASE

Statements carried on Radio New Zealand this morning about councils supposedly hiding the extent of their debt by internal borrowing are wrong and misleading, says Local Government New Zealand.

Local government analyst, Larry Mitchell, who was in Whangarei speaking to a ratepayers group, said councils used to have “sinking funds that they could not touch which were to be used to replace infrastructure.”

Mr Mitchell also claimed that since the rules had been changed to allow councils to use these reserves to finance their other needs, they had done so with “a vengeance.”

In addition to questioning the emotive language Mr Mitchell had used about “raiding reserves with a vengeance,” LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule, explained that councils had accrued money in accounts from asset depreciation and temporarily used this money to fund other projects to avoid borrowing externally.  This was common practice and saved ratepayers money.

Mr Mitchell argued that councils should show their internal borrowings in their annual reports and plans.  In fact they already do.  This has been a legal requirement since 2010, said Mr Yule.

The sinking funds Mr Mitchell referred to had not been in common use since 1996, when council borrowing was deregulated.

Mr Mitchell also reportedly said that “council balance sheets around the country show debt ceilings have been reached and there is no capacity to borrow.”

This is far from true, Mr Yule said.  An NZIER report published in July, using two internationally accepted key measures of the risk associated with debt, showed New Zealand councils controlled their debt very well overall.**  It’s the ability to service debt that was key, not the total amount of debt.

“Debt and gearing is low, and interest costs are at a prudent level relative to incomes and quoted benchmarks,” the report stated.  Additionally, the councils in New Zealand which had requested ratings from international credit ratings agency, Standards and Poor’s, had received very good ones, said Mr Yule.

“If communities want new bridges, parks and roads, the funding doesn’t come out of thin air.  It’s unlikely communities will be able to pay for these things out of rates, or fees.  Borrowing spreads the costs over years and provides another vital avenue through which community aspirations can be fulfilled.  Put simply, future generations of people who will benefit from infrastructure pay a share too.”

“It is also important to remember that infrastructure councils buy is often mandated by central government.  For example, water treatment plants.  These need to be paid for.”

“Mr Mitchell’s comments are unhelpful and show that there is a strong need for public discussion about the reality of council borrowing, including its extent and what constitutes good, responsible borrowing, which is very much the norm in the local government sector.  We need to talk based on facts and evidence,” he said.

ENDS

For more information contact LGNZ communications advisor, Malcolm Aitken, on 029 924 1205.

**The measures are the gearing ratio and the debt servicing ratio; debt as a proportion of assets and debt servicing costs as a proportion of the associated revenue stream, respectively.

 

 

“Average” Rates – Don’t Jump to Conclusions!

13 June 2012

The media likes to keep numbers simple. That is why they always want the amount of a change to rates to be expressed as a single percentage.

This is almost always less than useful for the individual ratepayer, especially in Waimakariri’s case.

In Waimakariri, there are lots of targeted rates, i.e. special rates for different areas. The Rangiora water charge, for instance, is far higher than Kaiapoi’s.  This reflects the cost of building and running the new water scheme that brings reliable and safe water into the town from Kaiapoi. Or again, some areas pay drainage rates, and they vary from area to area, and other areas pay none – but the latter only get drains along their roads and no other service.

An increase in any one of these targeted rates raises the average rate, but only affects the targeted areas.  Tuahiwi is about to get a water supply  and the rate increase there is part of the average increase.

Another factor is that many Waimakariri rates are actually uniform charges where properties pay exactly the same amount.  Some are levied across the whole District, e.g. the library charge, others in targeted areas, e.g. the Woodend sewerage charge. When a uniform charge changes, the mathematics means that different properties may have different percentage changes to their bottom lines.

The change to capital value rating is also going to mean considerable variation from property to property.

So … when the media tells you that there is going to be a 5.1% rate increase in Waimakariri, remember that it is only an average – some will be higher, others lower

Waimakariri Rates & Debt – Both Low by National Standards

5 April 2012

The Government’s Better Local Government reform programme contains a table listing all NZ’s councils with figures relating to their rates and debt.  There are 67 District and City Councils in New Zealand and in terms of population, Waimakariri is the 19th largest.

The figures relate to the financial year ending 30 June 2010.

The table shows Waimakariri’s rates-per-capita at that time  ($663) as the fifth-lowest in the country.  The average rate increase over the the period 2002-2010 was 7%, right on the national average.

The debt level per capita  was $485, which was 15th-lowest in the country.  The increase of debt, however, was 1115% – obviously that had started from a very low base.

During those ten years, the Council had built the ocean sewerage outfall for something like $35m, which impacted those ratepayers in Kaiapoi, Woodend, Rangiora, Waikuku Beach, Woodend Beach and Tuahiwi who are in the Eastern Districts Sewer Scheme.  The othe second-largest project was the new Rangiora water supply, of which some of the rates impact had had not finished by 2009-10.  This is a $16m project which affects only Rangiora ratepayers.

The effects of major projects, therefore, can affect some ratepayers considerably, and others not at all.  However, they do affect the Council’s overall debt level.

The Council is proposing a 5% increase in rates on average for the coming year.  Debt levels will double because of the major capital projects ahead of us, notably the Kaiapoi Library, Rangiora Town Hall and Ashley Bridge.

As implied above, Waimakariri has a lot of rates that are targeted to specific areas. This means that the impacts of increases in the total rate take vary considerably from area to area.

The Government programme can be found at http://www.dia.govt.nz/better-local-government

Are There Alternatives to Rates as a Source of Local Government Funding?

16 February 2012

The Shand Committee of Inquirydid have a look at some of the alternatives – see

http://www.dia.govt.nz/Pubforms.nsf/URL/FullReportPartThree(11).pdf/$file/FullReportPartThree(11).pdf

This inquiry took place in 2007.

Pegasus: My Position

3 October 2010

I was opposed to the Pegasus proposal when it was first mooted, an opposition that was well publicised at the time.  I submitted against it at the hearing.

Pegasus is now a fact, however.  People are moving in and they are now Waimakariri residents.  The owners of properties there are Waimakariri ratepayers.

It is in the interests of the District for the Pegasus development to succeed.  Failure would bring about a significant social cost to the wider community.

The development of the relationship between Pegasus, Woodend and Waikuku is going to be something that the three communities and the wider District are going to be working on for a number of years.

Rural Subdivision: My Position

3 October 2010

The spread of 10-acre (4ha) blocks across the Waimakariri landscape concerns a lot of people, including me.

One needs to remember, however, that the rural economy outside of dairying remains very difficult.  For many farmers, subdivision has become about the only way they can make something out of their land.  We also need to acknowledge that there has been, at least until recently, market demand for these “lifestyle” blocks.

A further defence is that some of these small blocks are actually very productive.

However, their spread has driven up the cost of neighbouring farmland and has swallowed up much of the District’s productive capacity.

Before 4ha became the minimum standard for rural lots in the District Plan, the Resource Management Act made it very difficult to resist subdivision anyway.  The subdivisions usually ended up being granted but with the applicants being put to the extra cost of seeking resource consents.  Before the RMA, subdivision also still happened, but with lawyers and consultants making money out of proving”economic use” of the proposed lots.

I belive that we can help limit the spread of 4ha blocks by making more provision for rural-residential developments where the average size of lots is 0.5 or 1 hectare.  Examples already exist in places like Fernside. Hopefully, this will soak up some of the demand.

Going back to past subdivision standards will be very difficult because once such a move is signalled, a huge amount of hurried subdivision is likely to result.

Local Government Reform in Canterbury: My Position

3 October 2010

Having already been on the Local Government scene for six years when the 1989 restructuring took place, I know how difficult the process can be.  The successive amalgamations of Rangiora Borough and Rangiora District, then the new District with Eyre County, and then that new Rangiora District with Kaiapoi Borough, Oxford County and part of Hurunui County to form Waimakariri were all done differently.  Even in the space of three years, history didn’t repeat itself!

The replacement of the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) with commissioners suggests that Canterbury is in for another shake-up.  I doubt that ECan will return in its former guise.  I am prepared to work constructively with the Government, the commissioners and neighbouring councils to review the future functions of territorial councils like Waimakariri.  It could well be that district councils will take on some of ECan’s current functions.

We need to make sure, however, that this works to the advantage of ratepayers and residents.

I do not believe that anything would be gained by amalgamations unless there was widespread public support – nor do I think that such moves are likely from the Government.

“Affordable” Rates

1 September 2010

Are there any such thing? 

What you find affordable, I might not.  If someone thought rates were unaffordable three years ago, they won’t be finding them affordable now.

Perhaps we could ask those ratepayers in part of Mandeville whose rates have just gone up, in this year alone, by more than 11%.  And no, they are not getting a new water supply – or anything else new.

One Waimakariri District: More on My Position

31 August 2010

The most disunifying action of the Waimakariri District Council since its formation in 1989 has to be the imposition of the 5km rating zone around the Dudley Aquatic Centre.

It only lasted for a year, but it meant that people outside that zone had less reason to contribute to the fundraising.  Local people were being taxed for a facility available to the whole District.

District facilities must be funded District-wide.

One Waimakariri District: My Position

29 August 2010

Ever since I was elected to the Waimakariri District Council in  its first elections, in 1989, I have regarded myself as a Waimakariri councillor not a Rangiora one (I had six years off in 2001-07).

As far as I am concerned, wards are a means of achieving a geographical spread of councillors.  Once elected, however, we are sworn in as Waimakariri councillors and we have to make decisions for the whole District.

One of the challenges has always been to be seen to be “doing” things for the entire District.  It is common for people to say that all the money gets spent in one part of the District rather than others. 

This is exacerbated by the fact that a large part of the District sees Rangiora as its service centre – shopping, professional services, secondary schooling, etc.  A consequence of this is that there is often a demand for improved facilities in Rangiora.

My own view is that there are some facilities that should be available in various parts of the District.  As Woodend and Pegasus grow towards something like their projected combined population of about 10,000, there should be a library facility somewhere there.  We should be looking into the possibility of adding a leisure pool to the Kaiapoi Aquatic Centre,  just as Dudley Park has. 

We can also be looking at the complementarity of facilities, so that what is found in one part of the District can be complemented by what is found in another part.  You wouldn’t, for instance, want to replicate the Rangiora Town Hall in Kaiapoi, but a different, more flexible, kind of performance venue could be considered.

None of this has to happen this year or the next.  But we should be looking forward to the kind of facilities that a District with a population of 60,000+ (currently 46,000) will need.

The important things is that when we put a facility into one part of the District, it needs to be seen as being there for the whole District.

The Full List of Candidates

27 August 2010

Final Nominations for
Waimakariri District Council
2010 Triennial Elections

as at 23 August 2010 11:51am

   
Mayor Ayers, David
(1 Vacancy) Cole, Elaine
  Keating, Ron
  Leary, Andrew
  Wakeman, Peter Keith (peterwakeman.org)
   
   
Kaiapoi Ward of the Council Atkinson, Neville (Independent)
(3 Vacancies) Blair, Roger (Independent)
  Brennan, Ben (Independent)
  Henderson, Lee
  Meyer, John
  Stewart, Sandra
   
   
Oxford-Eyre Ward of the Council Doody, Wendy
(2 Vacancies) Felstead, Kevin
  Gordon, Dan
  Smalley, Angela (Independent)
   
   
Rangiora Ward of the Council Allen, Peter
(3 Vacancies) Ayers, David
  Brine, Robbie (Independent)
  Cruickshank, Neil
  Gerard, Jim
  Stirling, Sharleen
   
   
Woodend-Ashley Ward of the Council Barnett, Kirstyn
(2 Vacancies) Cole, Elaine
  Farrant, Peter
   
   
Kaiapoi Community Board Brennan, Ben (Independent)
(6 Vacancies) Faass, Caroline
  Henderson, Lee
  Meyer, John
  Ryder, Steve
  Stewart, Sandra
  Wallace, Robyn H
  Watson, Jackie
   
   
Rangiora Community Board Allen, Peter
(6 Vacancies) Brine, Robbie (Independent)
  Caldwell, Alf
  Clarke, Murray
  Galloway, Keith (Independant)
  Gerard, Jim
  Hoult, Judith
  Miller, Greg
  Rathgen, Warwick (Independent)
  Smalley, Angela (Independent)
  Stirling, Sharleen
   
   
Woodend-Ashley Community Board Barnett, Kirstyn
(6 Vacancies) Cable, Rick
  Ensor, James
  Lundy, Duncan
  Nelson, Keith (Independent)
  Northmore, Mike
  Prickett, Chris

When ARE the Elections ? – a question people keep asking

27 August 2010

People keep asking me when the elections are.

Mailing out of Voting Papers starts on about 17 September.

Voting Papers have to be with the Returning Officer by Midday Saturday 9 October.

My Candidate Statement

27 August 2010

This is my candidate statement that will go out with the voting papers. Note that candidates are kept to a word limit.

I bring visibility, experience and forward-thinking to the mayoralty.

We need leadership that unites the District and doesn’t divide one part of the community from another. The mayor needs to be visible everywhere in the District and be available to the community.

We also need leadership that knows the community through the deep involvement in a wide range of community groups that I have had. 

As Mayor I would know what I am doing.  I offer 21 years’ experience as a Councillor, including six as Deputy Mayor and twelve chairing finance committees.  This experience will enable me to cope with the challenges of growth and with a changing local government environment.  

Waimakariri is a great place.  I will bring to the mayoralty the forward-thinking that will enable us to work together to make it an even better District in which to live, do business and farm. 

Go to davidayers.wordpress.com

Election Nominations Almost Closed

20 August 2010

Nominations for the Local Government elections close at noon today.

If you want to see the list of people who have put their names forward, go to:

 http://www.electionz.com/elections/WaimakaririDC/candidates.htm 

More on the Future of (Our!) Local Government

4 August 2010

What might the Auckland super city mean for the rest of us? – from a Local Government NZ Newsletter 

This a constant topic at LGNZ meetings and a number of seminars have been organised by lawyers and consultants to capitalise on the issue.

 Views range from the conspiracy theorists, who see Auckland as the first step in a plot by government to reduce the number of councils significantly – the lowest number I have heard so far is six (not counting the Chathams).

 Then there are the proponents of change who would like to use the momentum created by the Auckland debate to encourage a discussion in their own localities about the optimum shape and number of councils. Wellington and Hawke’s Bay come to mind.

 And then there are the others, who believe that any future change will be led by communities and be a response to preferences expressed by the community.

 The Government is definitely encouraging us to the latter view – the most commonly recollected statement by the Prime Minister at his opening speech to our conference last week on the future reorganisation of local government “Any further changes of that type will be community-led, not central government-led”. He also pledged to using his considerable personal influence to improve public turnout in the local body elections. The Minister for Local Government, who also talks of a “response to calls for change”, in his speech and views elsewhere (see above) has widely decided to set aside the time to have the debate.

 Before any further decisions are made, we will all have the chance to consider and to contribute to a discussion document that will be left for the Government of the next term to act on. But this in no way detracts from the need to start thinking about these issues now. LGNZ will provide the platform and the opportunity for councils across New Zealand to have this discussion, and then to take the outcomes of that discussion outwards and upwards.

Amalgamation Not On The Agenda – Prime Minister Says

30 July 2010

Report from Radio New Zealand:

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide wants a re-think of the roles and size of all local councils in New Zealand.

Mr Hide says a review of the constitutional status and functions of local government will look at how to get rid of red tape.

The minister told Morning Report on Tuesday that he wants to empower local councils, saying they should be recognised as an independent and autonomous tier of the Government.

Mr Hide believes the changes in Auckland will drive a change in how central government deals with local bodies.

However, Prime Minister John Key says the Government has no plans to push for local government amalgamation in areas other than Auckland, where reforms will result in eight councils being merged into one in November.

Mr Key says there were serious problems in Auckland that needed to be addressed. While there may a case for consolidation in other parts of the country, he says he would prefer it to be community led.

While it is clear that changes in Canterbury are likely in the functions of  the Regional Council on the one hand and the District/City councils on the other, such changes can occur without changes to the boundaries or number of local bodies.  There are a number of conceivable scenarios.

See also my previous post: https://davidayers.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/will-the-government-do-an-auckland-on-us/

Media Statement on Council Transparency

25 July 2010

I released the following statement to the local media this evening.

 Council Needs to be More Transparent says Ayers

 “Many Waimakariri ratepayers are opening their rates accounts and getting a rude a shock,” says Mayoral Candidate David Ayers.

 “The reason for the shock is that the Council’s political leadership has not been transparent with its ratepayers.

 “Obsessed with being able to say that they have kept rates down to an ‘average’ of 3.7% they have not warned many that that their rates increases will be considerably higher than that.

 “Why wait until the rates demands are posted and let those ratepayers find out for themselves?

 “The Waimakariri Council needs to be much more open and transparent.” Said David Ayers.

 Far above the ‘average’ 3.7% are Oxford Urban rates averaging a rise of 10.7%, Rangiora Urban  7%, Ashley-Sefton 11.4%, Cust 6.1%, Fernside 7%, Mandeville 6%, Ohoka 7.7% and Summerhill 11.4%.

 “Most of these increases can be easily explained and in all case there are good reasons, “said Cr Ayers.  “The Council political leadership needs to take the ratepayers into their confidence.”

 For all ratepayers there is an increase of $58 per year in the pools charge as a result of the new Dudley Park Aquatic Centre and an increase of $27 per year for parks and reserves.  “Because they are charged uniformly for each property, the percentage impact on lower-rated properties is greater than for those who pay higher rates,” said David Ayers.  “This explains the dramatic percentage rise in the average Ashley Sefton property and in some other areas.”

 In the cases of Oxford, Rangiora and Summerhill the greatest impact comes from the cost of new water schemes – in the case of Oxford already in place, under construction in Rangiora and due for Summerhill in this financial year.  “All three of these schemes are needed, and in fact I and three other councillors fought hard to get them back into the programme, but again the Council’s political leadership could have forewarned the ratepayers more than two months ago when the Annual Plan was completed.”

Will the Government “Do An Auckland” On Us?

29 June 2010

It is fairly clear that there will be changes in the Canterbury Local Government scene by 2013, if only because it is unlikely that Environment Canterbury will return in its previous form.

But there are differences between us and Auckland.  The problem in Auckland has been the failure of the councils to co-operate sufficiently to address city-wide issues.

In the Greater Christchurch area, the Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn Councils have been co-operating, notably in the greater Christchurch Urban Developement Strategy (UDS) – and have been joined in this by ECan and the NZ Transport Agency (formerly Transit NZ).

One result of this has been the fast-tracking of major roading projects because the region already had its joint planning in place.  The Christchurch Southern Motorway is already under construction.

A re-designation of ECan’s functions could result in the amalgamation of district/city councils, but my guess is that this is unlikely.  Furthermore, the requirement of the Local Government Commission to consider community of interest as the main criterion for determining district boundaries could lead them down the track of splitting districts in two.  I suspect that would be a step which the government would be unwilling to take.

With regard to any amalgamation between Christchurch and Waimakariri, we need to remember that the Waimakariri River is a very strong boundary from a local government point of view. There is only one piece of shared infrastructure – the old road bridge – and all other infrastructure is totally separate.

Councils’ “Shakeup”?

23 June 2010

A newly-emerged candidate for the Waimakariri mayoralty was reported on the Radio New Zealand website in this way:

She believes all councils are in for a shake-up in the next three years – as has happened in Auckland – and says the experience she gained at the regional council will help her lead Waimakariri through this.

Well, there is only one Waimakariri candidate who experienced, and worked through, the reorganisations of (1) Rangiora Borough and Rangiora District; (2) the new Rangiora District and Eyre County; and (3) the third Rangiora District, Oxford County, Kaiapoi Borough and part of Hurunui County.

That’s me.

Experience?

What Mayoral Race?

22 June 2010

It’s still only me and Peter Wakeman in Waimakariri.

Jo Kane is rumoured to be announcing her candidacy in a few days and the Mayor still hasn’t said if he has made up his mind.  Perhaps it’s a case of “you go first”, “no, you”, “no you”.  Perhaps Jo will to do it today as she emerges from her annual shortest-day swim.

How I Sometimes Occupy My Days … Resource Consent Hearings!

10 May 2010

Actually, I haven’t had to do it too often, but I do find myself on a lot of hearings for new by-laws, District Plan changes, swimming pool fencing exemption hearings and even appeals against menacing dog classifications.

Resource consent hearings occur when someone wants to do something that is contrary to the District Plan and the council staff deem it to be a major-enough matter for the public to be notified and for people to be given a chance to be heard.  Often they are heard by a panel of three councillors but if the matter is really high-stakes, an outside commissioner will be appointed.

An example of an outside commissioner being used is for the forthcoming Countdown Supermarket hearing for Ivory Street, Rangiora.  This is supposed to have been heard by now, but the supermarket people have asked for a delay because the council planning officer has recommended against it being approved and they want to think a bit more about this.

In the last two days, I have been on hearing panels considering an application for a child-care centre in Woodend (with Dan Gordon and Roger Blair) and for approval to build a house on a lot of less than 4 hectares in Okuku (with Robbie Brine and Dan Gordon).  The former isn’t finished yet.

Often these decisions are not easy. There are a few things worth remembering, however.

  • The decision has to consider the Waimakariri District Plan and the Resource Management Act.
  • It’s not a numbers game.  The quality of the submissions and their relevance to the District Plan and the Act are more important than the number of people on one side or the other.
  • The first duty of a council planning officer is to consider the District Plan and the RMA. The panel or the commissioner will not necessarlity follow his or her advice.
  • The panel or the commissioner may have to consider whether granting consent will create a precedent elsewhere in the District.
  • Once a decision is made, it becomes the council’s decision.

There’s a lot more, but that will do for now!

Categorical Assurance!

11 April 2010

To those readers of Saturday’s Press:  I can categorically assure you that I have no interest whatsoever in the Christchurch mayoralty!

ECan: Ministers Meet the Waimakariri Council

17 March 2010

Environment Minister Nick Smith (raised in Waimakariri!) is doing the rounds of the Canterbury Councils and this morning he came to Waimakariri, joined by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide (also raised here) and locally-based Labour and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.

They have come to hear the Canterbury Councils’  views (as distinct from the Mayors’) on Environment Canterbury.  There was an exchange of views on ECan’s performance over a long period of time and the short-term measures that could be taken.  We also discussed the long-term: how this process could lead to a deeper reassessment of the Local Government structure in Canterbury.  Hopefully, if this takes place, it will involve all of Canterbury’s people. 

Nick Smith made it clear that where they talk about a separate water authority (my words), they are not just talking about the allocation of water.  They are talking about everything to do with water: flood protection, the river environments, water quality, the sharing of the resource, etc.  This is actually a significant part of ECan’s current work.

We need to remember that ECan does a lot of other stuff too: air quality, urban passenger transport regulation, coast care, civil defence, etc etc – quite a long list.


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