Archive for the ‘Local Government’ Category

Indoor Community Sports Centre

February 24, 2009

I was very pleased to read of the deal done between Cr Foster and the Mayor.  I look forward to the outcome of the review.

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Knee Jerk Reactions

February 11, 2009

One of the more complex issues to confront Wellington City Council in recent years was that of the indoor stadium.  At the Chamber we have spent hundreds of hours on the issue.  I must have lobbied the Mayor personally twenty times on it.  Our Board has agonised over the issue, and we have surveyed our membership on it.

Like Cr Foster our initial position was that a site next to the Westpac Stadium on the outskirts of the CDB was the best one.  We still believe this.  Unfortunately there are significant drawbacks to this site.  Size, cost (we have serious doubts about the claim by Cr Foster that a 12 court stadium can be built next to the Westpac Stadium for $46 million does this for example include the cost of the necessary grade separation?) and carparking all raise significant issues for the CBD site.  So reluctantly, after studying every piece of information available on the issue we came around to the view that the Cobham Drive site was the only option to support.  Our submission (easy to find on our website) I think displays our reluctance, but also shows that we took a well considered position.

While considering this issue in depth we monitored the positions taken by individual Councillors, their arguments in meetings and their attendance at meetings.  We know exactly the role played by Cr Foster in this process as does the Dominion Post

Last year Mr Foster called the decision to put the centre on Cobham Park the worst by the council in 15 years. It sparked a new council vote that saw Cobham Park reconfirmed as the site by 13 votes to 1. Mr Foster missed the meeting as it clashed with his 10th wedding anniversary.

Having essentially lost the robust and extended argument for the port site, the Chamber has felt obliged to back the early completion of the agreed site at Cobham Park.  As those who know me will testify, I am a pretty tenacious person.  (I will do a post shortly on an issue I have been fighting for for 23 years).  But on some issues there comes a times when you have to accept the inevitable, particularly when there has been a fair and transparent democratic process to reach a decision.  At the Chamber we also feel that the construction of this project could not be better timed given the economic downturn, and it was clear that the sporting codes affected have clearly been waiting too long for a facility of this type.  We had assumed that other parties who had favoured the port site would act in a similar way to us, after all the facility will be a real asset for the region and the sooner we have it the better.

We now face an 18 month to 2 year delay.  This is annoying.  I personally feel for those parents and sports players who will have to spend an extra two years of standing and playing out in the Wellington elements.  I feel also for those companies that might have survived if this construction had occurred and those who will be without work because of this delay.  This was also an issue which I had been commenting on for several days.  So there was nothing knee jerk in my support for comments from our Mayor a couple of days ago.  I was angry over the grounds used for this appeal (is preferring another site real grounds for appeal under the RMA??), and I was as angry over the fact that a member of the Council had decided to act contrary to the near unanimous position of the Council as I was last year over Iona Pannett’s attempts to stop the Basin Reserve grade separation following a very detailed and complex decision over the Ngauranga to Airport land transport corridor (I am at least consistent on this issue of collective responsibility).

I have never called for Cr Foster’s resignation, but I do think there is an issue around this.  To paraphrase another blogger “Isn’t the fact that 8 members of the Council including the Mayor are either calling for a colleague’s resignation or suggesting that he review his position suggestive of the fact that there is a serious issue here?”  And isn’t it a bit unusual that Cr Foster has been the subject of two searching editorials – Wellingtonian and Dominion Post??? I also do worry about Andy’s ability to Chair his two committees in the current situation.  As a minimum a standdown might be an idea.  These considerations were the background to my supposedly knee jerk reaction.

Is it appropriate for someone in my position to be expressing opinions on this issue?  Absolutely.  It is my job.  Who else scrutinises the Council and the actions of individual Councillors as closely as I do?  What is the Chamber position?  This is also easily accessible on our website.

I was also a bit surprised to be labelled an ardent cheerleader for Mayor Prendergast.  I am sure that she will be as surprised as I was to read this characterisation.  We have a close and fully professional working relationship.  We meet somewhere around town most days.  We regularly exchange views on the issues of the day.  We sometimes agree and often disagree (we can’t mention a certain roading project to the North of Wellington without the sparks flying). This is the nature of our roles.

I do hope that this issue is not about positioning for another significant event that is also due in about 18 months to 2 years time (have a read of the first letter to the editor in today’s Dominion Post).  But by then I am kind of hoping we might be lucky enough to be voting for a Mayor of Greater Wellington.  In that context, the site chosen for the Wellington city indoor stadium is unlikely to be a regional issue.  By the way this isn’t just my view, the Chamber has long championed the idea of local body amalgamation.  Once the Royal Commission on Auckland delivers its recommendations, a similar solution for Wellington must be on the cards.

Wellington Indoor Stadium (4)

February 9, 2009

Another good article in today’s Dominion Post, including strong words from the Mayor:

A furious Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said his action was an “ultimate betrayal” that would cost ratepayers dearly.

“For a councillor who constantly lectures us on fiscal responsibility, I think it is the ultimate betrayal that he is willing to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayers’ money appealing something that has broad councillor support and community support.”

I am fully behind the Mayor on this issue and also support the removal of Cr Foster from the Council posts he occupies.  I agree also that there is an issue over whether Cr Foster should resign from the Council.

Wellington Indoor Stadium (3)

February 7, 2009

I have just caught up with the editorial from Thursday’s The Wellingtonian.  It is on the Indoor Stadium issue and is spot on (it was clearly written to try and deter the lodging of appeals).  I agree fully.  It is time for petty politics to stop on this issue.  So far I have spoken to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillor John Morrison.  All say that they share my outrage.

Wellington Indoor Staium (2)

February 7, 2009

I am pleased to see that there is good coverage of what has happened in today’s Dominion Post – an article on the front page and a feature.

OK, I agree that the stadium would have been better located close to the Westpac Trust Stadium, but all the work I have seen suggests that Cobham Park is both the cheapest and the best option for the facility inj terms of size (the inner city site would only be 8 courts) and parking.

What annoys me most is that a Councillor has broken ranks from a collective decision and is going to delay this project for 2 years.  I feel sorry for the sports codes who will suffer most from these delays.  I feel sorry for the construction workers who need this work right now and who will miss out.  And I feel that there are serious governance principles that have been breached by what has happened.  I hope that this is not simply a Councillor seeking an opportunity to grandstand and get more profile in the run up to the next Mayoral election.

Wellington Indoor Stadium

February 6, 2009

I am outraged.  Why isn’t the Dominion Post informing Wellington about what is going on??

RMA Changes

February 5, 2009

We were very pleased with the announcement on Tuesday of the changes to the Resource Management Act.  Here is a copy of our press statement:

Resource Management Proposals a Boost for Business

 

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the proposed Resource Management Act reforms announced by the government today.

 

“The cost and uncertainty brought about by the RMA has been a real obstacle to business investment,” said Chamber CEO, Charles Finny. 

 

“Streamlining the processes around obtaining resource consents will prove to be a real tonic for economic growth.

 

“Small businesses in particular can face crippling costs and delays under the RMA and today’s proposals will go along way towards reducing them.

 

“The prevention of frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections to developments is particularly welcome as is the option for applicants to go directly to independent commissioners.

 

The Chamber will scrutinise the proposals in more detail and looks forward to making a submission on the Bill at the Select Committee stage,” Mr Finny concluded.

One Auckland

January 15, 2009

I see that the Herald is expecting the Royal Commission to come out with a “super city” approach to Auckland.  This is what I expect also.  This will be good news not just for Auckland but it will put the writing on the wall for the Wellington region also.

Rodney Comes Calling

January 3, 2009

I have just fielded an excited phone call from my in-laws.  Rodney Hide has just called into to Kawarau Estate to say hi and to continue discussions on local body reform.  No doubt he read the front page of the Dominion Post today.  [As an aside this is an example of not terribly good jouranlism.  On the ferry yesterday I was phoned by a very pleasant Dominion Post journalist (female – certainly not Dave Burgess) for comment on a plan to charge Hutt, Porirua and Wairarapa residents to go to the Museum of the City on The Sea, the Cable Car Museum etc.  I said that I did not like this idea.  Instead I would prefer to see local body amalgamation or an Auckland type amenity levy over the entire region.  Read what came out in the article by Dave Burgess].

So sorry Rodney that we had returned already to Wellington. I would have loved to share our wines and show you around. But thanks for calling in and making H&B’s day!

Central Otago District Council

December 23, 2008

Submissions close today on a proposal from the Central Otago District Council to amend the District Plan.  This is local government at its worst.  We have a good system in Central Otago which has worked well.  The Council has, until recently been essentially pro-development and pro-business.  It has been a much less intrusive Council than its neighbour Queenstown Lakes.  Unfortunately something has gone very wrong.  If agreed the proposed changes to the Plan will see pretty much all development subject to Council intervention.  This means greatly increased costs for business and uncertainty for investors.  The Council is even proposing to take responsibility for determining which land uses are viable and which are not!  The final result, if these plan changes are passed, will be disinvestment from the region. 

These proposed Plan changes have come out of the blue, they are not needed, and they have not been properly justified.  Moreover insufficient account has been taken by the Council of their potential economic impact.

I spent much of yesterday and last night preparing submissions on aspects of the plan.  I have copied my correspondence to the Minister and Associate Minister of Local Government as this is a classic example of local authorities going wrong.