MUDDY WATERS BLOG

 

Gaps in Green Corridor

 

There is often a gap between concepts and what emerges when ideas meet the practicalities of the real world. That’s what gave birth to the saying about the unintended side effects of rules and laws – people often find ways to foul up the best of plans by behaving in ways that planners hadn’t thought of.

 

Muddy fears that will happen to the bright new Green Corridor concept unveiled for special beautified lanes on CBD roads. Muddy doesn’t think that citizens will try to muck up the plan, but that most pedestrians who don’t cycle, skate, jog, scoot (scooter?), pram or cruise around on mobility scooters will just try to behave the way we always have.

 

We’ll want to cross the road to get to the other side, and that will require us to cross a Green Corridor that will add a mixture of skateboarders, cyclists and pram-wielding parents to the existing hazards.

 

Muddy believes it won’t be a lot more hazardous to him and his fellow pedestrians, but it will certainly brass off some of the cyclists who will try to treat the corridor as designated cycle lanes.

 

Nearly all the 49 survey responses listed in the report on the Green Corridor proposal to the District Council’s Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee came from cyclists, who supported improved cycle lanes in the CBD.

 

But that’s not all they will be. A letter to property owners on the proposal makes it clear that cyclists won’t have the corridor to themselves. It says:

 

“Rotorua’s inner city green corridor has been designed to accommodate a range of users so there will be multi-modal opportunities for all - the young, families, the elderly, mobility impaired, and general visitors to the city centre. We anticipate that user groups making use of the corridor will include:

 

• Cyclists;

• Walkers;

• Parents with infants in pushchairs;

• Joggers, either singles or in groups;

• People with limited mobility, including wheelchair users;

• The elderly including mobility scooter users; and

• Scooter, skateboard and roller skate users.”

 

Did the cyclists who were surveyed know this when 44 of the 49 respondents said they favoured  Green Corridor cycleways through the CBD? Were non-cyclist “user groups” asked whether they would share the corridor with people on bikes?

 

Muddy fears not. Muddy fears there is a long way to go to ensure that road-crossing pedestrians, infants in pushchairs and children on scooters don’t fall victim to keen cyclists or acrobatic skateboarders.

 

Our City - damned with faint praise

 

Ole Muddy Waters really started bubbling and even frothing with indignation this week when he read a cute little piece called Let’s live in…Rotorua by a Fairfax Media home and property writer on the Stuff website.

 

Complete with stock image library photos – the Welcome to Rotovegas sign outside Skyline and a pic of Pohutu geyser captioned Imagine this in your backyard! – the article repeats many of the widespread and often wrong preconceptions about Rotorua. For example: It mentions mountain biking in the “Red Woods”, the redwood forest where many locals and visitors go walking and some mountain bikers pedal through for light exercise or to reach the mountain bike trails in Whaka Forest.

 

And here’s the best example: “Tourism is also the main ingredient here, so if working in this industry isn't your thing, you might be short on job opportunities.”

 

Oh really? One of the things that first attracted Muddy to Rotorua years ago was the town’s rare quality of having three strong economic drivers – forestry, agriculture and tourism. Forestry, in particular, is responsible for strong, high-tech support businesses in electronic measurement and control systems, advanced heavy transport manufacturing, environmental and biological research, plant breeding and many others, including the biggest scientific research establishment outside the main centres, with international links and reputation.

 

And tourism includes substantial marketing jobs, more technology and engineering specialties, hospitality management, conference organisation and support, graphic design and a host of other specialties in addition to the people-centred frontline jobs. The city even has its own successful wine-making operation.

 

And of course businesses like that spin off professional support systems, such as substantial accounting and business service firms that include two of the large worldwide companies and a major share-broking and investment practice.

 

Short on job opportunities indeed. As the Tui advertisements say “Yeah right”.

 

What gets Muddy Waters bubbling is the slipshod arrogance that leads media organisations to commission and run articles that are based on little or no actual research and end up damning with faint praise a community of almost 70,000 people as, and I quote, “ROTORUA: There's plenty on offer for tourists, so why not live here and make every day a holiday!”

 

Muddy’s version: “Why not live here and get a full and rounded life in the REAL Rotorua!”

 

 

When “They” Are “Us” – An Ode to Anti-Fluoride Propagandists

 

“They” will be getting a hammering in the next week.

 

“They” will be told how to live their lives and how irresponsible “they” are.

 

“They” are the people anti-fluoride propagandists will speechify about to disciples.

 

“They” are the statistics in the newly released report on deprivation in Aotearoa NZ.

 

When the experts divvied up the numbers, “they” are rated closer to 10 than 1.

 

“They” don’t live in suburbs like Lynmore or Springfield – with ratings of 1 and 3.

 

“They” certainly don’t live in the lakeside splendour of the Tarawera (3).

 

Neither do “they” live in rolling countryside of Hamurana (3).

 

“They” live in Ngapuna (8), through which the powers that be want to run a highway.

 

Or the heights – Selwyn and Western (10s), that is, - and Koutu,

 

The flatlands of Kuirau and Victoria or Glenholme West (all 10s) and Fenton Park (9)

 

If they are lucky, they might dwell (if that is the correct term)

 

In our world famous suburbs of Whakarewrewa (9) and Ohinemutu (10)

 

Or amidst one of the largest man-made forests in the world, Kaingaroa Forest, 

 

Where they will score a perfect 10 in the poverty stakes.

 

Those opposing the introduction of fluoride into our water supply are meeting.

 

One of the main purposes being to “educate” people.

 

“They” won’t be at the meeting as they will be too busy coping with living with deprivation.

 

But “they” shouldn’t worry, because those who know better will tell them how to live their lives.

 

Source: June Atkinson, Clare Salmond, Peter Crampton, NZDep2013 Index of Deprivation, May 2014, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.

 

View figures and tables at GO FIGURE.

 

 

 

What fear tastes like  

 

24 June 2014

 

There is something in the water at the Rotorua District Council.  It’s not fluoride but it is fear.

 

Reports from the recent meeting of the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee suggest the councillors involved so quickly swallowed the principles on which they stand it is a wonder several of them didn’t choke on their own fear.

 

What do the councillors fear?  In spite of protestations otherwise, councillors fear that by individually stating they support the sensible use of fluoride to save the teeth of our tamariki they will be singled out for damning attacks by the anti- brigade. Ultimately, they fear this pressure will be exerted furiously against them at the next election.

 

Based on the depth of the fear expressed by the councillors, it might be supposed the opponents locally exerted overwhelming pressure on our elected representatives.

At the time this was discussed at the committee meeting, the anti- group had a petition on change.org signed by 49 supporters.  At the same time, their Facebook page “Keep Rotorua water safe and fluoride free” had a total of 51 friends.

 

Given the pervasive nature of Facebook and online tools, this is a pretty tiny number.  The Rotorua Youth Centre, for example, has 1183 friends but then again it would, after all it is there to help the youngest and, often, most vulnerable in our city.  

 

Maybe young people should start a letter writing campaign similar to those of the anti-fluoride campaigners.  Fearing the overwhelming number of letters to come, the editor of the Daily Post recently issued a warning around the topic to letter writers, one of the smartest things he has done.  

 

But how often do you see councillors rolling over like terrified puppies in defence of youth issues in Rotorua?  The Mud has warned for some time that an inability to properly tackle the underlying reasons for youth crime in Rotorua will only negate the many good things going on in the inner city.

 

However, the council and other authorities seem more interested in simpler answers, with a seminar on crime prevention being offered to businesses at $15 a person.  This is at the same time as the council is axing valuable community support service staff that put in place programmes that help our people and mitigate negative social and economic impacts on young people.

 

Now that does leave a bad taste.

 

 

 

 

Murkiness abounds in amalgamation arguments

 

13 June 2014
 

Arguments for and against a unitary council for the Bay of Plenty have been bubbling away for the past five years or so. Opponents predict cost increases, supporters counter with claims of benefits for all. The truth is almost certainly somewhere in between – exactly where depends on how well a local government amalgamation is carried out.

 

At the moment BoP has seven councils serving a population of 277,000. That’s seven mayors or council chairs, more than 70 councillors and oodles of planners, inspectors, managers and clerks as well as the people who actually collect the rubbish, clean the streets, look after water supply and sewage treatment and maintain and repair the infrastructure we rely on. Do we really need six city and district councils plus a regional council? Do the problems affecting the Auckland super-city mean that all unitary councils will face similar problems? That’s not the experience elsewhere.

 

There are a few other issues that need discussion besides the average rating and debt costs – like, for instance, is amalgamation with other councils that are enjoying economic and population growth likely to get Rotorua back on a growth path? Can we ensure that happens?

 

I suspect many of the smaller council districts are afraid that their interests would be ignored and pillaged by the monster – Tauranga. That aspect needs more work before there is a real, viable, practical amalgamation plan for residents to consider. What we don’t need at the moment is patch protection by local and regional councillors insisting it will never work, because the existing councils are doing a good job at a reasonable cost. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?

 

Note: The 277,000 figure is based on the 2013 census, which says Western Bay has a population of 43,863; Tauranga, 116,190; Rotorua, 69,258; Whakatane, 32,826; Kawerau, 6252, and Opotiki, 8514. That’s based on local government boundaries because we are discussing local government amalgamation. The number depends on how you draw the boundaries.

 

Chadwick-led council facing first real test

 

21 May 2014

 

The character of the Steve Chadwick-led council is facing its first real test since the election.

 

Issues around race relations and capital expenditure raise the eyebrows of most pond dwellers and Muddy Waters loves to get stuck in with the best of them.

 

However, plans for a new partnership arrangement between the council and Te Arawa and the capital spending on the TERAX solid waste treatment plant have wider implications than the proposals themselves.

 

The wastewater treatment proposal goes before the council’s Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee today (21 May 2014) but the Te Arawa proposal has been pushed back to allow time for consideration by Te Arawa iwi at a hui-a-iwi at Tama-te-Kapua this weekend.

 

The Te Arawa Partnership Project has already cost the council – firstly, in terms of cost in the development of models and legal fees; and, secondly, the ferocious backlash from what one resident has called the “whitey” component of the community.  The size of public feedback on the issue and the nature of the nickname give some indication of what the councillors have in front of them should this go all wrong.

 

Apart from arguments around our constitution’s requirement to make specific provision for Maori representation and the ineffectiveness of previous attempts nationally and regionally, the question remains as to how the success or otherwise of the partnership will be measured.

 

 If this question cannot be clearly answered, then maybe this proposal is more about appearances than practical usefulness. Given feedback and the korero likely at the weekend, the options might change, however.  Click to go to a link to the paper tabled in late April.  

Regarding the TERAX project, apart from any philosophical arguments, this is one of the first big capital projects the Chadwick-led council will consider.  Muddy Waters is tickled that it is a waste treatment project; anything we can do to clean up our environment is to be supported.  

 

An analysis of the costs by council finance and works chiefs provides a fuller view of costs and outcomes.  A number of variables exist regarding the cost of TERAX and two competing projects put forward by other companies.  

 

The TERAX option will require a net investment from the council of $8.5 million, while the capital investment from one of the other options - “Centrifuge” -  is $1.5 million.  The report states it is therefore important to look at the three options over time.  However, as the previous council discovered with projects, such as the Rotorua International Airport, projections can go wobbly at the best of times.  

 

Nevertheless the council officers recommend the council take on the debt now, rather than pay a much lower upfront cost but risk higher user charges over the life of the project.

 

Click to Read the RDC SP&F Committee Agenda

 

 
Restructure crunch hurting council staff

 

1 May 2014

 

Rotorua District Council staff members are in pain over the way a restructure is being handled.

 

Muddy Waters understands those hurting the most are staff members directly impacted by the organisational restructure implemented by Mayor Steve Chadwick and CEO Geoff Williams.

 

As noted in an earlier blog, envelopes were delivered to staff members in a casual manner, belying the serious of the news contained in the enclosed letters.

 

The news was clear from some staff. Rather than simply a notice about the restructuring, the 50 or so the people directly affected were told their jobs had been re-established but they did not have the qualifications to match the new positions.

 

It is understood this directly impacts many long-serving staff members, who do not necessarily have the university-based qualifications required by the new roles.

 

After Muddy Waters initially reported the staff had received letters, the Daily Post quoted council CEO as saying staff would play a major role in shaping the final structure.

 

However, it understood the staff members concerned have been left in no doubt their futures are in serious jeopardy and they are feeling the hurt after long years of service to the council in Rotorua.

 

Staff can re-apply for jobs, but are likely to be choked out of the running in what is a rejuvenation aimed at upskilling of the council.

 

 
 
 
Council staff learn of restructure 

 

11 April 2014

 

Staff at the Rotorua District Council have received letters notifying them of details around a new organisational structure being introduced in the face of budget challenges.

 

The staff received letters today, Friday 11 April, so were given the weekend to ponder the impact of the new structure and its impact on their future roles at the council.

 

Although no details were available to The Mud at this stage, notices foreshadowing the changes have suggested they will some traditional activities being more effectively managed or delivered by entities other than RDC - such as CCOs (Council Controlled Organisations), private sector partnerships or community partnerships.

 

The council started the consultation process with staff in February regarding proposals for a new organisational structure.  The restructure was heralded as part of a move to realign resources to support a programme dubbed “New Directions” and a Rotorua 2030 vision.

 

A council statement at the time said, as part of the realignment process, the council had recently completed a “stocktake of all current activities to identify functions that are consistent with Rotorua 2030 goals and those that are not.

 

That information has been used to create the new realignment proposals.The mayor and councillors agreed in principle to the changes being proposed at the council meeting on 5 February, ahead of staff briefings on 10 February that revealed current thinking to employees and asked for their feedback.

 

Council chief executive Geoff Williams was quoted as saying council staff will play a major role in shaping a final structure to meet expectations for Rotorua 2030 goals and 2016 priorities.The proposals identified a structure with three key operational groups to deliver the activities identified as ‘core’ to RDC.

 

The groups were:

Strategy and Relationships: setting a foundation for all council activities

Performance and Delivery: focusing on the provision of agreed services

Finance and Capability: providing support through information and business infrastructure to enable the organisation to focus on strategy and delivery.

 

As noted earlier some traditional activities were likely to operated by entities other than RDC - such as CCOs (Council Controlled Organisations), private sector partnerships or community partnerships. Four new CCOs are proposed.

 

A new service delivery organisation comprising Castlecorp, the nursery and landfill;

A new tourism, venues, events and economic development organisation comprising I-Site, Events and Venues, Grow Rotorua, the role of the Tourism Committee, Destination Rotorua Marketing, The Redwoods & Information Centre, and the airport;

An infrastructure organisation providing roading services for multiple councils.

 

An infrastructure organisation providing water services for multiple councils.

 

“Expectations for CCOs are set by councils but they are more commercial and flexible than within a council structure, allowing the council to focus on identified core activities,” says Mr Williams.

 

At that time it was stated 30 April could be the day the decisions were due

 

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