Chadwick knocks old sticks for six
18 December 2013
Mayor Steve Chadwick has done to the Rotorua District Council what the Australian cricketers have done to their English counterparts – knocked it for six.
Juggling with the parking metres was the easy part, relatively speaking. The new 120 minute-free parking regime in the inner city must have taken some doing behind the scenes but being swept in with a huge mandate – and backed by inner city businesses – meant even some of the grumpier councillors couldn’t disagree publicly, at least.
Scrapping the development levy must have taken the mayor and her new managerial team some real work, however, given previous councils have so vociferously opposed lifting a money spinner.
Some of the best business minds in Rotorua have worked themselves to exasperation in the past to no effect, as highlighted elsewhere in The Mud by ReSolve Accountants director Michelle Hill.
Rotorua can look forward to a new wave of investment into the city, where previously the levy has acted more as a levee and help back development dollars from flowing through the city.
Finding out just how much commercial consents have lagged is a bit difficult but figures I have seen show that new commercial consents were down by 39% at a time when new dwelling consents for the same year (2009-2010) were up 9%.
The success of this move will be measured in the dollars unleashed in new investment in Rotorua, and the momentum is already growing with a number of new projects being brushed off.
Steve Chadwick’s regime will be challenging for some of the rear guard remaining on the council as well as newer members who will be under pressure to perform. But if the investment potential is realised, the late nights will be well worth the effort.
We trust all our Mudsters - including Rotorua's exciting new mayor and our special contacts and supporters - have a safe and joyful Christmas.
Two clear winners in election spend up races
14 January 2014
The numbers are in for election expenses in the races for the Rotorua local body elections in 2013 and there are two clear winners.
The clear winner in the mayoral spend-up stakes is Steve Chadwick. The new mayor spent a total of more than $31,000 in expenses paid and received a donation of $2,000 from Joe La Grouw.
The ousted mayor Kevin Winters by comparison spent $24,805.35 and recorded no donations over the $1,500 mark for reporting.
But the real winner is again that well-placed outsider, Tania Tapsell, in the large field of candidates for the Rotorua District Council.
Although she did spend a measly $287.50 on advertising with The Radio Network, the rest of her money was mostly spent on hardware, including $3,031.68 on billboards and car signage and $1537.55 on business cards and pamphlets.
The stand-out spend in Tapsell’s list was the $266 spent on Facebook advertising, with her online presence being a key factor to her coming in well up in a crowded field of candidates.
While some of her opponents did spend up in the local newspapers, the Rotorua Daily Post and the Rotorua Review, Tapsell’s decision to spend mostly on billboards and flyers and to focus on the online conversation paid off.
Comparative figures were not immediately available between 2013 and the previous election in 2010. This is partly due to the fact that different conditions applied in 2013 due to the “Banks” fiasco in earlier Auckland elections.
However, the spend in both the Daily Post and the Review seemed quite light, with the numbers indicating the DP advertising packages as relatively low levels. For example, long-time councillor Trevor Maxwell’s only expenditure was $1,682.45 in the DP.
Glenys Searancke also only spent $1442.00 with APN NZ Media, owner of the DP. But, given her status in the theatrical world, she also spent $1133.81 with the Radio Network where she was able to give voice to her role at the council.
The highest polling council candidate, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, spent $2,200 with the DP out of a total spend of just $2,560.00.
The lessons coming out of the numbers will probably keep only those few who really care wide awake at nights.
Heritage being reinvented as Rotorua transforms lakefront
TV3s AM Show has arrived in Rotorua to find a city where the meaning of heritage is being re-invented.
Having come from Queenstown, Nelson and Napier – all provincial centres with provincial challenges and strong historical stories – the show is in Rotorua at time when the city’s heritage has become a contentious subject.
Bill McKay, a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at Auckland University, spoke on the Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon show this week about the erosion of public space by conversion to other, sometimes commercial, uses.
He expressed concerns about how marina developments were taking over open harbour areas and a central city square had been sold and converted to a “laneway” that was essentially a mall.
Much of these transfers out of public spaces to private use are being down under the umbrella of Auckland City-related business entities, like those established by the Rotorua Lakes Council.
Fears are growing in Rotorua that a similar process is underway in Rotorua, in which areas and places which have been historically utilised by a wide range of people will be portioned off, so they will be less open and more commercialised.
The AM Show’s last stop before Rotorua was Napier, where the show’s set was planted firmly in front of the Napier Soundshell. Built in 1935 following the 1931 earthquake, this beautiful building typifies the art deco style of many of the city’s historic buildings.
The guest sport’s presenter on Wednesday’s show, Brendon Telfer, recalled as a kid how he’d come to Napier and revelled in seeing some of New Zealand’s great musicians of the time performing.
The late Howard Morrison was included in the Telfer enjoyed while staying in Napier.
Sir Howard started his career at the Rotorua Soundshell, which makes it one of New Zealand’s most historic buildings from a music/creative viewpoint. Many other notable artists played gigs there and many got their start at the Soundshell.
However, the Rotorua Lakes Council has deemed the building must be demolished to make way for a planned “world class lakefront” project.
This follows news of a plans for a large health and wellness centre being planned in the lakefront area currently occupied by the QE Health Wellness and Spa centre, another historic building, and the demolishing of the hotel overlooking Ohinemutu.
The AM Show has been based at Jean Batten Square, in the gap next to the new library/health hub, not allowing viewers to see the wonderful aspects available from the Rotorua lakefront. Instead, the focus of the first morning was on homelessness in Rotorua and the council’s heavy-handed approach to the Visions of a Helping Hand overnight drop-in shelter’s temerity for allowing visitors fall asleep.
Council's legal stick a step too far
Have the wheels started falling off the Steve Chadwick-led council in Rotorua? As ratepayers front up with their hard won dollars to pay their rates bill today (20 February), they might be forgiven for asking the question.
In an exclusive pre-Christmas interview with The Mud, the Mayor was unapologetic about the pace of change or the manner in which changes were introduced during the first year or so of the new council’s reign.
Her argument seemed to be that people voted overwhelmingly for change, and they did; the elected councillors backed the plans for rejuvenating the city, and they did; and sector groups agreed with new features to improve Rotorua’s economy, maybe.
So why is it that when Muddy Waters occasionally surfaces, as the bottom-dweller must do in summer, the noise opposing the mayor and her team gets louder?
The latest question being asked is: Why is the Rotorua District Council now spending ratepayers’ money seeking a legal opinion to find out whether certain councillors can participate in an open debate? It is effectively an attempt to gag an opinion opposing the mayoral team on the proposed Te Arawa partnership proposal.
It is a bit unusual for councillors to join a lobby group in the midst of a debate but they have their reasons, as Reynold Macpherson outlines in The Mud Democracy Discussion with Fraser Newman, who has an entirely different viewpoint.
Okay, it does mean we know the councillors who have signed to the Pro-Democracy Society have a strong opinion, which is unlikely to be swayed by the council’s public relations efforts. But is this any different from a councillor belonging to, say, a political party?
At least we know where we stand with those councillors on one side or the other now. Citizens of the city can take their views into account as much as those who clearly belong to the group pushing the proposal forward.
By getting a legal opinion, the managers risk leading the council into what will be a drawn out court battle at the cost to – you guessed it – ratepayers.
Testing the mettle of both sides of an argument is what democracy is about. Saying you have the backing of this or that group is insufficient. This has been proven by the new cycleway through the city, in which the council says it has the backing of the Inner City Rejuvenation Group. Muddy Waters understands the actual members of the group didn’t necessarily have an opportunity to agree or disagree with that decision.
No matter what Mayor Chadwick’s public relations team and its mouthpieces want, they will be challenged either today or face being dumped at the next local body election, if not before.
Muddy democracy clouds Te Arawa partnership proposal
Old Muddy Waters reckons the local news media and the new Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society, which seems to consist of two Councillors and one unsuccessful candidate, aren’t telling the whole truth about the so-called Te Arawa partnership proposal.
The Pro-Democracy Society is only telling part of the truth. Its claims ignore a number of important facts. For example, on almost all issues only the elected Councillors will have the final say. Also, since the advisory Te Arawa Standing Committee was dumped last year because both the Council and Te Arawa decided it wasn’t working, the Council is operating in breach of the Local Government Act.
The tribes and hapu involved have proposed that they set up their own, separate board and that the Council appoint two representatives from the board to positions with voting rights on two Council committees, plus one hearings commissioner on resource management matters and non-voting representatives on one or two other committees.
Under Te Arawa’s proposal their representatives could not vote at full Council meetings where most committee decisions are debated and voted on again by elected Councillors before they are finally accepted, rejected or amended.
The Auditor-General has warned Councils about complying with Local Government Act and Resource Management Act obligations based on the Treaty of Waitangi, and a judge criticised the Council’s dealings with Maori about the Rotoma-Rotoiti sewage treatment plant.
The Local Government Act is quite clear about what Councils have to do. For example Section 81 of the Act starts by saying that “A local authority must … establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority…”
Muddy reckons that’s what the Council is doing. Obviously some people don’t like it, and that’s fair enough, but equally obviously it is something the Council has to do. Some people don’t like the Treaty of Waitangi either, but it’s part of New Zealand’s constitution, courtesy of the British government and the Maori leaders who signed it (no colonists and not many Maori had any democratic say about the signing of the Treaty).
That makes a nonsense of the Pro-Democracy Society’s claim that “In a democracy, no one may be discriminated against (or advantaged) on the basis of race, religion, ethnic group, or gender.”
Actually, lots of other laws and government decisions discriminate against or in favour of particular groups of citizens to try and achieve such benefits as better health or education levels among those groups.
There is no such thing as a pure and perfect democracy. As Winston Churchill said: “No-one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Muddy reckons the Pro-Democracy Society trio are being a bit cute, preparing themselves to set up a conservative political team if the Mayor and her Labour and National Party backers form a team to campaign at the next local government elections.
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:
• 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.
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.
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