Category Archives: Horowhenua District Council

Will Horowhenua ratepayers be paying for new water systems?… a demand created by land developers whom Council have exempted from Development Contributions

Information on financial impacts of new water and waste water systems still not available: All ratepayers potentially impacted.

Horowhenua District Council has refused to answer a direct question on the expected financial impact on ratepayers if new water and waste water systems are installed in five targeted areas including Waitarere, Hokio, Ohau, Manakau and Levin.

In response to a question asking for the impact “in dollar terms” Mr Clapperton replied, “Page 18 of the Consultation Document [2018-2038 Long Term Plan] explains the annual increase in rates for all households in the district currently connected to water.

“Within the new infrastructure settlements rates would increase by more since they would begin to pay the Water Supply Targeted rate when they start to receive this service.”

The service is forecasted to be delivered between 2027 and 2036. Waitarere has a waste water system but no water system.

As if Mr Clapperton’s answer isn’t confusing enough page 18 of the consultation document contains a table which includes the expected rates increases in each targeted area which gives the impression only the rate where the ratepayer lives will be applied.

However, the consultation document also makes the statement, “This additional service would mean an increase…for ALL [emphasis mine] households in the Horowhenua District who are connected to water [and waste water] services.”

A resident living in one of the targeted areas said in a conversation she had with the council’s asset manager engineer Sarie Van der Walt, the LTP contact on infrastructure included in the consultation document, ratepayers would be charged all the rates increases in the targeted area; not just the rate increase for the area where they lived.

Combined the total amounts to an expected $646.70 annual increase in rates but this is still less than half the amount councillor Christine Mitchell said rates are likely to increase in Waikawa Beach if new water and waste water systems are built.

Cr Mitchell reportedly made the comment at the last Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association AGM in December 2017 which was included in the WBRA newsletter as a predicted $1500 annual increase. She has not responded to requests for comment.

The council has therefore been asked the same question again to provide dollar figures for the expected rates impact if council’s preferred option of installing new water and waste water systems is adopted by council.

If ALL ratepayers connected to water and waste water systems are affected this could also impact ratepayers in all the other areas including Levin, Foxton, Foxton Beach, Tokomaru and Shannon.

Existing ratepayers are concerned they are having to pay for a demand created by land developers who have not had to pay one cent towards essential infrastructure costs since council cancelled development contributions in 2015.

In answer to this inequity Mr Clapperton said, “Council will be looking at several options to assist with funding growth-related projects, Development Contributions being one of the options available.”

However in the consultation document council says it won’t be considering the reintroduction of development contributions paid by land developers towards essential infrastructure until year 2019-2020.

Submissions on the consultation 20 year Long Term Plan close on March 26. The same day as consultations on the 2040 draft Growth Plan and Earthquake prone buildings also closes.

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Why an Inquiry needs to be held into the business interests of Horowhenua District Council

A further illustration of how democracy in NZ has become a mere illusion. From Veronica Harrod.

Commentary; Why an Inquiry needs to be held into the business interests of Horowhenua District Council and other matters

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how and why communications is used as a weapon by Horowhenua District Council to drive strategies and plans that favour the financial interests of a small group of businessmen on the economic development board.

A communications strategy to assist the economic development board members secure outcomes favourable to their business interests was identified as one of six priorities by a council Growth Response Team comprising the Chief Executive Officer David Clapperton, Economic Development Manager Shanon Grainger and council in 2016.

Priorities include (1) Reviewing the Horowhenua Development/Growth Plan (2) Developing the Levin Town Centre Plan (3) Developing a Horowhenua Traffic Management Plan in support of the Horowhenua Development/Growth Plan and Levin Town Centre Plan (4) Investigating and establishing an Investment vehicle to drive the plans forward (5) Developing a Horowhenua 2030 Strategic Plan and developing a Communications Strategy to support the above initiatives.

The public are being “consulted” on all these plans and strategies now and council has voted to support the establishment of an Investment Trust initially comprising economic development board members which council’s chief executive David Clapperton will “assist” for the first two years. Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop voted against mayor Michael Feyen also being involved in the establishment of the trust.

Make no mistake. These plans and strategies the community are being consulted on now are entirely dedicated to advancing the interests of the economic development board. Up to 40 percent of public assets owned by council may be sold to finance the board’s new lethal toy which the Investment Trust is. Perhaps the public would prefer any sale of public assets to write down increasing debt levels or set aside for essential infrastructure projects. All the projects the Trust want to drive rely on the council plans and strategies being favourable to their business interests. Which is why we are actually at what is referred to as a tipping point. Everything is converging that will cement the board’s control of the council and the community in a final and irrevocable way.

A communications strategy that refers to the Investment Trust as “by the people for the people” is nothing more than empty words simply because it is not true. Board chair Cameron Lewis used those words to describe the Trust’s activities which is a very effective communications strategy. What’s not to love about “by the people, for the people” right? But the Investment Trust is the board’s strategy and it advances the financial interests of board members.

Holding only four relatively obscure public meetings on the district’s first, very important, draft 20 year Long Term Plan is a deliberate communications strategy. Holding the only Levin public meeting at the Aquatic Centre instead of Te Takere is a deliberate communications strategy. Interestingly enough the council considers it important enough to hold a public meeting on the new expressway at Te Takere though. Which it is but so too, surely, is it important to hold public meetings on council’s draft documents at Te Takere too. No doubt the council and Otaki MP Nathan Guy intend on whipping up community opposition to the north eastern route because it extends across land and property development projects in the north east being driven by council and land developers and included in the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan which the community were not consulted on.

Isn’t Te Takere supposed to be the hub of the community and yet not one public meeting on council’s draft documents is being held at Te Takere. All of a sudden the Aquatic Centre has become the place where council holds public meetings. It would be bizarre nonsense if it was not able to be explained as a deliberate communications strategy. Not referring to the documents as “draft” plans is a deliberate communications strategy. In the public notices section of a community newspaper the draft 2018-2038 Long Term Plan is referred to as, “Consultation in preparation of 2018-2038 Long Term Plan.” It is not called a draft document which is very concerning.

Bombarding the public with, I have counted ten consultations so far running simultaneously, is a deliberate communications strategy. It ensures minimal public participation because the public is drowning in “consultation” documents. But the council and economic development board, when they are questioned, can turn around and say, “the public was consulted.” A complaint is being laid with the Office of the Auditor General on governance grounds.

If the public want to participate in a serious and considered way there are at least eight separate and complex documents on the 2018-2038 draft Long Term Plan alone. And that is just one draft document. Say each document is approximately 200 pages, and this is conservative, means having time, energy and capability to read approximately 2000 pages and understand complex financial information. Then after reading approximately 2000 pages the public then require the capacity to analyse the draft plans and strategies to understand the consequences of the impacts. After I read the draft Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040 Consultation document was available on the council’s website in the “have your say” section I went to download a copy. But it wasn’t available. The growth strategy replaces its predecessor the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan (HDP). The 2008 HDP is essential a land developers bible with 12 land development projects alone in the Levin section of the plan. Increasing urban density which the public are being “consulted” on now is recommended in the Implementation section of the 2008 HDP.

I say the word consultation in quote marks because overwhelming the public with plans and strategies and decisions can only impede not facilitate consultation. But this is a deliberate communications strategy too. The public generally think communications strategies are about informing the public. They are not. The most sophisticated communications strategy, which board member and former Satchi and Satchi head Antony Young no doubt knows a lot about, is all about manipulating communications to advance third party interests; in this case the third party interests are the economic development board’s financial interests.

But to continue with my own experience I phoned the council and asked the customer service representative who answered the phone where the growth strategy was. She looked for it and couldn’t find it. She sought assistance before telling me that the draft Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040 was within the web link to the draft 2018-2038 Long Term Plan!! A normal person would think well, that’s pretty stupid, isn’t it. Why is a totally unrelated draft document buried underneath another draft document on a separate matter? The answer is how communications is presented is also a deliberate communications strategy.

But when I went to the link I realised I had simply been fobbed off because the draft strategy document wasn’t there either. So I phoned the council again and asked to speak to council’s communications advisor Trish Hayward and she spent some time away from the phone before coming back to me and saying a group manager had not signed it off which is why it wasn’t available. But, I said, there is a public notice saying it is available. This kind of communications behaviour is a deliberate communications strategy.

All the plans and strategies the public are being consulted on now represent the apex of the economic development board’s plan to secure their own financial interests which is why a report will be submitted to appropriate government representatives and agencies calling for an Inquiry into the business interests of Horowhenua District Council and other matters.

The argument in favour of holding an Inquiry is based on the Western Australia 1991 Commission of Inquiry into the business interests of the state government. Perth premier Brian Burke and other government representatives engaged in business dealings with several prominent businessmen including Alan Bond, who was the most well known. These dealings resulted in a loss of public money, estimated at a minimum of $600 million and the insolvency of several large corporations [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WA_Inc].

The main and primary results of a Royal Commission that was subsequently set up to investigate the Commercial Activities of Government and Other Matters found state politicians were using their own version of our Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act inappropriately and, as it transpired, illegally to hold meetings in private to plan and scheme business deals that resulted in the loss of public funds. The Commission of Inquiry was only set up due to the actions of strong public advocacy by the activist group, People for Fair and Open Government.

This out-of-control juggernaut must be stopped in its tracks which is also why council chief executive David Clapperton should not be reappointed to the role of council chief executive. He is compromised by his close relationship with the board and his own conflict of interest. In November 2016 he set up a land development company with his wife Catherine Whitehouse which contravenes his contract with the council. He did not declare his conflict of interest for three months. When he did the council public notice did not state the general nature of the matter that would be discussed, as required by law, and the former chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk committee deputy mayor and land developer Wayne Bishop allowed him to declare the conflict of interest in a publicly excluded session of council on the grounds of “commercial sensitivity” without informing the public why that part of the meeting would be publicly excluded. Which he is required to do under the Local Government Act.

We are talking about the professional behaviour of key figures within council including Mr Clapperton and Cr Bishop. Suffice to say Cr Bishop is no longer the chair of that particular committee which, one would hope, means democracy does work except it doesn’t and it isn’t. Not in Horowhenua. The Horowhenua people don’t know what democracy looks like anymore much less what it feels like. No wonder there is a high rate of ill-health in the district. Mayor Feyen, who is also on the MidCentral District Health Board, was quoted in a local newspaper saying, “research was needed to help understand why the district’s people suffered a high incidence of health issues.” The pressures of living under a regime where the ratepayer is effectively held hostage by a council that funnels public money into private business and takes no notice of the community’s preferences is not healthy. Democracy has been eroded by the council and key figures within council that are acting on behalf of a small group of businessmen and their financial interests across Investment, construction and land development industries. The Investment Trust explicitly says council, Government and private equity will fund projects. Yes, projects that directly financially benefit board members interests. It is time to hold an Inquiry before the Trust and the economic development board convince the Government to pump economic development funds into the Trust under the guise of economic development.

RELATED:
WA Inc was a political scandal in Western Australia. In the 1980s, the state government, which was led for much of the period by premier Brian Burke, engaged in business dealings with several prominent businessmen, including Alan Bond, Laurie Connell, Dallas Dempster, John Roberts, and Warren Anderson. These dealings resulted in a loss of public money, estimated at a minimum of $600 million and the insolvency of several large corporations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WA_Inc

Veronica Harrod is a qualified journalist with a Master of Communications specialising in traditional and new media content. Investigating and reporting on political, economic and legislative trends that negatively impact on the day to day lives of people is one of her main areas of interest. Lifestyle content she is interested in includes celebrating our own especially the tireless work community advocates do as civil citizens participating in democracy to keep those in power on their toes. In a media age dominated by a multi billion dollar communications and public relations industry paid to manipulate information to protect and advance the interests of the few over the many there have to be journalists who are impervious to the all pervasive influencial role they have over local and central government and corporate interests.

For more information on Veronica’s professional qualifications see her Facebook page.

You can find more of Veronica’s articles by entering her name in the search box.

Local councils slammed for failing to supply information

This has just happened in the Horowhenua with their District Council. Info request denied regarding their Economic Development Board.  Quite a lot going on there at the moment, to read more go to investigative journalist Veronica Harrod’s page. Her articles are frequently on the Horowhenua District Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc page where you can keep up to speed with happenings & ongoing discussions Council wise in the Horowhenua.

From RadioNZ

The chief ombudsman says local democracy is being undermined as councils fail to meet obligations to release public information.

Peter Boshier said councils are not meeting their responsibilities under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act and that some councils seem to resent having to be held accountable.

“The performance of many councils is disappointing. Local government is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and in that respect the need for accountability and supply of information is just as strong as it is with central government, and yet many local councils don’t see it that way.

READ MORE

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/350849/local-councils-slammed-for-failing-to-supply-information

Horowhenua: a political environment where the tail wags the dog … the steady erosion of democracy in Aotearoa

By Veronica Harrod
January 15

Horowhenua: a political environment where the tail wags the dog

“…the majority of Horowhenua residents are increasingly finding themselves caught in a ‘tail wagging the dog’ political environment where the economic development board is the tail determining the direction and decisions of council which is the dog and not a very friendly dog at that.”

Four days after an Official Information Act request was made for the 2016 and 2017 Horowhenua District Council economic development board minutes the council removed information about the economic development board from its website.
Council’s communications advisor Trish Hayward said, “Council is in the process of updating the information, layout and photographs on the Horowhenua Economic Development Board page of our website. The page has been temporarily deactivated while the update is carried out. We expect the update to be complete, and the page to be reactivated, early this year.”

Former mayor Brendan Duffy led the charge to bring the economic development board’s predecessor Enterprise Horowhenua back under council control and Mr Duffy features prominently in Horowhenua’s economic development 2014-2017 strategy which is referred to as, “a ten year vision to guide three year outcomes, priorities, actions and initiatives..”
The council document states the strategy was developed “with business as well as the council, regional council, central government and our key partners.” The intention of council to take, “an active role…by leading the development of this strategy, and committing to its priority actions” was signed off by Mr Duffy despite the fact residents were not consulted.
A key initiative of the strategy to, “review council’s development contributions policy to support Horowhenua’s economic development agenda” is indicative of the amount of influence the strategy has over the direction and decisions council makes that reverberates today.
Two other key initiatives which resonate today include an intention to, “create opportunities to ‘catalyse’ economic development through an aligned property assets strategy” which is one of the main reasons the economic development board wants to set up a Trust and, “Identify and develop mechanisms to help create a more business-friendly culture within Council.”
Council employs an economic development manager Shanon Grainger, a growth response project manager Daniel Haigh and has recently appointed a “customer and development enabler” Melissa Hanson, a role that council says in a press release has been created specifically to, “provide a more personalised service to valued business customers.”
On development contributions council didn’t just review contributions land developers used to make toward essential infrastructure (including water and waste water) it canned them in 2015 further enabling the roll out of a plethora of land development projects many of which are outlined in the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan.

The public was not consulted on the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan either, instead publicly excluded workshops were held with land developers.

This means two very influential documents created by the few (and, arguably, for the few) are having a disproportionate amount of power and influence over decisions made by council. The fact both documents continue to be so influential today indicates main players inside council remain determined to continue an agenda the public have been excluded from commenting on or being consulted about as is required under the Local Government Act.

Instead the majority of Horowhenua residents are increasingly finding themselves caught in a ‘tail wagging the dog’ political environment where the economic development board is the tail determining the direction and decisions of council which is the dog and not a very friendly dog at that.

The strategy states an intention to take, “economic development…to the centre of council’s actions” but the economic development board does not have a mandate to do so because it isn’t bound by the Local Government Act, or its legal requirement to consult or be transparent and accountable in its actions and motivations.

WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS?

So who are the main players in this tail wagging the dog political environment? The shadows who prefer to maintain secrecy about decisions they are making as a board to such an extent that council clearly agreed to remove information about them from the council website.
The only public face is economic development board chair Cameron Lewis, a director on the board of local asparagus grower Tendertips. He is often quoted in council press releases extolling “growth” happening in the district despite the fact the majority of “growth” indicators are forecasted, estimated and expected not growth in real or actual terms. But the “growth” rhetoric advances the land development agenda of council which is why it is so convenient.
Second cab off the rank is economic development board deputy chair Wayne Bishop who has multi-million dollar land and property development interests across New Zealand and in Horowhenua.
It appears to be his job to ensure the economic development strategy gains momentum around the council table which he is clearly very effective at doing as his appointment to the role of deputy mayor confirms. He essentially has eight of the ten councillors on-side and troubleshoots for the board when required which he is also very effective at doing.
Although he is in public office he is projected to financially benefit by the cancellation of development contributions by at least $2 million based on estimated figures of $15,000 per new build including $750,000 from the projected 500 house sub-division Speldhurst Country Estate in Kimberley Road alone.
Although those standing for public office are not supposed to financially benefit from political decisions – doing so has a name we are not allowed to publicly state for some reason- yet this behaviour is not only tolerated but condoned.
Also on the board is Levana chief executive Andy Wynne, advertising and digital media executive Antony Young who formerly worked as Asia regional director for Saatchi & Saatchi, Horowhenua district councillor and Horowhenua Learning Centre operations manager Barry Judd, engineering company Stevensons Group managing director Evan Kroll, Ellison Group investment company managing director Larry Ellison of Foxton, Horowhenua councillor Piri-Hira Tukapua and managing director of Turk’s Poultry in Foxton Ron Turk.
While deputy chair of the board and council’s deputy mayor Wayne Bishop appears to be the economic development board’s inside man controlling governance issues council’s chief executive David Clapperton appears to act as the economic development board’s inside man controlling operational and management issues. The fractious and obstructive relationship he has with mayor Feyen who was democratically elected in local body elections in 2016 indicates he remains committed to the task he’s been delegated.
But a political environment where the tail wags the dog makes Horowhenua look more like it is governed by an oligarchy – where the few have taken control of an organisation – rather than a democracy which is why this increasingly out of control juggernaut needs to be challenged at the highest levels.

 



Veronica Harrod
is a qualified journalist with a Master of Communications specialising in traditional and new media content. Investigating and reporting on political, economic and legislative trends that negatively impact on the day to day lives of people is one of her main areas of interest. Lifestyle content she is interested in includes celebrating our own especially the tireless work community advocates do as civil citizens participating in democracy to keep those in power on their toes. In a media age dominated by a multi billion dollar communications and public relations industry paid to manipulate information to protect and advance the interests of the few over the many there have to be journalists who are impervious to the all pervasive influencial role they have over local and central government and corporate interests.

For more information on Veronica’s professional qualifications see her Facebook page.


RELATED:

The Horowhenua DC’s Economic Development Committee that looks not unlike insider trading

EnvirowatchHorowhenua

Massive rates rises predicted in Horowhenua that will subsidise land developers reaping potential profits of over $100 million

This investigative article about the Horowhenua district is from journalist Veronica Harrod. Read her bio at the end of the article. She raises points which are puzzling people NZ wide, and lifts the curtain somewhat to let you see what is going on in meetings you are not entitled to attend. (From this site’s perspective, please check out our Agenda 21/2030 in NZ and our Local Govt Watch pages. Also search Agenda 21/2030 in categories to left of page). I read an interesting article at the LG’s website recently about consultation (raised at the end of this article).  It certainly does indicate (& in the context of quite a bit of jest, taking the proverbial pee as it were) that the decision’s already been made when you are ‘consulted’.
EnvirowatchRangitikei

 

Massive Rates Rises Predicted in Horowhenua that will Subsidise Land Developers Reaping Potential Profits of over $100 Million

by Veronica Harrod

Horowhenua land developers and investors will reap at least $100 million profit from not having to pay development contributions towards essential infrastructure costs that council seems intent to load onto existing ratepayers who could face massive, crippling rates increases.

The majority of councils in the country charge development contributions because the policy is regarded as the only effective, fair and equitable way to reduce the impact of expensive infrastructure costs on existing ratepayers.

The Horowhenua District Council scrapped development contributions in 2015 but, judging by the extent of land development planned behind closed doors by land developers and council since 2008, it would be unconscionable if council did not re-introduce the levy on land developers.

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Exponential rates rises have historically been used by council’s as a sure fire way to free up land for development by confiscating land from ratepayers who can’t afford high rate increases which will directly have an impact on a large number of home and land owners in the district living on fixed or low incomes.

If the council does not include development contributions in the 2018-2038 Long Term Plan (LTP) the profits made by land developers will be unsustainable and grossly unfair to existing residents.

The $100 million profit projections are based on a conservative estimate of $15,000 per new build if development contributions were charged including a minimum of 2100 new house builds in Levin alone totalling $31.5 million contained in a council’s 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan.

Land developer and deputy mayor Wayne Bishop’s 500 house build in Kimberley Road has financially benefited by approximately $750,000. Cr Bishop also has four other land developments which means he has personally financially benefited by at least one million dollars by not having to pay development contributions.

He declared a conflict of interest at the eleventh hour only when a vote was taken by council to stop charging development contributions. During all the debates he sat at the council table which may have affected councillors ability to speak freely against council intention to stop collecting development contributions. It is also only since his election to council that council has proceeded with such a massive scale of land development.

Also included in the profit estimates is the potential affect of relaxing urban housing density rules to allow for sub-division and building of two houses on one house lot which council is deliberating on now. Neighbours would not have to be consulted on increased urban density plans due to changes to the Resource Management Act made by the National led government early this year that favours land developers. Potential profits also include proposed land developments in other parts of the district contained in separate reports available at http://www.horowhenua.govt.nz/…/Plans-Strategies/Horowhenua…

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The HDC scrapped development contributions in 2015

Evidence council is determined to pursue a land growth agenda is also contained in the council report on relaxing urban density rules which negligently and deliberately omitted to include any environmental and cultural costs of land development even though all the new builds would connect to the existing infrastructure, and even though there is evidence of environmental and cultural costs documented in past council reports including the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan.

Cr Neville Gimblet and council’s chief executive David Clapperton have made comments recently alluding to the scale of land development and the expectation existing ratepayers would pay for them. Mr Clapperton said in a recent newspaper article, “I see some huge opportunities for the Horowhenua that have never been seen before, probably in the last three generations. And I’m adamnant that I want to be part of that journey.”

His comments were made despite consultation on the 20 year Long Term Plan only just starting indicating he is a central, local cog in the wheel of a land development agenda that has captured the council to such an extent democracy itself is being deliberately undermined by the very organisation that is supposed to uphold democratic principles.

Cr Gimblett alluded to the impact of the high cost of replacing essential infrastructure on existing ratepayers in a newspaper column when he said he was “surprised no-one commented on the $2.8 million of unfunded depreciation in the financial report.” Depreciation is a method used to account for future costs of essential infrastructure by acknowledging wear and tear and need for replacement over time.

“While depreciation is not a cash item so has little impact today, it is a key feature of sustainable long term planning and ultimately your rates,” he stated before warning ratepayers that, “Officers and elected members are currently involved in multiple workshops to prepare for the next Long Term Plan, where we will be mindful of this financial constraint hanging over our heads.”

If Cr Gimblet is so “mindful of the financial constraints” then it would stand to reason he supports the reintroduction of development contributions as this levy on land developers would not only immediately solve the problem of funding depreciation costs but also potentially provide enough money to ensure state of the art essential infrastructure designs were built and maintained. Nevertheless he didn’t mention re-introducing development contributions he only mentioned the cost to existing ratepayers.

The democratically elected mayor Michael Feyen has been effectively sidelined because he is viewed as a threat to this cabal of unrestrained and unrestricted land developers and their investors as during the last local body elections he said he was going to make environmental concerns and Lake Horowhenua a priority.

No matter who Mayor Feyen subsequently turned to in seeking redress to reign in the power of an unelected chief executive David Clapperton not one minister of the last National led government would lift a finger to assist him. Local Government New Zealand would not assist him either.

Mr Clapperton also has the support of nine out of ten councillors, excluding Cr Ross Campbell, who are rewarded handsomely for their backing by favourable treatment in appointments to committees and other council led opportunities.

Local National Party MP Nathan Guy has also refused to take action to restore democracy in Horowhenua but, as a recent article in a local newspaper stated, Mr Guy has got the largest property and land portfolio of all acting Government ministers including an extensive amount of Horowhenua rural land, a family home, two rental properties, interests in 13 commercial properties and a Wellington property.

Land developer and investor interest in developing housing subdivisions on at least 550 hectares in the north east of Levin, that extends across Mr Guy’s rural property interests, may also be using their influence with the now acting Government to ensure the highway of national significance is built to the west of Levin instead of the East of Levin. Cr Bishop has certainly stated a preference the new highway be built to the west of Levin.

As if it’s not enough that local Maori and residents of Hokio on the west of Levin have to endure the Levin Sewage Treatment Plant, the landfill, the infamous smelly “pot” behind the landfill and a polluted Lake Horowhenua now moves are afoot to ensure the new highway won’t get in the way of land developers and their investor interest in the East of Levin.

The excessive profit margins land developers and their investors will potentially make helps to explain the increasing interest major land and property developers, that have previously only operated in Auckland and Wellington, now have in Horowhenua.

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Horowhenua’s community housing sold for a fire sale price of  $5.25 million

The first sign the district saw of this burgeoning interest was the purchase of the council owned pensioner housing and 1.1 hectare of bare land by land and property developer Willis Bond in a publicly excluded deal with council for a fire sale price of $5.25 million. Anecdotal evidence is Willis Bond owners the McGuinness brothers count now acting Attorney General Chris Finlayson as a friend.

As Attorney General Mr Finlayson administers the Crown Law office that relentlessly pursues criminal charges against Lake Horowhenua kaitiaki Philip Taueki who continues to give voice to inconvenient truths about Lake Horowhenua ownership and pollution by the council and regional council. Other state agencies have also demonstrated a partisan approach in matters to do with Mr Taueki.

In her recently published e-book “Man of Convictions” Anne Hunt* says Horowhenua District Council waived all fees and granted the consent to decommission the buildings and disconnect the water from Mr Taueki’s residence six days after several men and six or seven police arrived at his place one morning and began sledgehammering and dismantling the building and power to the building. They also attempted to turn his water supply off then too.

When Mr Taueki, “complained to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about the way the Horowhenua District Council as a building consent authority handled this matter…initially the Ministry expressed concern, but ultimately decided to take no action. The Tenancy Tribunal was equally dismissive.”

Mr Taueki is under constant threat of arrest and imprisonment and, although it is illegal to turn the water supply off to his residence at Lake Horowhenua, the council continues to do so and not one state agency intervenes on his behalf even though he has been left without a water supply for over eight months.

He has been beaten up, shot at, threatened with murder, thrown in jail, forced to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and denied physical access to the very lake he is kaitiaki and one of the owners of by numerous trespass orders.

He is currently facing a retrial of one of the trespass notices he has been acquitted of twice after Crown Law, an office administered by Mr Finlayson, appealed an acquittal of the charge and the appeal was granted by a judge. His case has been delayed until January 2018 because the Crown did not disclose information to defence lawyer Michael Bott when the retrial began last month in Levin District Court.

Allegations of bias by the Courts against Mr Taueki has also been made by Hunt who writes that Mr Finlayson has been responsible for appointing, “all bar one of the six Supreme Court judges, all ten Court of Appeal judges and 75% of the High Court judges….in a process without any statutory constraints or regulations.”

Despite the fact “Man of Convictions” is written by a local resident and respected journalist, author and former Horowhenua district councillor Anne Hunt about the horrendous experiences and treatment of a Lake Horowhenua kaitiaki whose ancestor is the renowned paramount chief of Mua-Upoko neither of the two local newspapers have expressed any interest in interviewing her.

Openly flouting media independence on council reporting the Fairfax owned Horowhenua Mail has now employed council’s former communications officer Kelvin Teixeira which does not bode well for impartial reporting of council communications Mr Teixeira has helped develop and carry out on behalf of the council.

But it is the Crown’s lack of actions to date that disturbingly suggest a collusion with a Horowhenua land development agenda even though it is destined to greatly increase pollution levels to Lake Horowhenua. The Lake Accord, set up to rehabilitate the health of the lake, remains silent about the impact an exponential increase of new builds connected to the existing insufficient and ageing infrastructure will have on Lake Horowhenua.

Hunt says, “Levin’s stormwater system is a major source of phosphorous, and it is this chemical that is the major cause of the cyanobacteria that has plagued the lake in recent years, making it lethal for children. In his 2012 report, Dr Max Gibbs referred to research that 80% of the lake’s phosphorous chemical content comes from the town’s stormwater system.”

“A report prepared for the Horowhenua District Council by Dr Chris Tanner, a principal scientist from NIWA (the Crown Research Institute) commented on the ‘significant

potential health effects from these drain flows,’ without even considering ‘potential toxicity issues with other contaminants such as metals or organics in the discharge from this drain’ she quoted from Dr Tanner’s report.

An apparently deliberate refusal to reintroduce development contributions is essentially undemocratic because it put the interests of the few above the many and makes a mockery of the consultation process of a LTP residents and ratepayers will be bound by for the next twenty years.

Even though council has been having workshop meetings about priorities of the LTP one public consultation held at Te Takere last week had no information at all about the council’s intentions which gives the public little to respond to. There were two councillors, a desk and a lot of free pens but no substance about what council has been discussing in publicly excluded workshops about council’s LTP priorities which makes it a faux consultation on one of the most important issues facing ratepayers today.

Although it might be confusing to understand why the council would refuse to reintroduce the levy on land developers one powerful reason for doing so is it appears the council is prepared to drive out existing residents by imposing unsustainable rates rises in favour of new residents who are regarded as more desirable.

The emphasis on making the district attractive to new residents is highlighted in communications from council on the LTP consultations which promotes the concept of making the district attractive for “those that are moving here” and concerns already exist about the statement by council in a two page newspaper feature, “…all submissions will be considered by elected members and the plan adjusted as they see fit.”

One has to wonder whether the LTP has already been pre-determined if councillors are only going to adjust the LTP “as they see fit.”

(*NOTE: you can download and read Anne Hunt’s ebook at the link provided.)

Veronica Harrod is a qualified journalist with a Master of Communications specialising in traditional and new media content. Investigating and reporting on political, economic and legislative trends that negatively impact on the day to day lives of people is one of her main areas of interest. Lifestyle content she is interested in includes celebrating our own especially the tireless work community advocates do as civil citizens participating in democracy to keep those in power on their toes. In a media age dominated by a multi billion dollar communications and public relations industry paid to manipulate information to protect and advance the interests of the few over the many there have to be journalists who are impervious to the all pervasive influencial role they have over local and central government and corporate interests.

For more information on Veronica’s professional qualifications see her Facebook page.


 

WHAT CAN WE DO? The current elected Mayor campaigned on more transparency & more public inclusion. In light of that do your best to attend the HDC meetings in Levin, hear what is happening & get speaking rights to express to Council matters that affect you. The meetings are held 6 weekly and dates are found on the HDC website, FB page or by phoning them.

Further articles on HDC can be found here: https://envirowatchrangitikei.wordpress.com/horowhenua/

 

 

Horowhenua District Council boss ignores pleas to turn on water supply

Learn more about the historic interactions between the Horowhenua District Council and Mr Taueki (whose supply has been cut) by reading former HDC Councilor Mrs Anne Hunt’s recent book titled ‘Man of Convictions’  (free download). Also go to this link to see a report by Marae TV and here for a recent article about Mr Taueki being charged for trespassing on his own land. You may also like to check out our Local Govt Watch pages at the main menu. Note Mr Taueki is frequently labeled ‘protester’ a word with clear overtones of dissidence … whereas, he is simply a man who is defending his own land. Since when was it a crime to defend one’s own property?
EnvirowatchRangitikei

 

From Radio NZ

A district council chief executive is keeping the water to a Māori land protester turned off despite health officials telling him it’s illegal.

David Clapperton, of Horowhenua District Council, is also resisting the demands from his own mayor, Michael Feyen – who he has had several run-ins with already – to turn the water back on.

Protester Phil Taueki has lived in a nursery building beside Lake Horowhenua for 13 years.

His long-running protest at the lake received a boost in June from a Waitangi Tribunal finding that the property rights of his iwi, Muaūpoko, were usurped at the lake and that the Crown was complicit in degrading the lake to the point that it was among the most polluted in New Zealand.

The water was cut off last November, and Mr Taueki said his attempts to reconnect it since he returned there at Easter have failed.

“Where does that leave a person like me?” he said.

He has been getting his water from an outside tap and using a bucket to flush the toilet.

When he tried to get the water reconnected in August, he was trespassed from the council offices in Levin. He has previously had at least 30 charges against him withdrawn, dismissed or quashed on appeal.

A letter released to Mr Taueki this week under the Official Information Act shows the region’s medical officer of health, Dr Rob Weir, told Mr Clapperton in late August that the council was not allowed to create an unsanitary situation, no matter what the circumstances.

READ MORE

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/340480/council-boss-ignores-pleas-to-turn-protester-s-water-on

Horowhenua’s community housing all but gifted to the new ‘front’ company ‘Compassion Horowhenua’ (leaked)

The pensioner housing for the elderly in the Horowhenua has sold for the song of $5.5 million. “Information leaked to Stuff reveals the council is selling the pensioner units to a new company called Compassion Horowhenua for $5.5 million – a price some sources have labelled a bargain”. (Stuff) That will be the company we recently noted was formed ONE WEEK before the sale, fronting (?) for Willis & Bond, large property developers who surely wouldn’t need a bargain & will likely be laughing all the way to the bank right now. Stuff doesn’t say too much about the front company. This was a fire sale price indeed. Mayor Feyen was right about that. Still think they shouldn’t be opening the books at HDC?

I’ve heard estimates that the housing was actually worth around $25 million. There were 115 houses/units which equates to around a measly $47K per unit according to my rough calculations. Quite a bargain isn’t it?

So, councils have economic development committees (Cr Campbell was slammed last year for criticizing Horowhenua’s EDC ) … presumably they would have been involved in the sale, or at least consulted, managing the economic development of Horowhenua as they do & surely having their fingers on the pulse of property values? If it was them, then IMO they need to be sacked. All of them. Eight prominent businessmen, we were proudly told the day Cr Campbell was ousted as DM. Where are their skills, or the skills of whomever did sell them? (and of course we may never know since it was all behind closed doors). Not only that, we were promised they would sell to a community housing provider not a property developer. As we know they’ve gotten around that by signing the Sisters of Compassion up via their new company (‘Compassion Horowhenua’) to add the promised wrap-around service that’s yet to be defined (and surely, where are their ethics?) & I’m not holding my breath on that one. I suspect the Horowhenua Ratepayers Assn’s concerns about land banking could likely be correct.  In Tamaki (article soon to come on that), land banking has been occurring with many state homes sitting empty since 2012 … and we have 41K homeless in our country. Our government/corporation has NO SHAME. And as for this debacle. ‘Compassion Horowhenua’? They think we all came down in the last shower. And if this is true, they will get away with it because they can.

By the way, the article says they consulted vigorously. They consulted vigorously with the tenants over a free dinner, hardly ethical. And pensioners who opposed the idea were smartly shut down. At least that is what two pensioners have told me. (For further info from whistle blowers on HDC’s questionable goings on see our Horowhenua page under Local Govt Watch at the main menu).
EnvirowatchRangitikei

 

Council-owned pensioner housing sells for $5.5 million

The controversial sale of council-owned pensioner housing in Horowhenua includes measures to protect tenants, but not enough to satisfy opponents of the move.

Grey Power Horowhenua is worried the 115 pensioner units in Levin, Foxton and Shannon could soon be offered to other social housing users, instead of just pensioners, when ownership changes hands.

The sale has attracted widespread opposition because much of the wheeling and dealing has taken place behind closed council doors, although the Horowhenua District Council says it consulted rigorously.

Information leaked to Stuff reveals the council is selling the pensioner units to a new company called Compassion Horowhenua for $5.5 million – a price some sources have labelled a bargain.

The sale will be settled by September 30.

READ MORE

http://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/93457559/councilowned-pensioner-housing-sells-for-55-million

 

A Horowhenua Group has presented 2,300+ signatures to HDC opposing the community housing sale & raise many unanswered questions about this secret deal

Further to our previous article on this topic, this information is quoted with permission from the Facebook page of the Horowhenua District Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association. It speaks to some of the questions people have been asking in the past few days since the sale of Horowhenua’s community housing, and raises many more. I find it concerning there was only ONE councillor on a publicly excluded council panel evaluating pensioner housing proposals. Read the other concerns they raise.
A
link to the fb page is at the end of the article. Any emphases in the article are mine.
NOTE: further updates on this issue, unless they warrant a further article, will be added as an update at the end of the article at this link.
EnvirowatchHorowhenua

Horowhenua District Council mayor Michael Feyen accepts the petition from one of the organisers Christine Moriarty and petition supporters in council chambers.

“The sale must be halted and HUG will fight to the end to stop this sale from proceeding. Watch this space” Andrea Smyth, spokesperson

A Horowhenua group that presented a petition to district mayor Michael Feyen signed by 2300 in ten days by people objecting to the sale of their dedicated pensioner housing vows to fight on to prevent what they call the stripping out of a significant asset in a questionable land deal.

As well as 115 units spread throughout the district the pensioner housing portfolio also includes one point one hectare of land in Levin and is estimated to be worth in real terms at least $26 million.

The petition was organised by a group against the pensioner housing sale called Horowhenua United Group (HUG) which includes Horowhenua District Ratepayers and Residents Assoc Inc, the MuaUpoko Co-operative Society, Labour Party and NZ First.

Councillor Jo Mason who chairs council’s wellbeing committee, and was the only councillor on a publicly excluded council panel evaluating pensioner housing proposals, was invited to accept the petition too but her only response to HUG was a text that said, “Got your message-will call when I am free.” She never did call back.

HUG spokesperson Andrea Smythe said further action may include legal action to argue in favour of setting up a Trust, instead of selling, one of the options which seventy people who attended a community organised public meeting recently voted in favour of.

Details of the sale of the pensioner housing have been leaking like a sieve ever since land developer and Cr Wayne Bishop emerged from a publicly excluded council meeting on the sale last Tuesday to announce the pensioner housing asset had been sold.

Since then questions and speculations have been running rife including that a community housing provider will lease the land and the land has been sold separately. But the most damaging claim of all is that certain unnamed council officers and councillors have set up a company to buy the land.

Ms Smythe, “We have a right to know whether this is true and if it is true is it even legal? Can council officers and councillors set up a company arrangement to benefit financially and personally from the sale of a significant publicly owned asset?

“Can the title to an asset we have been told by chief executive David Clapperton all along will be bought by a stage one community housing provider be split up like this? If this is all true we are feeling greatly deceived by our own council especially if it eventuates that some council officers and councillors will be financially benefiting by millions of dollars from the sale.

“Especially when shareholders are very angry about the proposed sale and furthermore have been denied access to the details of the sale agreement partly by the very same council officers and councillors who are said to be involved in setting up a business structure to buy the land the pensioner housing is built on.

Also, if this is all true [and it’s bad enough if it is] does this therefore questionable sale still fall within the mandate of being considered a community housing provider in a legal and statutory sense if the community provider leases the land and doesn’t own it?”

“Community housing providers are eligible for tax and Government financial benefits but will the landowners, if they are a separate entity, also be eligible for Government discounts? Or will the new landowners charge leases based on indirectly financially benefiting from Government tax and other financial incentives provided by the Government to the community housing provider?

“All this does is raise further concerns about what kind of deal has been done and whether it is true the land will be leased to a community housing provider already publicly named as the Sisters of Compassion.

“We have grave concerns whether this sale agreement conforms with expected practice in the provision of community housing services. What would happen if the leases go up and then these increases are passed on to the tenants? How would that be fulfilling the community housing contract?

“And if it is true the Sisters of Compassion will be leasing the land to provide the community housing services how long will the terms of the lease be? Is this a thinly disguised attempt to landbank a valuable housing portfolio so the landowners can make a profit at a later date? Who is the person or company who are buying a significant amount of land locally if the land is being sold as a separate entity? Do the new owners include council representatives?

“Perhaps the plan is to landbank the asset until further down the legislative track when land developers may be able to register as community housing providers to secure financial benefits through tax and other Government incentives. There are far more questions than answers though surrounding this significant ratepayer and resident asset that houses our most vulnerable elderly residents which makes this sale untenable. And we want answers to these serious concerns,” she said.

If attempts at stopping the sale fails HUG would also like to know what plans council has for the money from the sale of the pensioner housing portfolio as, “I am sure the ratepayers and residents would like to know whether there is any profits from the sale and what will happen with the profits. Will the money be set aside in a separate account?” said Ms Smythe.

One of the criticisms leveled at council by internationally recognised financial organisation Standard and Poor’s in a recent credit rating report was the council did not have enough “cash assets” so HUG wants to know what will happen with cash assets from this sale?

“Will the cash assets from the fire sale of this valuable asset, that will never be able to be replaced, just be absorbed into council’s general income stream to disappear forever from public scrutiny? Will our rates decrease so the ratepayers and residents, the shareholders of this significant asset, see a real return too on their asset? Is council even proposing they do this? No, they are not, but the shareholders should get to financially benefit too if the sale does proceed. So, what will happen to any cash profits from the sale,” Ms Smythe said.

The group says the way decisions have been made on this important local matter contravenes at least council’s own draft significance and engagement policy and the spirit and intention of the Local Official Government and Meetings Act to behave with openess and transparency not to mention perceived claims of fraudulent behaviour in the event it is true council officers and councillors are involved in the land sale.

“We have seen this council hold secret meetings under the cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’ far too frequently and with little cause which is why we don’t trust this sale process or even recognise council’s mandate to sell this significant taonga on our behalf,” said Ms Smythe

“The sale must be halted and HUG will fight to the end to stop this sale from proceeding. Watch this space,” she said.

HUG spokesperson Andrea Smythe
contact: media contact 027 2443211 for more information

Image: Horowhenua District Council mayor Michael Feyen accepts the petition from one of the organisers Christine Moriarty and petition supporters in council chambers.

Horowhenua District Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc

 

For further information regarding HDC visit our Horowhenua page under ‘Local Govt Watch’ at the main menu.

Why did a large property developer register a company called ‘Compassion Horowhenua’ a week before Horowhenua’s community housing sold? (Includes updates)

 NOTE: Due to the unfolding nature of this topic, check back regularly for further updates which will be included at the end of this article. Thank you.

You may be aware that the Horowhenua’s pensioner houses have been sold as of last week. The announcement came shortly after the secret meeting precluded by the public allowed section when it was clear any last ditch attempts by the Mayor to delay the sale or even the decision to sell were squashed (all at the above link). We have been given eight weeks to hear who bought them but have been reassured that the new owners will be providing wrap around services far superior to what HDC have offered. We were also told they had to sell because of the financial logistics. Not viable. Too much debt. You can read the details of that in the various news reports.

Today, At the Nua, a Horowhenua FB page, posted a very pertinent and intriguing question. It appears someone has been doing a bit of research around the sale of the housing & come up with some interesting information … here is a quote from the page:

“Why on 16 May 2017 has a Wellington Developer, Willis Bond & Co, registered several new companies like “Compassion Horowhenua” and “WB Horowhenua”- so who is BEHIND the companies looking to acquire the community houses?

The councillors have led us to believe that the new owner is the “Sisters of Compassion” but are they just a “front” for a property investment by this Wellington Developer?”

I’ve had a search myself around the companies register and found the following (which by the way is obviously publicly accessible and not private confidential knowledge). It is certainly interesting that these businesses were registered just one week before the highly secretive sale. Nobody will argue they have been secretive. The Mayor was taken off the committee for the sale (due to said conflict of interest, he’s always opposed the sale for very good reasons) and the establishment have discussed the entire affair behind closed doors. HDC has also declined to open the books. (For further info on the goings on at HDC see the Horowhenua sub page under our Local Govt Watch pages).  And watch this space because hopefully there will be some explanations forthcoming on this. And in eight weeks hopefully we are going to hear what price the houses went for.

 

UPDATES
31 May 2017

It’s been confirmed that the sale was/is to the property developer. This information is from At the Nua on FB :

http://willisbond.co.nz/

“Confirmed – Wellington Property Development company Willis Bond & Co is behind offer to purchase Horowhenua Community Housing.

This company will be the OWNER of the Community Housing NOT Sisters of Compassion as we have been led to believe…”

In addition read our latest article taken from FB with permission and posted by the Horowhenua Ratepayers and Residents Assn. at their page:
A Horowhenua Group has presented 2,300+ signatures to HDC opposing the community housing sale & raise many unanswered questions about this secret deal (

EnvirowatchRangitikei

Why one Horowhenua District Councillor DOESN’T want the public present at Council meetings

If the H.D.C. was HONEST, UP-FRONT & RUN WITH “INTEGRITY”, there would simply be NO “REASON” to have to “vote” to have “the books” sealed, the building “consent” hidden, or anything else!

On Wednesday 26th April 2017, I heard a Councilor “plead his excuse” for why he doesn’t like the “Public” to be present at Council Meetings (you can listen to the live stream at HDC’s Facebook page).
“We open ourselves to litigation and law-suits, which will (in the end) be paid for by the Rate-payer”….

NOT if you’re HONEST, UP-FRONT & RUN WITH “INTEGRITY”!

In general, only “criminals” have need to have a genuine fear of the Police, and THAT Councilor who made the statement should know THAT better than most others who were present that night!

Michael Feyen is STILL the “people’s elect”; and it was because the constituents were tired of the Duffy “regime” that he was voted in.
The present “NINE” Councilors don’t realize the damage they are doing to their chance of ever being elected again, and that their future in Council is being carefully scrutinized by “Johnny Tucker-box” on the street!

Honesty WILL PREVAIL in the end, and ALL WILL BE REVEALED; it just takes time …. Meantime, Michael Feyen’s “popularity” on the street is INCREASING, as the “agendas” and behaviors of others is making them look less desirable in the Public Eye…. The people are becoming INTERESTED AGAIN – & THAT’S GOOD!

William McGregor


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On the topic from the NZ Herald (includes video)

Horowhenua council divided

Most Mayors get a welcome at their first council meeting.

But the controversial mayor of Horowhenua Michael Feyen says he’s been met only with hostility.

“I had on that first meeting three notices of motion, that were put in, to not open the books, to not relitigate whether we sell the pensioner housing and to not relook at the building. Now they were all platforms that I stood that people want to be looked at and so they all voted 9-2 in favour and yet three of those councillors as I said at the public meeting so it’s nothing new, I wondered how they could vote on such matters when we had never even had council briefings, we had never had anything,” says Mr Feyen.

The nine councillors who voted against Mayor Feyen say they are adamant they will support him, when his ideas are worth supporting.

READ MORE:

http://m.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/horowhenua-chronicle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503788&objectid=11841253

(Apologies for Herald’s grammar, they may need a new proofreader perhaps?)


So as we’ve reported before, Council doesn’t want the books opened (what are they hiding?) Now the public isn’t welcome (according to one Councilor at least). Openness and honesty are two things the current new Mayor emphasized in his campaign. No wonder the old regime want him out. (They do, in case you hadn’t heard there’s a petition going around to oust the people’s choice).  As William McGregor’s saying here, “if the H.D.C. was HONEST, UP-FRONT & RUN WITH “INTEGRITY”, there would simply be NO “REASON” to have to “vote” to have “the books” sealed, the building “consent” hidden, or anything else!” I wholeheartedly agree.

EnvirowatchRangitikei

Watching our environment … our health … and corporations … exposing lies and corruption

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