In light of ex Mayor Feyen’s info on the Horowhenua this is on topic (see also our LG Watch pages/Horowhenua and peruse journalist Veronica Harrod’s info both here in ‘categories’ at left of page, & on Veronica’s public FB page. She writes extensively about property development).
A whiff of corruption hangs over moves to urbanise Plimmerton Farm, a 384 hectare greenfield property within the Porirua district that has been bought by Plimmerton Development Ltd (PDL). The Porirua City Council and PDL are working together to get the property rezoned under the district plan from rural to an urban zone and pave the way for a 2,000 unit residential development. For several reasons, which I will touch on below, the site is wholly unsuitable for urban development. That is not just my opinion; the process for changing the district plan has attracted 138 submissions, mostly hostile to parts or the proposal as a whole. Big-hitters against the plan change include Forest & Bird and the QEII National Trust.
These videos are from the Mayor of Horowhenua, Michael Feyen. This is a ‘people’s Mayor’ who, like his former deputy Cr Ross Campbell, seems as much at home digging a haangi or drying dishes as he is wearing his mayoral chains. Just into his first term as Mayor however he had most of the councilors go public with a statement saying they supported not him but the CEO. For background to this situation read this article. His selected Deputy Mayor was unseated just hours into his term for speaking on social media about what looked like insider trading (and that hasn’t gone away, see Ross Campbell’s recent updates). This is all not surprising in light of the fact that these two have blown the whistle on quite a lot of things they saw as ‘not right’ in the course of their work in Council. Council pollution was another issue they highlighted. And so come this campaign the Mayor has had next to no coverage by media. Stone walled & neutered as he puts it himself, he has had a difficult uphill battle with a council that seems more intent on the business of property development than the interests both he & his former deputy would have liked to focus on. A keen supporter of retaining the Horowhenua community housing for instance, Mayor Feyen was removed from the housing committee because he had a conflict of interest! (ie he wanted to retain the housing … he had seen among other things opportunities for employment therein for the young people of the town, the same as his aspirations to pursue trapping of pests in lieu of the use of 1080 poison and of investing in the hemp growing industry). The list goes on, not a list shared largely by his colleagues. The housing sold for a song incidentally, to a property developer who then partnered with an established housing provider with promises to maintain the then status quo, however the contract ends in 2029 or thereabouts & just 18 months in they rents have already been raised.
“Effective growth is a partnership between council, central government and private enterprise….away from the unsettling glare of public commentary…” explains one HDC councilor regarding all of the public excluded meetings by which the assets are being sold. (See this article also). Developers are also exempt from paying development contributions to Council. And nowhere else in the country besides Horowhenua does a District Council have a CE and a Deputy Mayor who are both registered property developers.
Listen further to the Mayor’s latest update, expanding further on LG in NZ:
A highlighted issue with this election has been the difficulty involved in voting (see Veronica Harrod’s info). This was the same last election when many folk did not receive their voting papers and the voting info office was frequently either unmanned or closed. Curious isn’t it?
So amidst the LG so called ‘sustainable’ councils up and down our clean green land (not) we have a raft of property developers busy with their public private partnerships selling up all of the public assets for a song. Then there has been the ongoing escalating debts of Councils. That has been an issue in the Horowhenua as well … it’s ‘good debt’ we’re frequently told. Currently, right on election time, the Horowhenua CE is away on holiday and has been for several weeks. This is the CE who was intercepting the emails of his staff for ‘safety reasons’ it was touted. Who paid a secret payment to a local iwi without the Mayor’s knowledge. Mayor Feyen is himself a staunch supporter of true partnership with Tangata Whenua & honouring the principles of the Treaty. Currently the Council’s real commitment appears to be mainly lipservice.
Given our current homeless problem (43+K) & shortage of housing I’m seeing state homes boarded up, selling, sold etc. Penny Bright exposed the thousands of homes sold off in Tamaki & elsewhere to property developers. I’ve also heard of private folk buying them for a virtual song. Some folk who were evicted from these who are still homeless. Then there’s the P scam with many sales, the tale spun by the Nats that justified sell offs. Also the folk being placed in emergency motel accommodation. I’ve heard of folk leaving those with $85K debt because WINZ loaned the money for that accommodation. The only real beneficiaries of that scheme of course are the moteliers. How is it rocket science to simply have lent that $85 to the homeless person towards a new house? Even a tiny home, a container home or similar? If you have stories to tell about any of these scenarios, and would like to write them down (doesn’t have to be flash writing, just as you would speak) & send them to me with any relevant images even. Comment in comments below with your email, I won’t publish that but will contact you & delete the comment. Alternatively contact me via the contact page. One scenario that’s been told me since posting this is that of bulldozed state homes, very recently too. We are in the middle of a housing crisis & they are bulldozing perfectly good looking houses… a formerly state owned asset down the gurgler of course courtesy of Roger Douglas. So if you can report any thing like this, let me know how long ago they were bulldozed & the addresses where they were. We are told these sections will have new community houses built on them. Have you seen any being built? If you’ve noticed any houses/units etc also that have sat empty or boarded up for a while can you send me a pic with the following info if you have it:
1) current date & about how long it’s been empty
2) if you happen to know anything about the last tenants as in why they left (just left, were evicted, muscled out?)
3) is it for sale?
4) what town/area/city is it?
5) do you have any other info about it
5) if you’ve been housed in a motel, did you leave with debt to repay to WINZ?
I’d like to compile these & get a general picture of the extent of former HNZ homes being land banked. Needless to say your personal details would be kept confidential & unpublished. (People have already indicated they know of homes that have been empty for up to 18 months & more for no apparent reason).
Below are images of just a few of the Tamaki homes exposed by Penny Bright as land banked. Search ‘state housing’ in categories on these stories (left of page).
As my late mama would have said, they’re like pigs into muck. Wallowing in profits they are … like there’s no tomorrow.
And as Christine Lagarde CE of IMF said (infamously):
Neo lib is great at kicking the can down the road & hollering ‘let ’em eat cake’. And so for Kiwis since Rogernomics, increasing numbers have found themselves unable to buy a home or even find one to rent these days. We have 43K homeless, many of those living in sheds, garages & even cars. Unheard of once in the (once) clean, green Godzone.
I went with someone recently to look at accommodation in a block of rental apartments in a NZ city.
On the Real Estate ads the flat looked not too bad really. Not top of the line at the price but average & humbly comfortable… by the looks. The yard also. Even a google street view showed a not too bad looking block of apartments. However, in real time I was in for a big shock. It was basically a 21st Century ‘slum’. Rubbish lying around in the open garages, old furniture left behind presumably by tenants, paint peeling off the exterior of this pair of two storied concrete edifices, shabby curtains, weeds galore growing out of the concrete and the tenants communal open decking at the center looking nothing like the nice on line images. Certainly not maintained or kept up to date since the google pics.
There was more in store.
The real estate employee & myself wended our way up the two flights of concrete stairs outside of the narrow landing that led to the only entrance to the ‘apartment’. Once inside, there was the musty smell of old damp, stained carpet, a cracked window & paint peeling off the ceiling.
Depressing & Dickensian really.
I asked if they intended repainting. Oh yes the worst paint-peeling ceiling (only) would be painted eventually, but not before (the lucky) tenant moved in. And ‘had we looked at anything else yet?’ checking to see if we realized how scarce the housing supply currently was. (I was well aware having just noted a woman now camping because her rental had sold). I asked if it was up to earthquake proof standard. ‘I hope so’ was the reply. A call later to the government tenancy services told me (rather vaguely) that no there had been no rule changes since 2010, 2011, hinting presumably at the Christchurch quake that remember killed hundreds of people. I reminded her that nobody had ever been held accountable for the CTV building collapse and the people who died in that preventable disaster. Her only advice was that tenants should complain about these things (yeah right). I politely reminded her that there is a housing crisis & tenants are on a back foot. I really wouldn’t be holding my breath that the (well known) Real Estate Agent that starts with ‘H’ would be either painting or ensuring it was earthquake safe in the foreseeable future. In my humble opinion it was being milked for all it was worth, just as the housing crisis is being milked, until finally it’ll be bulldozed for the prime real estate it is (yes on a hill, over looking water … albeit stinkingly polluted water courtesy of sewage & other disposal for over half a century by local Councils like the rest of the country’s councils, doing what they do best … can kicking).
I had a search around the newspapers about the current housing ‘crisis’ (they write about it like it’s a big surprize that’s come from left field … nary a mention of the thousands of state homes, a public asset hocked off by Key’s government to property developers). I found many articles on people’s awful predicaments. We have folk in NZ living in garages, sheds and even their cars. This is a crisis Jacinda was intending to make a dent in but has indicated it’s now being kicked down the road a bit further, more foot dragging from our esteemed authorities.
Thanks Roger Douglas. Your experiment on the NZ public isn’t working.
The usual foot dragging with nary a mention of all the state house (aka property) sell offs. Forty three thousand still homeless, living in cars, garages & sheds. That hasn’t all gone away meantime, rents soar to beyond affordable and agents I see now have the luxury of letting applicants make the highest bid. At least the developers are happy. They’ve been having a heyday since Key’s regime.
Sad what NZ has become. I spotted a video recently extolling the virtues of Rogernomics. By the Free To Choose, trickle down theorists. Couldn’t resist commenting, ” What a wonderful success this was. We now have 43K homeless. Large part of our State housing stock gone to property developers. One of the highest suicide rates in the world. Highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. Rivers so filthy you can only now swim in 40% of them. Oh and lets not forget the $124,518, 490, 682 debt last time I looked. Great stuff Roger Douglas. First pain (for the poor) then gain (for the rich).
So the KiwiBuild is to be recalibrated as the interim targets are scrapped reports stuff which is of course fancy corporate speak for ‘homelessness is not really a priority’.
The must watch at this point is Bryan Bruce’s ‘Mind the Gap’ documentary. He exposes all of the above.
KiwiBuild to be ‘recalibrated’ as interim targets are scrapped
KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.
The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.
The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland.
While in Opposition, Labour said the “ramp-up” period would mean only 16,000 of those homes would be built in its first term. Once in Government, Twyford set three interim targets to get to that 16,000 – 1000 by July 2019, another 5000 by July 2020, and another 10,000 by July 2021.
Those targets are now gone, but new interim targets could appear as part of the recalibration process.
Ardern said the interim targets had not been a “useful way” to demonstrate the Government’s progress on the policy.
“Yes we still need to be transparent, we still need to demonstrate to voters the progress we are making.”
Video 2: COMING SOON, mass messages of support from near and afar, if you would like to be apart of that chain of support send a 5 second clip with your message of support on piece of paper or verbally.
WHY ARE WE SILENCED? WHY ARE WE STRESSED? WHY DON’T WE MATTER? WHAT HAPPENED TO WHANAU? WHAT ABOUT THE PAST? WHATS HAPPENING TO THE PRESENT? WHAT ABOUT OUR FUTURE? WHY DO YOUS DO THIS TO US?
DO WHAT IS RIGHT BY OUR PEOPLE FOR OUR PEOPLE?
WE NEED HOMES NOT HOMELE$$….
LAND NOT LANDLESS…..
MANA NOT MONEY….
OUR LAND OUR FUTURE….
WE ARE NOT FOR $ALE….
WHY DO WE HAVE TO ALWAYS FIGHT TO PROTECT WHATS OURS, WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS WHEN THE RIGHT IS OURS, WHY DO WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR OUR IDENTITY, WHY DO WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR OUR SANITY, WHY DO WE HAVE TO ALWAYS PUT UP THE FIGHT WHEN THE RIGHTS ARE OURS.
THE CORRUPTION NEVER ENDS, NO MORE SUGAR COATING LET IT BE KNOWN.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
NOTE FROM EWR: the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust is saying the properties in question are ‘surplus to needs’ yet there are over a hundred whānau on a waiting list for housing. These homes have been boarded up & vacant for up to two years. (A familiar story throughout NZ … while the so called ‘authorities’ twiddle their thumbs & purse their lips wondering why we have 43K homeless in our land, and pretend to try and fix it? Remember the Tamaki exposé by Penny Bright? Nearly 3K homes land banked by the Nats for greedy property developers. That now dirty word. I’ve heard the same scenario in the Wellington region, people evicted & their homes boarded up, still now homeless, see below)
Bastion Point and the protest from the ’70s is mentioned in the video. Here is that story FYI … watch at nzonscreen ‘BASTION POINT – THE UNTOLD STORY’: In 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point, after the announcement of a housing development on land once belonging to Ngāti Whātua. 506 days later police and army arrived en masse to remove them. This documentary examines the rich and tragic history of Bastion Point/ Takaparawhau — including how questionable methods were used to gradually take the land from Māori, while basic amenities were withheld from those remaining. The documentary features extensive interviews with protest leader Joe Hawke, and footage from seminal documentary Bastion Point Day 507.
Horowhenua District Council has adopted a media policy that refuses to recognise media questions unless the questions are from, “a news media organisation registered by the New Zealand Companies Office.”
“Any further enquiries that are not for a news media organisation registered by the New Zealand Companies Office will be treated as Official Information Requests,” said council’s communications advisor Trish Hayward. The council also wants to know what news organisations the information is being provided to and what the deadline is.
Dr Gavin Ellis, author of ‘Complacent Nation’, a book that explores the erosion of New Zealanders’ right to know said, “The council is bound by the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act’s principle of availability that states information should be made available unless there is a good reason for withholding it.”
“Nothing in the Act gives council the right to withhold information on the grounds that a publication and deadline are not given by the information seeker. I believe that, if the council refuses to supply information to a freelancer for that reason, there are good grounds for a complaint to the Ombudsman. It is useful for council officers to know the deadline to which a journalist is working but that is in order to expedite the flow of information, not to stem it,” said Dr Ellis.
The council’s media policy was adopted after questions were asked about how council was fulfilling its legislative requirement to consult on a very important 20 year 2018-2038 Long Term Plan (LTP).
This is the first time the district has been presented with a draft 20 year plan, all previous one’s have been ten year plans. Council has signalled an intention to rate the small communities of Waitarere, Hokio, Ohau, Manakau and Waikawa $106 million for new water and waste water systems due to “new growth.”
New growth that has been created by land and property developers who haven’t contributed one cent towards essential infrastructure since council voted to cancel contributions in 2015. Since then there has been an explosion of land and property development in Horowhenua.
There will only be three days before submissions on the draft 2018-2038 LTP close on 26 March if the council wait 21 days under the OIA to answer the questions.
Council has been asked (1) why public consultations are being held at the Levin Aquatic Centre instead of Te Takere that is regarded as the centre of the community? (2) Whether council has more responsibility to ensure ratepayers are fully informed considering an intention to raise $106 million for new water and waste water infrastructure in “new growth” areas? (3) why it is acceptable land and property developers haven’t contributed one cent to essential infrastructure in “growth areas” yet ratepayers are expected to pay? (4) How much does the infrastructure rate equates to in dollar terms for each affected area? (5) Given the complexity of the draft 20 year LTP whether public consultations should include more than four relatively obscure public meetings? (6) What has council been doing to consult residents that need assistance to understand the draft LTP implications (7) Why has the council called the 20 year LTP, “Consultation in preparation of 2018-2038 Long Term Plan” instead of a draft document? (8) Why has the council decided to hold so few consultations and none at Te Takere? What was the rationale behind that decision? (9) Why doesn’t council doesn’t visit marae, associations and groups around the district and tell them how they will be directly affected? (10) Wouldn’t travelling to Marae be an effective way to consult with Maori ratepayers? (11) Why is a public meeting on the Otaki to Levin North expressway considered important enough to be held at Te Takere but not the district’s LTP? (12) Why only one month for consultation on a complex and lengthy document? (13) Why is council running so many consultations simultaneous taking into consideration residents have busy lives and, unlike the council staff, are already juggling many responsibilities and obligations? (14) Does the council think the consultation process on a number of important documents simultaneously would meet the standards of the Office of the Auditor General if a governance complaint was made? (15) The draft LTP states “Look out for upcoming consultations that are outside the consultation on the LTP. The outcomes from these may result in future changes to the LTP.” Shouldn’t the LTP be informing the other consultations not the other way around?
“Its [Alpha Burn Stn’s] sole shareholder was American billionaire Peter Thiel, the Libertarian futurist who had become a New Zealand citizen, unbeknownst to almost everyone, after spending 12 days in the country, which allowed him to buy the land without approval from the Overseas Investment Office.”
“We’re talking about 10 per cent of the country. And even if it weren’t [that much land], it’s been done behind closed doors, and people should be concerned about that.”
We’ve paid $65m to get rid of some of our most treasured landscapes, through an obscure process critics have described as a vast wave of privatisation. Wealthy foreigners are snapping up valuable land once owned by the public, who in some cases paid to dispose of it. As gated estates and manicured golf courses spread through our wild places, Charlie Mitchell investigates:
Who owns the high country?
ALPHA BURN STATION
“Thousands of people each year make the pilgrimage along this narrow and dusty path, which twists through a bushy terrace overlooking a lake in the heart of New Zealand’s high country.
It is a landscape millions of years in the making, composed by the rise and fall of ancient glaciers, a place where colours converge; the lake’s deep shade of cerulean, the muted and sun-tinged tussocks of gentle hills, the colossal white peak of Mt Aspiring…
The land was ultimately privatised, without protection. About 18 months later, it was sold to a group of wealthy developers, among them Sky TV founder Craig Heatley, one of the country’s wealthiest men. They sought to subdivide the land for six houses, which did not come to fruition, in part due to vigorous opposition from local advocacy groups…
…the new buyer was particularly objectionable.
It was a company called Second Star Ltd, seemingly an homage to Peter Pan: the mythical paradise of Neverland is the “second star to the right” in the Disney adaptation.
Its sole shareholder was American billionaire Peter Thiel, the Libertarian futurist who had become a New Zealand citizen, unbeknownst to almost everyone, after spending 12 days in the country, which allowed him to buy the land without approval from the Overseas Investment Office.”
Charlie Mitchell’s report details how the tenure review of the high country has been conducted since it began in 1992 when many leasehold farms became uneconomic and a process was established to review the leaseholds by privatising some of the land and bringing parts into the conservation estate. The process has been followed by both National and Labour governments.
Mitchell’s article reveals:
The review covers over 2 million hectares of land, some 10 percent of the whole country, an area larger than the state of Israel
Tenure reviews since 1998 show that the taxpayer has paid nearly $65 million to privatise land it owned which in some cases has been sold for huge capital gains
The public has surrendered all rights to 430,000ha of the high country’s most productive land, parts of which have become luxury retreats, gated developments, tourism ventures, intensively farmed land or billionaire’s playgrounds
Around 14 percent of the privatised land has some form of covenant.
Much of the process has been secretive and not open to public scrutiny
Much of land was originally bought from Maori through a series of “meagre” payments for which
Maori were promised reserves and access to resources – promises that were broken by the Crown
Around 14 percent of the privatised land has some form of covenant
Key sales to foreign buyers required no Overseas Investment Office review
Alpha Burn Station a few minutes from Wanaka and with 5.5km of Lake Wanaka shoreline, saw 190ha of prime property privatised without public protection for a net $50,000. It was resold almost immediately to rich lister Craig Heatley for $10.6 million, who after failing to win a subdivision battle, resold it to US billionaire, libertarian, and Trump adviser, Peter Theil, for $13.5 million. The capital gain computes at 37,000 percent, none of which is taxable
The taxpayer paid $5000 to privatise Glendhu Station. Now in three parts, one part has been sold with a partly finished golf course on it, for $16.7 million; another part is valued at $8.5 million and a third at $3.4 million.
One family owned Alpha Burn and Glendhu Stations, collectively paying $45,000 for 6000ha of Wanaka lakefront that today is valued at $45million.
An analysis by an author on the subject, Ann Bower, published in 2015 found the median capital gain of sales after tenure reviews was 69,200 percent
Across all tenure reviews since 1998, land valued at $320 million was bought by farmers for $143m, while land valued at $78m was purchased by the Crown for $208m
A furore over the sale of Richmond Station on the shore of Lake Tekapo caused the Clark Labour government to suspend the reviews, but the Key National government restarted the process in 2009, with then Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson saying the Crown didn’t need more conservation land
As recently as May, the leaseholders of Airies Station in Burkes Pass purchased the whole station freehold for $2.8 million, and the Crown paid out the same amount to cancel the payment. A quarter of the land was covenanted but no public access was granted.
What is happening in the small neck of the woods called the Horowhenua is a power struggle between conflicting agendas.
On one side of the boxing ring stands Horowhenua District Council Mayor Michael Feyen, supported by councillor Ross Campbell holding the towel and the water bottle in the background.
On the other side of the boxing ring stands deputy mayor Wayne Bishop with his supporters; the eight remaining councillors (although there are signs the amount of blood being spilled is getting too much for some).
The ref is the CEO!
Unfortunately for Mayor Feyen the referee of the boxing match is council’s chief executive David Clapperton, which is why the result will always seem to be in Cr Bishop’s favour because both Cr Bishop and Mr Clapperton have mutually beneficial interests. Mayor Feyen alluded to the source of the power struggle in comments to the media when he said, “There seems to be much at stake for some in council…and that he had ‘severe concerns’ about conflicts of interest within the council.”
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.
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…
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.
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.”
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.