Tag Archives: rate payers

Public remain in the dark about plans by Horowhenua District Council to transfer up to 40 percent of public assets to the yet to be legally registered property trust called Horowhenua NZ Trust

More excellent investigative reporting from Veronica Harrod

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it superman? No, it’s a giant wrecking ball and its coming near you soon.

The public remain in the dark about plans by Horowhenua District Council to transfer up to 40 percent of public assets to the recently established property investment trust called Horowhenua NZ Trust.

The only item on the 6 June agenda to be discussed in a publicly excluded part of the meeting refers to “Legal Matters: Settlement Options – Historic Dispute” which, if this refers to the transfer of public assets, appears to be deliberately worded to hide council’s intention.

Council will discuss and vote on this item in a publicly excluded part of the meeting on the grounds, “The withholding of the information is necessary to enable the local authority to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations).”

One of the big problems residents have is how the commercial confidential clauses of the Local Government Act deny the public opportunities to be a part of discussions in the public interest. Also, the public don’t know how councillors vote on publicly excluded matters or whether councillors have undeclared conflicts of interest.

It is the only clause of the Local Government Act available to council’s, who may be motivated by self and vested interest rather than public interest, because it allows council’s to side-step obligations to be transparent and accountable.

But when council’s get into bed with land and property developers to the extent this council has then serious concerns about how the commercial confidentiality clause of the Local Government Act is being used are justified.

The most glaring example of this was the sale of the former council owned pensioner housing portfolio to one of the biggest land and property developers in the country Willis Bond for a firesale price of $5.2 million resulting in a loss of $1.86 million.

The Office of the Auditor General is making a determination on this matter and conflicts of interest but, to put it mildly, residents aren’t holding their breathe that an investigation of any real merit will be pursued.

In a report on supporting the establishment of the Horowhenua NZ Trust economic development manager Shanon Grainger stated, “The Trust operates through a Trust Deed in standard fashion. That Deed holds trustees to account, trustees operate under the standard legislation and case law applying to trustees. This is a high level of accountability with sanctions and remedies.”

But the public don’t know how the Trust will operate because the Trust has not been legally registered, there is no Trust deed to refer to and who the specific directors are still has not been announced.

Mr Grainger also said the Trust model was, “explicitly detached from local government so that local government politicians are not compromised, and investors are not compromised.”

Yet members of council’s in-house economic development board are Trust directors in the first instance and three councillors are on the board including deputy chair of the economic development board councillor Wayne Bishop who is also the deputy mayor.

Compounding concerns is the fact Cr Bishop has three land and property development companies, and an extensive and growing number of Horowhenua land and property development projects, and the Trust is being assisted by the council’s chief executive David Clapperton who established a company classified under the land development/subdivision category in November 2016.

These facts alone appear to contradict Mr Grainger’s comment the Trust is “explicitly detached from local government.”

Not only has the council publicly stated it intends on transferring up to 40 percent of assets to the Trust but an unknown amount of ratepayer funds that council spends on “economic development” will also be funnelled to the Trust.

The only public comment made about how much council spends on “economic development” was a vague statement made by Mr Clapperton the dollar amount was unknown because it is within the Representation and Community Leadership budget of $4.1 million annually!

Plans by the council and the yet-to-be legally registered Horowhenua NZ Trust move relentlessly forward even though the public are being consulted on a myriad of plans and strategies that, if adopted in their present form, will unleash an explosive number of land and development, demolition and construction projects across the district.

Clearly though this trend of council’s getting into bed with land and property developers is undergoing a 21st Century renaissance. Listen to what is happening at New Plymouth District Council: “The council wants to sell part of Peringa Reserve – including half of a public golf course – to housing developers for $35 million. Opponents say it is protected recreational space and should be kept. RNZ Taranaki reporter Robin Martin has more.

The New Plymouth district council has come under fire for describing a proposal to sell part of a coastal reserve as “land recycling”. The council wants to sell part of…
RADIONZ.CO.NZ
 
Note: As the additional link on New Plymouth shows, councils up & down the land are using the tried & true method of relieving you of your public assets your forbears worked to provide for succeeding generations. Public Private Partnerships. Listen to Joan Veon on that topic (see our Agenda 21/30 pages). Buying your assets for a song literally via the back door. This link  will take you to related examples of this in NZ including Joan Veon’s information. Let’s not forget these transfer of assets seem to be happening with no rhyme or reason as to their value, witness the transfer of Horowhenua’s pensioner flats to Willis & Bond property developers with front company Compassion Housing formed a week before the sale, at a loss of $1.86 million (ie sold that much below their true value, a right royal gift for W&B. Enjoy (if you can). EnvirowatchRangitikei

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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In spite of their spin the Horowhenua District Council is not enabling “democratic local decision making”… they’ve just issued a liquor license that Shannon locals didn’t want!

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Cr Ross Campbell conducted a street poll regarding a proposed liquor license … the results were not in favour of the license however the DC went ahead and issued one anyway! How’s that for listening to your people?

For those who don’t know Shannon, it is a small town on State Highway 57 between Palmerston North and Levin in the lower North Island. Recently it featured in the news media following the filming by Horowhenua District Councillor Ross Campbell, of HDC’s pollution of the local waterways. You can read about these events that saw Cr Campbell trespassed, at this link. 

More recently, Cr Campbell conducted a street poll to air the proposal by Council of issuing another liquor license in the town.  Shannon already has two off license outlets and five licensed outlets, and the public voted an overwhelming 309 to 3 against. Now that is a clear message from constituents to at the very least hold off, and at most to conduct a proper survey of the town.

But no, the HDC Licensing Chair-person Councilor Ross Brannigan and Committee and obviously the Police thought otherwise and granted yet another license!

Disappointed with this outcome, Cr Campbell, who has fought hard for this community, commented that he thought the Police would have been more supportive of locals’ wishes especially with this issue.

Now, I’ve noticed for some time now, as have many others, that DCs seem to not really be listening to what their constituents say. The official spin if you like on their websites tends to sound very democratic but in practice, in reality, as can be seen from all of the above, they are everything but democratic. A former Cr, Mrs Anne Hunt, recently went public and divulged the persuasive measures that HDC take with their own, coercing them to deny the facts about certain issues. Something is clearly not right with local government in NZ, the HDC being no exception. Here for instance, to illustrate, is some of their spin, quoted from HDC’s own website (our emphases):


Council’s Functions, Responsibilities and Activities

The purpose of the Horowhenua District Council is to enable democratic local decision making to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well being of the Horowhenua District in the present and for the future.   

In meeting its purpose, the Horowhenua District Council has a variety of roles:

  • Facilitating solutions to local needs
  • Advocacy on behalf of the local community with central government,  other local authorities and other agencies
  • Management of local infrastructure including network infrastructure (eg roading, water supply, waste disposal, libraries, parks and recreational facilities)
  • Environmental management planning for the current and future needs of the local district.

So there is a discrepancy right there in the first paragraph:

…to enable democratic local decision making to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well being of the Horowhenua District

In this instance, clearly demonstrated by Cr Campbell, they are not enabling democratic local decision making. Locals commenting on social media clearly reflected that they neither needed nor wanted more liquor outlets so HDC is neither consulting nor listening to locals and … facilitating solutions to local needs. (Their own words).

man-shan
Shannon already has two off license liquor outlets and five licensed … the public voted overwhelmingly against a new license [photo credit: nzhistory.net.nz]
So who needs more liquor outlets? … no prizes for guessing that one … the liquor companies of course.

So the question that needs to be asked here is …  why is a supposedly responsible DC favoring the wishes of the liquor industry, over the people who voted them in?

Hopefully the locals will be phoning those who made this decision on their behalf .. (in particular Cr Ross Brannigan in case you missed it) to ask them “why”?  Why are they contradicting their own policy statements?

We need to be speaking up about these matters  … our silence is interpreted as consent.

The contact details for all councilors and others who are serving you the rate payers, can be found on the respective Council websites. And remember, elections are coming up soon … be sure to vote, and vote for those who are genuinely for changing the current status quo.

In addition, consider registering your opposition to the way these decisions are made by filling in a form at the Citizens Government Corruption Watchdog Commission. This is easy to do, and the site is a NZ one. 

HDC contact details can be found HERE at this link.

Shannon will be entering the “Keep NZ Beautiful”competition this spring. Good luck to them!

 

EnvirowatchHorowhenua

 

 

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

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