2009 – 2019 Whangarei District Council - Long Term Council Community Plan
The W.D.C. LTCCP submission hearing process was held in May from Monday 25th till Thursday 28th inclusive. The full four days were necessary to hear the 163 submitters wishing to speak to their submissions.
Monday morning and the rules were explained but going by the next three days it was obvious the rules were not to be adhered to.
During the course of the four day submission process it was most interesting to see that the ‘rules’ as described on both, the Whangarei District Council website and in the pamphlet supplied to submitters “At the conclusion of your 10 minute address Councilors may ask you questions” and “There is no debate or discussion at a hearing”, were indeed not obeyed on many occasions. Statements were made, some in fact very confrontational, were made not only by the chair persons of the proceedings but also regularly by a small number of councilors. The majority of councilors were either very quiet, leaving it to their peers, or asked questions in accordance with correct procedure.
Morning break, Monday, we were fortunate to be invited for a cuppa, but as has been reported in the papers since that offer was a once only and public were not invited to participate for refreshments again over the four days. The coffee at McDonalds, Robert Harris and the library had the sweet taste of enjoyment, so the lack of hospitality, we experienced, had its advantage.
Another couple of examples that were not seen over the total 4 days were the presence of activists. Previously the Save Our Harbour group had been tarnished on occasions with being a group of ‘activists’ or those having ‘hidden agendas’. We failed to witness any of these so maybe those previous accusations are totally unsubstantiated.
On to the more positive and that was indeed the quality of the submissions. The chamber was filled with enthusiasm, not seen as often there as should be, as submitter after submitter aired their sentiments in the council chamber. The many varied submissions were presented to the ever cautious councilors, some poised to pounce on those whose opinions were definitely not made in their interests.
Ideas for safe cycle ways and footpaths to link the city together were many and varied with suggestions to tap into the funds offered for the project by central government. It was apparent it was not just ‘Greenies’ asking for these considerations. Recreational bike tracks were also a topic proposed by a number of submitters.
The Hatea River and Town Basin are both the jewels in the crown for Whangarei. The financial importance to the town by providing good access to the many visiting sailors from abroad, wishing to spend the much valued dollars in our community, reaping in the benefits and expertise of our marine industry, which results in the financial reward for our town.
How to cross the Hatea River had many comments. Many were against a second harbour crossing, at the present time, until debt and essential basic infrastructure was first fixed. One presentation of a loch system had much merit and the enthusiastic presentation on day two had many smiling.
The Events Centre still has an air of discontent with many. How some of the sports codes were now being treated, after construction had started to the rugby stadium, received much criticism, as the involvement of these groups was instrumental to its initial approval. People appear to be still festering over the way things have been done on this project. Some of these other sports groups need to join in with others to ensure the provision of venues is made more affordable with careful planning to enable summer and winter sports being able to possibly share facilities.
Tourism and the importance to capture the many, who transit our town, was at the hearts of many submitters as the dollars earned from their visits can enhance the community. The business community had ideas on a commercial rating differential and the building of a healthy economy by encouraging incentives to the community and businesses. Some believed that council managed projects needed better control to captivate better income for the well being of the whole community.
The entire LTCCP process was taken to task by one submitter and his lavish presentation allowed him to return, totally unchallenged, to his seat in the public gallery, whilst another asked the Mayor if he had been put to sleep by his submission. Another stated the ticking of boxes was not adequate as ratepayers would go for the cheapest option and there were double standards and nonsense statistics coming out of this council. A comment on a submission below the option section which they had crossed out was “I can think for myself” is just another example of the feelings of some in our town. It is great to see people expressing their own opinions.
The museums and arts sector in our district are all begging to retain the assistance previously granted or for even a betterment of such grants to help preserve our history. An old quote of ‘how do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you come from’ highlighted the importance of our museums and the safe keeping of our heritage. One submitter compared the funding of the Otago Museum with Whangarei, suggesting the loss of our curator to Dunedin and the swapping of mayors to enhance our museum funding as Mayor Peter Chin had raised $35million for the museum. Mayor Semenoff quoted ‘he did not believe the china man could have done any better than he had’.
“Claphams clocks” was discussed by a number of submitters. Hopefully when we have refreshments e.g. a café at the Whangarei museum in Maunu, we will have an increase of tourist traffic, increasing the interest of this magnificent venue while not just using Whangarei as a comfort stop. Congratulations must go to Waipu Museum that we all learned, had captured a 3rd in New Zealand award.
The ‘Save Our Harbour’ group had instigated many submissions. The presentations of some of these were emotional to say the least. The expired resource consent had not been adhered to by the Whangarei District Council despite years of consultation and little action. While it was touching as one sung a Maori hymn, it was superb to see a small number of councilors and senior staff and most of the public gallery rise to their feet in the chamber to support the sentiments of the submitting group. These people know who they are, as we do, so bouquets to you as indeed you have earned our respect. Some sat with heads hung and possibly ashamed, as they should be, through their lack of action in this issue and the health of the harbour that has suffered.
The presence of young children reading their submissions in regards to our harbour and environment brought an air of concern from the mouths of the innocent to have some listeners becoming prone to a little emotion.
Many groups had Treaty of Waitangi issues that needed to be fully respected and not to be ignored. The culture of our citizens needs to be and must be respected.
The Ngunguru Sandspit and its long term protection are still high on the agenda of many in the wider community. The protection of some of our heritage and pa sites was relayed to council. Our cemeteries, new ones in growing areas, were also a contentious issue to some.
Global warming, its effect on the protection of our shorelines and GE were brought to the chamber by people who had researched these issues. Developments must follow a cautious approach and concerns for our sea and land must be taken seriously.
The dust nuisance, safety factors and general annoyance factor was the initiative behind many submitters placing the sealing of some roads as actions required by council.
You won’t believe it but one person was still having sewage problems since originally complaining in 1988, with little action from council, since then after numerous complaints. Her presentation was certainly well justified and I felt councilors had to understand her terminology as her patience had run out.
Rubbish Disposal and its effects had many varied comments and it appears there needs to be more discussion before plans can be set in concrete for this item.
The health and well being of our community were the concerns of many in the health organizations. Projects for non smoking, exercise, aged and disability sector issues were of the utmost importance. Wishing for concessions, to help those on fixed and low incomes, preventing the fear of being in poverty or homeless by some were presented to council.
Some of our tourist areas had nothing at all to go on, so public toilets and changing facilities certainly need to be addressed to cater for the needs of locals and visitors to avoid the needs to go in our bushes. Parking and traffic issues are also on the minds of many. Let’s be realistic if we want people to visit our shores and visit our town these amenities must be readily available. Better signage appeared to be a top priority for many with business, or facility interests. The bus services would improve with more seats and shelters at bus stops as the passengers need these additional services to make them more attractive.
Animal welfare was of a concern, as the districts pound has had the administration area upgraded, the dog care areas appear to have been overlooked in its planning and are a big concern. Surely authorities need to be held accountable to such Acts as set down by central government. We are watching this with interest. Some felt that council should ban Rodeo in their district as other councils have done, others want more done to protect our endangered species, kiwi etc.
In my opinion the major points that were portrayed to Council during the process were;
‘Dialogue Costs Nothing’ and ‘Nothing about us - without us’, especially when planning the future, with safety and security in mind, to cater for the many needy in our community. The simple statement ‘Dialogue Costs Nothing’ echoed from a number of submissions so let us hope it is taken on board. The art of listening to the community rather than having the ‘we know it all’ approach to the future of our town was another issue. A question made to an ex-councilor which produced comments of ‘lack of transparency’ and ‘council are referred to as a secret society’ created a pregnant silence in the chamber and the embarrassed sheepish look from the questioner, of perhaps I shouldn’t have asked that one.
The ongoing funding of the many sports groups, organizations and social agencies is of utmost importance to their survival in these becoming tough economic times.
The protection of our harbour and waterways from the pollution of raw untreated sewage and the necessity to prioritize the spending of money on basic infrastructure or core business projects before the plans of grandeur, muted by many in council, are implemented. ‘Do it once, do it right, do it now’ was the inference to our sewage and other basic infrastructure issues. There needs to be better and more stringent monitoring and controls of the water quality in our harbor and its tributaries. The harbour has many qualities, it is a life source, it is a place for some to worship, a source of business for many, others a place for healing, as a food source and for some an area of cultural significance. All have their place and must be respected. The numbers of spills were well beyond being accidental, with 10 so far this year, being totally unacceptable. Infiltration of storm water has been discussed for many years as a major player in the sewerage system inherent failures but it appears there needs to be more action rather than more consultants as the answers have been provided in the past with little or no action and results. Because you can’t see a sewerage system or really unveil a nice plaque on it doesn’t mean it is insignificant. The problems are a community responsibility and the community has had its say on this and many other issues.
Many of the staff at council were complimented, them being experienced, helpful and courteous to the ratepayers. There were a couple of exceptions, only to be expected in a large organization, but by far the culture of the majority was superb and has been recognized by many.
It was possibly a little unfortunate that the mayor may have overlooked the hearings procedure, having bookings for other engagements conflicting with the LTCCP process hearing times. He was only able to be there for 30% of the hearing. Listening to the people who elected you, one would have thought, was a fairly important part of the job. Councilor Sutherland chaired for about 50 %, with Councilor Halse the remaining 20% and his fine closing of the process on Thursday complimenting the staff and councilors on their fine efforts and thanks of support to those still in the public gallery.
We can now, only wait eagerly, to view the changes made to the draft copy of the
2009 – 2019 Whangarei District Council - Long Term Council Community Plan and sincerely hope the ink was not already dry and the copy had gone to the printers beforehand.