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Coast trip, two meetings this week

Opinion Piece

Councillors along with some staff members have spent the past two and a half days on an East Coast hikoi where we have met with many East Coast communities, businesses and individuals. This scoping trip had been scheduled to take place far earlier (since the election), however due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was pushed back twice.

As a unitary authority we as council collectively carry the responsibility to represent not just the city but the greater Tairawhiti. Therefore to get out into some of our most rural East Coast areas to meet residents, listen to concerns and see for ourselves provides all councillors with a far better understanding of issues faced daily by rural communities.

Our East Coast region is geographically very spread with terrain and topography that create many challenges. An example is the ever-changing direction of the Waiapu River due to its power. When flooding this is a serious issue, with the river eating away at productive pastoral land. Total hill sides are moving, hence roads are moving — therefore, regardless of roading contractors' best efforts, continuous patch-ups are not a long-term solution.

It is also interesting to be shown the significant work the council continues to be involved with, especially since Cyclone Bola, of major protection via planting of trees across and around landslides — all designed to stop (where possible) erosion and loss of roads/pastures.

A snapshot of some of our trip commenced with a visit to Te Rawheoro Marae (Tolaga Bay) where CDEM Long Service Awards were presented by our Mayor to Greg Shelton, Ray Dever, Mary Anne Crawford, Te Rangirangi Tangohau and Nigel McGrannachan. Their collective community contributions are wide-reaching and it was a special occasion for all recipients and those in attendance.

We visited Waikura Valley, meeting with community representatives. Further visits took in the Awatere landfill and new Rua Bioscience facility. Other discussions included employment and work experience opportunities. Council met with representatives of Tokomaru Bay at Te Airuru Marae, where concerns were raised, then had a presentation and visit to the Tokomaru Bay Wharf re the trust's project.

This week the council has two meetings, including Finance and Performance on Wednesday with several agenda items that are required to be made public — the draft financial report to June 30, 2020 (end of the year) and the rates and sundry invoice debt management report to June 30.

Also on the agenda are income and expenses related to operations of the district licensing committee, the annual report re dog control policy and practices, and a performance review of the new regional pest operational plan. There will also be a presentation from the Tairawhiti District Maori Land Court regarding their role with council.

On Thursday the Operations Committee has a progress update on the Potae Avenue to Nelson Road link, which should be open by February 2021, and a heavy metalling programme update.

Also on the agenda is additional funding from the $25m Covid-19 response plan (Tairawhiti) along with status reports and land transport business cases. There is an update on contaminated sites and implications for the LTP and waste minimisation plan, a waste manifesto update and a report on the Makauri Aquifer Recharge, including YTD spend, volumes injected along with progress on the subcommittee formation (the last report re the MAR project was August 2019).

The committee will also consider business cases seeking an additional $30.9m for the redeployment implementation programme, which includes: East Cape Road improvements, 50 Max bridge strengthening for heavy freight, increased resilience in the roading network, and King vs Harper roads — determining the long-term heavy freight route.

Terry Sheldrake