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Important topics before committees

Opinion Piece

This is council committee week so there is plenty to read and write about.

Community Development has several issues of interest on the agenda, including the planned replacement of the Peel Street toilets, adjacent to the current building, with a double-unit, unisex permaloo, estimated cost $215,000. The council has also received a notice to do remedial work on the old toilet structure. Even if not in use it is considered an earthquake risk and requires a level of strengthening to protect the public.

The Youth Council is currently not operative. Discussions have taken place with former members as to how a Youth Council can be more effective for all involved. This paper recommends a full review of how the group operates, is funded and facilitated.

Freedom camping/summer camping and the issues that arise are also on the agenda. Operational costs of rubbish collection and monitoring require more data before any changes are initiated. The chief executive’s report outlines progress on community facility projects.

Environmental Planning and Regulations includes a comprehensive quarterly activity report covering building services, enforcement, environmental health, resource consents and science. Staff shortages in several areas are highlighted as reasons for some projects falling behind. Challenging events such as the June 4, 2018 flood and its consequences present substantial additional investigative work to bring both solutions and prosecutions.

In the consenting area, the council has developed an “Assessment of Environmental Effects” guide to assist applicants to provide the necessary detail. It is reported there has been a very positive collaboration with the forestry industry to establish some standard conditions and to better understand application requirements. Some science projects have had to be put on hold while work on the consenting and monitoring area has progressed.

A comprehensive harbourmaster activity report from the relatively new harbourmaster highlights where more work is required to meet the NZ Port and Harbour Safety Code. Progress on the Wharekopae River restoration is updated.

Finance and Audit on Thursday covers fees and charges that have been on the agenda for several meetings. Concerns were expressed by the Mayor and others that the fees were increasing too much and have again been reviewed. Most items have increased only at the rate of inflation but some have increased further to recover actual and reasonable costs, where the benefit is to an individual and should not be funded by ratepayers at large.

Changes to interest rate risk control limits is recommended by council financial adviser Price Waterhouse Coopers as a consequence of the higher debt limit for the 10-year plan. That higher debt limit was set to fund large capital projects like upgrades to wastewater treatment.

The draft statement of intent for Gisborne Holdings Ltd is on the agenda and has been traversed with the company over recent weeks. A quarterly report on the council’s commercial operations, cost of governance and support services is on the agenda. The formal report to write off statue-barred debt, over six years old, requests approval to write off $572,000 —some is direct rates and some is penalties on those rates. After pursuing all possible means to collect the arrears, council officers recommend the write off.

Assets and Infrastructure includes a quarterly report on all operations and an important draft paper on DrainWise compliance and enforcement. This relates to those properties where work must be done to stop the incursion of stormwater into the wastewater system. This work is designed to reduce wastewater overflows.

Please look at the council website for more detail on these important topics.

Pat Seymour