WHAT'S ON IN COUNCIL THIS WEEK - SORRY , can’t help myself, I always swear not to react to letters about stuff I say (there is always the horrifying prospect that I could have been wrong) but I get kind of worried when it appears some of my readers are living in la-la land, especially over road/rail, it seems, where recent correspondents apparently remain convinced that the general taxpayer subsidises roads. I say again, road users pay for roads.
Ten years ago (earlier actually, but it came to a head 10 years ago) councils around the country were getting extremely snotty with central government, because it was siphoning off approximately $700 million a year from fuel taxes into its consolidated fund, and starving regions of roading money. I know this because as chair of finance at the time I was well-involved.
With the extreme generosity for which central govt is renowned, it refused to give up its cash cow but instead instituted a further 5 cents per litre (plus equivalent RUCs) excise tax, especially for regional roading.
We didn’t grumble, we just grabbed it. Anything to help the ratepayers.
Now, I admit, I don’t know exactly how much they are siphoning off now, with their new emphasis on the roading network they may even be spending all they get from road users. I doubt it, but govt accounts (and govt spokespeople) have become so slippery and complex that it is hard even for me to tell.
Doesn’t matter, I know for a certainty that they squandered billions of dollars from fuel excise taxes that they never spent on roads. They spent it on welfare, election bribes, buying rail back, whatever.
Not make a profit off roads? Bollocks, of course they do, and if they tell you different they’re liars. Just as they make profits off drinkers and smokers.
If NZTA needs to borrow to fund Auckland roads right now, that’s just a temporary cash flow thing, to be recovered from next year’s road users.
Democracy only works if people know what the hell is going on, so I worry when some people apparently don’t.
Council’s hearings committee is in action Wednesday, with an interesting little problem to solve. Rhythm and Vines wants to expand a bit more and they are seeking resource consent to bump up the numbers they’re allowed at their temporary camping grounds out at Waiohika Estate. Um, they ask for a bit more every year. Which is OK, great to see the thing growing ever more successful. But ever more successful means ever more people, ever more effects on the neighbours, ever more issues with traffic, noise, alcohol, all that stuff.
Council’s planning officers are beginning to worry that they’re going a bit far. Police, while not exactly against the increase, as long as certain conditions are met, are a bit concerned too.
Planning staff are therefore recommending we allow for growth this year only, to see how it goes and deal with the following years as they arise. I don’t have any idea how the hearings committee will view it. I mean, I’m on that committee, I’ve read all the guff and all the written submissions, and I simply have no idea where I will sit on the issue until we’ve heard all the protagonists in person — which is exactly how the hearings committee is supposed to operate; we listen to all the evidence and argument before we decide.
For me, the hearings committee remains the truest example of what being a councillor means — I sit there in judgement (as we all do) knowing that voters stuck me there on the assumption that I can be relied upon to make fair decisions that work out best for our community. Sounds easy!