Long Term Plan Submissions - 2021-2031

Suggestions from a SEA CHANGE contributor.

Rolf Mueller-Glodde, Mar 15, 2021

While reading through the consultation document for the FNDC Long Term Plan 2021-31 (hard copies are available at Council offices) I jotted down the below points, which might help to make submissions and also to ask questions to Councillors/staff.

PAGE 5: Three Waters

It was probably appropriate to sign the non-binding MOU to have a foot in the boat, and we are looking forward to the more intense consultation based on more detail to consider the opt-out possibility. From what we have heard so far, it might sense to pool expertise and responsibility with all Northland Councils, but not with Auckland with very different schemes and requirements. The Northland Councils lack expertise resulting in high cost (consultants) and inferior management (numerous facilities are working sub-standard and/or on expired consents).

A huge problem seems to be the lack of reserves to renew/renovate existing/ageing facilities because their applied depreciation funds have been used for other projects instead of for the intended purpose. This needs to be changed. However, as apparently all Councils have applied this handling, there appears to be a general lack of capital for urgently required work to avoid serious environmental consequences and/or failure of service to ratepayers. Support from Central Government seems to be required.

Image: FNDC Facebook Page

PAGE 5: Adaptation to Climate Change

It is good to know that the seriousness of Climate Change and the risks for Northland are recognised. However, after a little bit of public consultation plans and actions are handled behind closed doors without information and transparency. It is of utmost importance to reflect details to the ratepayers to entice them to plan accordingly and also to consult FNDC in case the plans/actions are deemed inappropriate/insufficient. We are keen to know Council’s planning and procedures to ensure that all its decisions and its departments’ actions are coordinated to mitigate the risks of Climate Change.

PAGE 5: Transport and Roading

The cooperation among the 4 Northland Councils is welcome. However, we have been calling an acceptable solution for Kerikeri’s traffic problems for more than 15 years. Traffic congestion is now experienced daily rather than just during the summer holiday period. The provision of a parallel road to Kerikeri Road through the CBD is long overdue.

Additionally, the call to end the construction of more cul-de-sac sub-divisions is still being ignored with the effect that all traffic has to use the already over-burdened main roads with lengthy periods of turning right or left (loss of time and increase of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions). This increases the risks for pedestrians and bikers, who urgently need substantially better infrastructure to enable commuting on foot or bike instead by car (reduce CO2 and congestion, increase exercise/health, save drivers’/parents’ time). The recent engagement of a Christchurch consultant for a walking & cycling strategy for Northland is deemed as inefficient (lack of local knowledge) and costly (travel and accommodation): what the intended about local procurement?

PAGE 6: Community Facilities

It is acknowledged that Far North Holdings Ltd. has been handling assigned projects successfully and efficiently. Yes, FNHL is suffering from a bad reputation due to their lack of consultation/information/collaboration with the public. Procedures are not transparent (example Rangitane Boat Ramp). FNDC’s remit to FNHL needs to be changed to reflect that before FNHL gets mandated with a project, FNDC’s mandatory consultation has to take place, so that it is obvious that FNHL is just the executing vehicle on FNDC’s behalf.

PAGE 6: Strategic Planning

We feel there is a lack of information and consultation. We had never heard of the project Nothing But Net, which sounds good. Why? - We participated in the initial consultation with some community groups at the start of the 2100 Plan and then never heard about it again, despite having offered more input. Same for the Climate Change Road Map. Same for the appropriately ambitious job description for the new position of Climate Sustainability Officer we had drafted and provided, only to see it being ignored.

PAGE 6: Crown Funded Economic Stimulous Projects

It is good to have won some funding for projects in the Far North. However, the procedure of FNDC Admin applying for funding of projects under urgency under exclusion of Councillors (!!) and the public based on “shovel-ready” rather than “future oriented” projects in consideration of Climate Change is seen as inappropriate. Numerous projects are “nice to have” but not essential. Information about the projects was published late. Why?

PAGE 7: Our Infrastructure Strategy

The planning is described as responsible and forward-looking for the next 30 years with the expectations that the asset infrastructure will work for the next 10 years. This seems questionable in view of several water and wastewater systems being used on expired consents and/or not working properly. (See above P5 Three Waters). The very lengthy planning and rounds of public consultation for the Kerikeri wastewater plant resulted in an enormously expensive and already insufficient system.

PAGE 9: Key Financial Goals

Moderate impact of funding depreciation on strategic assets: See above P5 - The proceeds of depreciation need to be kept in reserve to fund maintenance, repair and renewal. Misappropriation leads to increased cost later.

PAGE 9: Key Financial Goals - Limit Debt

P9 Key Financial Goals - Limit Debt: It does not make much sense to strictly limit debt at this time of extremely low cost borrowing, when some infrastructure improvements/renewals are urgently required. Better borrow more now at low cost to build the infrastructure now at lower prices than in the future. This will support the enhancement of the economy as well, especially with local procurement. Use low interest borrowing possibilities provided by the Local Government Commission/Central Government.

PAGE 10/11: Capital/Operation Spend

Environmental Management = 0%: It is surprising to see a 0% budget for this climate change related area, even if caused by rounding vis-a-vis 10% operating spend.

PAGE 15: Early Engagement Results

This information is interesting, but which consequences does Council plan? Example: the change to Capital based Rates did not reach a majority, but it is intended in the draft plan??

PAGE 18: Housing for the Elderly

Option 4 is preferred.

PAGE 20: Enable sustainable economic development

Not sure: tend to Option 2. Basically, NRC has the duty to represent all of Northland’s ratepayers in regard to Northland Inc. All districts are represented by their local Councillors. It seems more efficient to let NRC handle Northland Inc alone while involving District Councils in respect of action and funding for respective projects. FNDC shareholding would not be limited to provide annually rapidly rising contributions, but also involve continuous management participation.

PAGE 22: Fairer and Simpler Rates

Not sure: tend to Option 1. Charging the more wealthy more than the less wealthy is principally agreeable. However, it is well known that Northland’s inhabitants include a high percentage of retirees without other income than their Super. They might own a property with a high capital value, but to regular in come top pay high rates. The option to defer.

PAGE 24: Other things

Other things - Significance and engagement policy: The first determination for every decision Council makes must be the potential impact on Climate Change, as we are in an emergency situation and as such impact would affect everyone in the Community. Best practice and easier to read policies will be welcome.

Contributor, Rolf Meuller Glodde - SEA CHANGE

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