Skip to main content

Through the Portal

LTP provides an opportunity to honour commitment

The May edition of this fine paper reported on final verbal submissions being presented regarding the long-term plan. Of the 11 submissions reported by The Informer, 8 referred to a perceived faulty Long Term Plan process and/or financial unfairness. It has also been reported that submissions to the LTP are declining and the Council may wonder why this is.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

The answer lies in the process the Council has put in place, a process that is cumbersome and ineffectual. It is very questionable that this process works for rate payers.

I took part in this process this year and from what I observed it is about the Council, presumably Councillors and senior staff, constructing and presenting their plan, or some of it, and we mere ratepayers are just meant to agree with them. When we are consulted on our ideas we are given a crayon to write with and a postage-stamp sized piece of paper to write on. We are not told what the Council’s ideas are so we cannot compare our ideas to these or, god forbid, criticise their plans. And when we make a submission our role is to comment on and approve what has been decided; not to present an alternative or question the thinking behind these decisions. Throughout the whole process there doesn’t seem to be any feedback from Council, yet alone meaningful discussion on what the Community may desire.

To try and gain an understanding of the process I decided to follow the paper trail as best I could. My starting point was our 2021 Community Plan for Mercury Bay Central (Whitianga and immediate area). This Plan is 14 pages of very beautiful presentation, unfortunately less effort went into thecontent. It is not until page 8 where you have a section headed “Our People” which lists a number of things the Council cannot really do much about; things such as needing more Affordable Housing. The following 3 pages list what we want for our Infrastructure and Environment and the local Iwi get a page to present their wish list. There is very little that is concrete in any of these pages.

Page 12 is a little better, listing projects the communities would like to see. It is not clear who requested these or whether the Community Board agrees with them but as they are all included one presumes they have been agreed to. This includes the only Footpath/Cycleway requested which is to run from the campground at Simpsons through Wharekaho to Harbour Lights Terrace.

When you get into the Long-Term Plan itself you do get some figures. For example, there was approximately $160 thousand to be spent each year on footpath construction. Bearing in mind there is only one footpath in the plan you would think the good people of Wharekaho could safely walk along the road by now, but apparently not. Even worse the budget for the 2022/23 year was halved. Also of interest was that there was no budget for the Whitianga Esplanade project in 2022/23 LTP or Annual Plan.

By the time we get to 2023/24 the Footpath budget is now zero, but a quick drive down that way shows that nothing has been spent on this item. To be fair that was a tough year for Council and funds obviously had to be diverted to the repairs need after the 2023 storm season but according to the Council’s own figures, at least $320 thousand would appear to have been allocated to the Wharekaho footpath since 2021 but this was not spent on it. So where did the money go? Are ratepayers entitled to see how ‘the actual compares to the plan’? The 2023/24 year saw our capital expenditure budget slashed by 90% approximately which is why there was nothing for the footpath, but miraculously $80,000 of the reduced budget was allocated to the Esplanade even though its LTP budget was zero. I wonder how this decision was made.

The 2024 – 2034 Long Term Plan set out the budget and commitments far better than previous years. The TCDC (council) is to be commended on this, but it becomes a bit sadder for the good people of Wharekaho. Their footpath appears to have gone. The Council had three years to get it done, did not do so and the money appears to have gone elsewhere and ratepayers have no visibility of this.

Is this really a process for the benefit of rate payers? Not to worry though; we have found a budget of $12.5 million for work on the Esplanade even though there does not appear to be a plan for this. The original requirement seemed to be for a pedestrian crossing by the wharf but I guess this has grown in magnificence.

Will that $12.5 million be invested the best way possible for the community? Possibly, but possibly not. Maybe the community should be asked to decide. Last year, our Mayor stated, “If Whitianga want a block wall, Whitianga can have it – subject to budget.” This commitment was made at a public meeting, held at the mercury Bay Bowling Club,  early in 2023 when discussion was quite intense regarding preserving our beach and shore front through the building of a rock/block wall post Cyclones Hale and Gabriel.

Well Mayor Len Salt, how about we see some genuine democracy. Call a public meeting in Whitianga and put it to the vote. Where do we want the $12.5 million invested – securing our beach against the effects of climate change or an undefined piece of work at the Esplanade?  Let Whitianga decide.

As this goes to print, TCDC has concluded its deliberations on the LTP (21 and 22 May) and presumable taken  into account all the submissions presented by. Lastly volunteer ratep[ayers and community organisations. Added to that,I see from last week’s The Informer – front page, some key points from a united front of the Residents and Ratepayers Associations.

We wait in anticipation.