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Local Government

A fish rots from the head down

Our Mayor and Councillors have proposed a haphazard patchwork of activities and tasks and labelled it a 2024/34 Long-Term Plan (LTP). It is not a plan. It is riddled with inconsistencies and activities/tasks not appropriately costed.
 |  Flemming H Rasmussen  | 

LOCAL INDEPENDENT LAWYER

1. THEIR EVER-INCREASING REQUEST FOR MORE MONEY (WHERE IS THE MONEY TREE?)

During a cost-of-living crisis, our elected representatives increased our rates by a whopping 11.6% (avg.) last year (2023/24). They now propose to repeat the feast with a 12.9% (avg.) increase (2024/25).

In Mercury Bay the proposed increase is 16.3%, topped only by Coro-Colville at 17.3%. Thames’ proposed rate increase is 9.9%

Yet, somehow, in the LTP, we are to believe our rates (including this year’s avg. 12.9% hike) will average 5.1% p.a. throughout the LTP – less than half of yearly increases in the last two years. Even they do not believe that!

2. A FLAWED LTP

The proposed 2024/34 LTP is flawed on two levels:

2.1 Politically: Like a lemming running over the cliff, blind, it seems TCDC is continuing its cost-destructive, non-sustainable path of building an ever-increasing staff bureaucracy hiding behind a compliance and governance shield while straying outside statutory and local government requirements.

TCDC is taking on central government obligations (social services) and a plethora of nice-to-have initiatives that are not required by law. All paid by us, the ratepayer, and all whilst TCDC is not focusing on doing the basics sustainably.

TCDC wants an average residential dwelling on the eastern side of the peninsula to pay close to $90 weekly in rates (Mercury Bay $4,610pa, Whangamata $4,553pa, Tairua-Pauanui $4,566pa). That’s before repaying the mortgage, paying utilities, and putting food on the table!

What are we getting for all that money? Many residents lack safe drinking water and wastewater reticulation. On the list of essential (critical) services, not much is more essential than safe drinking water and wastewater reticulation. TCDC is statutorily bound to deliver it, but they are not.

2.2 Structure: The proposed LPT is inadequate, failing the most basic acid tests for planning rigour and robustness. It is full of “blue moon” assumptions.

3. WHAT IS A GOOD PLAN?

To build, grow, and run profitable businesses and organisations, one needs to know what a good plan looks like. A good LTP serves as a roadmap for achieving desired outcomes, i.e., delivering essential, statutory-regulated services to our communities. Its purpose is to provide direction, focus, and guidance while allowing flexibility and adaptation. It should be based on a well-thought-out and organised strategy,  designed to achieve specific outcomes (objectives)efficiently and effectively.

3.1 The proposed LTP assessed against the following planning criteria, just doesn’t pass

Clarity: Objectives must be clearly outlined, steps to be taken, and resources required stated. No ambiguity. Everyone involved must understand their roles/responsibilities.

Feasibility: Must be realistic and achievable in time and within resource constraints.

Flexibility: It must be structured but adaptable to unexpected changes in circumstances. (It is based on central government bailing us out).

Comprehensiveness: All relevant factors are accounted for. Potential risks are addressed, and contingencies provided.

Alignment: Aligns with TCDC’s overarching responsibilities.

Measurability: The plan’s goals and objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) – allowing progress to be tracked, performance to be evaluated, and adjustments made as necessary.

Communication: Effective LTP communication is essential for its successful implementation. Stakeholders must be informed about the plan, its objectives, and their roles in executing it. B- (PASS).

Continuous Improvement: A good plan is dynamic. Iteratively reviewed and refined based on feedback, evaluation, and changing circumstances. TBA –

3.2 A closer look at proposed LTP rate increases

Per the table below, TCDC wants you to believe our rates will only increase 5.1%pa on average from 2024 to 2034, less than half of the last two-yearly increases.

2024/25 12.9%

2025/26 7.2%

2026/27 8.1%

2027/28 4.1%

2028/29 3.7%

2029/30 2.3%

2030/31 3.4%

2031/32 2.1%

2032/33 2.0%

2033/34 1.7%

Looking carefully, a reader will note TCDC’s biased, front-loaded, high yearly compounding rate increases in the first three years, followed by a sharp drop-off from 2027 onwards, dropping to a level below the forecasted rate of inflation from 2029 onwards. Really!

The rate drop-off at unsustainable levels somehow coincides with the next 2027 LTP review. You can draw your inference and conclusion from this coincidence.

4. WHAT IS REQUIRED

4.1 A real and feasible plan

TCDC must not adopt the proposed LTP. It is flawed and not fit for purpose.

Our elected members must return to the drawing board and develop a “Back-to-Basics-No-Frills-LTP” covering only required statutory services. These services must be delivered as quality, value-for-money, sustainable services. A fully costed, realistic budget must underpin the plan. Nothing more. Nothing less.

4.2 A prudent fiscal policy

Our Council must adopt a prudent (straitjacket) fiscal policy stating future rate increases must be capped at the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with the only allowed addition being basic cost coverage of additional (new) imposed central government compliance requirements (if any).

5. CONCLUSION:

TCDC’s proposed LTP is a haphazard patchwork of activities/tasks. It is not a plan. It is riddled with inconsistencies not appropriately costed.

We need a “Back-to-Basics-No-Frills” costed LTP and supporting straitjacket fiscal policy.

TCDC, as an organisation, is failing to deliver what we, the ratepayers, require and are entitled to receive for our rates. Our present elected representatives are the root cause of this failure.

What do you think?