Gisborne NEWS - from Deputy Mayor Rehette Stoltz
...from the Desk of: Rehette Stoltz Deputy Mayor Gisborne District Council (& member Tairawhiti District Health Board)
10 June 2018
Wow – the winter cold has arrived early this year! We can’t really complain as we have had a long, warm summer, so we will just have to layer our beanies and puffers and soldier on.
Unfortunately we are seeing more and more extreme weather events. Not only in Gisborne and New Zealand, but all over the world. Just in the past couple of weeks, we have seen two volcano explosions in Hawaii and Guatemala and flooding and other out-of-the-usual events are becoming more and more common. Maybe it is just that we have instant coverage of anything happening anywhere in the world via the Internet? I believe that the weather patterns are slowly changing though, and that it is affecting our everyday lives and how we do business.
The recent wet weather event up the coast is one of many that happened this year. A large amount of water is coming down in a short period of time, and river water levels rise quickly.
Unfortunately this time around, the heavy rain also caused the movement of large amounts of forestry slash and other organic material into the waterways and their presence combined with the fast-moving water, destroyed everything in its way.
We went up the coast on Friday to take a first-hand look at the damage. Aside from the 2 houses that were destroyed, farmers are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of re-fencing and fence repairing. The silt covered fertile land will eventually go back to normal, but roads and bridges are a major concern and we will have to spend millions of dollars in repairs.
Several roads were still closed to traffic on Friday because of safety concerns. Some bridges have been re-opened, but the Wiggins bridge was pushed 30cms by the wall of fast-moving slash, so extensive repairs will have to take place before it can be re-opened.
There's a lot of unhappiness in our region about this event. Some put the blame on the forestry companies and accuse them of unsafe practices. Some blame the Council for not having more stringent consent conditions and for not monitoring the forestry industry better. Some believe the changing weather patterns are to blame.
Whatever or whoever you believe is to blame, one thing is certain – we need to do better! Once the clean up has happened, we will have to have an in-depth investigation to clarify any or all of the contributing factors.
We need to look after our environment, infrastructure and people better and make sure that we do not operate in a way that force us to spend millions of rate or tax dollars on fixing infrastructure, just to do it all again after another extreme weather event.
Council and the forestry industry need to work more closely together to make sure best practice is commonplace in our region.
Catch up soon. Stay warm!
17 April 2018
Yesterday was one of my proudest days since I became a Councillor in 2010.
After years of planning and changing and planning again, we opened the doors to the new refurbished H.B Williams Memorial library. As a rookie Councillor way back, I put my hand up to be on the Councillor steering group and help work through initial plans, budgets and designs.
Projects like these take years from end to finish, and I am honoured to say that I am the only Councillor that has been on the steering group since day one, so you can understand why this project is special to me.
I took my boys into the library today to get some books for the school holidays, and it was bustling with excited regulars as well as interested new users. Needless to say, my boys are very impressed – especially with the self-issue and self-return technology!
There are new spacious children and teenage areas as well as breakout rooms for people to study or use as a meeting room. Another spectacular feature is the open-air courtyard where kids can read in the sun or learn about the constellation from the feature wall outside. Please make sure you check out this wonderful community asset. The library is our most-used Council asset with more than 200,000 visits a year!
Consultation on the Ten Year Pan is drawing to a close, so I urge you to get your submissions in as soon as possible. For Councillors to consider your request or suggestion, your submission needs to be in before Friday, the 20th of April at 5pm. You can make a submission in person at the GDC offices, write to us via snail mail, or submit online via the GDC website.
Staff will be processing the hundreds of submissions in the next month, and you will have the opportunity to speak to Councillors about your submission (if you wish) on our hearing days in the middle of May. We will adopt the Ten Year Plan at the end of June.
The end of April is always special for us. That is when we remember and honour those brave young men who fought for the freedom that we take for granted today. So many families were affected by the several wars that we have been involved in, and Anzac Day is a special day where we remember our young men who stood up on our behalf.
As always, there will be a dawn service as well as a 9:30 civil ceremony at the Cenotaph on the 25th of April.
Lest we forget.
12 February 2018
What’s on in council this week
We had all our committee meetings last week, so there are no official council meetings this week.
I will share a few general council thoughts and happenings.
We have had our first couple of weeks in our new GDC building and it is lovely to have most of our staff under one roof — the last staff will join us soon. It is a welcoming, modern work environment and you can feel a positive buzz within the GDC corridors. Contractors are still doing some finishing touches and I expect we will have some growing pains to sort out while we settle in.
Feedback from our community is overwhelmingly positive. Several people have popped in to take a look around and some have stayed a while to listen to council debate in our new chambers. GDC has now modernised (a bit!) and you can tune into all council meetings via our website. Yes, you do not have to attend meetings you might be interested in in person — just click on the GDC website link: http://www.gdc.govt.nz/livestream/ and you can sit back in the comfort of your home to keep an eye on your local representatives. Politics is not everyone’s cup of tea, so you might wonder who would bother to tune in? Surprise, surprise — hundreds of people logged on to experience this new technology in action!
It is exciting to see our new, renovated library taking shape. It is our most-used council facility and people are eager to get back to enjoying this shared community space. Staff did the best they could from their temporary premises, and I am sure they will be delighted to move back. This project was initiated decades ago when money was generously bequeathed to the GDC, and it has been a major council project-in-planning since 2010. There have been some expected and some unexpected hick-ups and delays, and the official opening will be in early April. As was always the plan, Murray Ball’s famous Wal and Dog statue will take its proud place in front of the new library.
The feedback period for letting us know your thoughts on changing the name of Poverty Bay to Turanganui a Kiwa/Poverty Bay has now finished. The council has received a lot of feedback and it will be compiled and shared with councillors and the community soon. We have a passionate community with strong views, and both sides of the proposal have had a good trashing in the paper and online.
Last but not least, councillors have decided to include the proposed $28m Olympic Pool upgrade in our Ten-Year Plan consultation. There will be a council/rates contribution of about $6m, and the rest will have to be sourced externally. Feedback has been on different ends of the spectrum. So far, from what I have seen on social media and in the news, there are two camps — those saying, “Yes, get on with it and do the required work to get the pool complex up to date”. Then there is another group that feel it is a massive amount of money to spend on a pool complex, and they would rather have that quantum of money spent elsewhere (or not spent at all). We will be asking for your opinion in March during the Ten Year Plan consultation period, so be sure to let us know what you would like to see happen with the Olympic Pool complex.
Christmas / New Year 2018 Greeting
It is always a privilege to look back on a year and do a stocktake on the highs and the lows. This year has been a busy, productive year at Council and I am proud of the work we have done. Obviously we cannot always please everyone, but that is a given in our line of work. You give it your everything by being well prepared and always thinking what is optimal for our region, and then put your energy behind making the best decision.
We have been doing a lot of extra work the past six months to prepare for our Ten Year Plan process early next year. We have been doing early consultation to gauge the community’s appetite for large projects, like the Wastewater project. The early consultation guides us on what we will bring to you for formal consultation in March and April 2018. We had to get together and prioritise on what we will do and when. Our main focus is to make sure we do the basics well. Let’s get the stormwater system operation optimally (DrainWise) and clarify and treat our wastewater with UV before it goes to the outfall. Ultimately we want to remove the outfall from the bay and treat clarified wastewater with a wetland. We urgently need to fix our dire roading situation and staff is working tirelessly behind the scenes to set us up for better roading outcomes this coming year.
Staff and Councillors deserve a well-deserved break. Some GDC staff will be working over the Christmas holidays to move everyone back into our new Awarua building and we will have the dawn blessing ceremony tomorrow at 5am. In April we will be moving into our lovely new library – exciting times ahead in 2018!
I am looking forward to a quiet, peaceful Christmas break with my family and friends. In January I will take our two boys to Cape Town to hang out with their grandparents and cousins – they can barely contain their excitement!
I will catch up with you early February. Have a blessed Christmas time filled with laughter, fun and good times. Look after friends and neighbours that might be lonely and make sure to take some time to recharge your battery for an exciting 2018.
1 November 2017
Now that the dust is slowly settling after Winston decided who our new Government would be, we are all anxiously waiting to see what will change and how it will affect us. You might be ecstatically happy and optimistic about what is to come, or you might be a tad miserable because your teams were not chosen, but one thing we should all be happy about is that we will have four representatives instead of two lobbying in parliament on our behalf. That is great for our region.
Local government is mostly apolitical and we work closely with the Government of the day. We had a very good working relationship with both Anne Tolley and Meka Whaitiri in the past term, and we look forward to working with them in this coming term. Meka is the Minister of Customs as well as Associate Minister of Agriculture, Local Government and Crown/Maori relations. We are also happy to have Kiri Allan and Gareth Hughes on-board for the Tairawhiti. We had an initial meeting with Kiri Allan last week. Kiri and Meka will be our local representatives in Government, Gareth working beside them and Anne representing us in the Opposition Government. Meetings with our other representatives will happen soon. Kiri is enthusiastic to work on our behalf and is keen to get our input about our unique Tairawhiti issues.
Concerns that we wanted to bring to the new Government’s attention are regional employment, the Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) trials and our dire roading situation.
Increasing the minimum wage will have a positive effect in our region, but might be a challenge for business owners as they are constrained by the prices they receive for their products. We would like the government to support us in a wider approach to also lift the value of the products our region produce – both exporting and domestic produce.
Water security is the future, and we need to be pro-active. We have had great initial success with our MAR trial, which was largely funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). We are only one third of the way into completing these very promising trials, but with the disestablishment of MPI and no commitment to fund future irrigation schemes, we might need some assistance.
Our roads are in desperate need of attention. Several of our rural roads are an absolute mess as they are expected to carry freight that they were not built to accommodate. We are asking the new government to agree to a phased schedule of funding announcements that align with the 2017 Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan. We are requesting a Nov/Dec 2017 quantum scale of investment for the known forest harvest costs road upgrades. We also ask for a Dec 2017 investment for specific priority roads focussed on efficiency for forestry and other primary producers. We request a June 2018 indicative programme of work for SH35 and a June 2019 focus on the programme business case into upgrading SH2.
From a Council perspective. we recognize that the way we have been charging for roads will have to be changed as what we are currently doing is not working. We are looking into different funding options to fix and upgrade our network. Adjusting our current roading differentials charged to different users or possibly charging a levy for heavy truck users are some options being considered.
Recently, the new Government announced a $1Billion Regional Investment Fund, which should excite us all. We need our team in Parliament to lobby hard on our behalf to tap into that fund and make sure our region gets it fair share.
29 September 2017
With the national elections behind us, here at GDC we will carry on with business as usual while we wait for the King-maker (or possibly Queen-maker) to decide if it is business as usual nationally or if we will have a Labour-led government for the new term.
All I will say is: Never a dull moment!
We have a Future Tairawhiti meeting on Thursday and we cover big-ticket items like the Drainwise Project and our Representation Arrangements (how many Councillors and how many wards).
I will broadly cover these two large items – check out the GDC website for a full agenda - and I will end my column with some good news for property owners.
We had our Drainwise plan independently reviewed. The focus of Drainwise is to improve and correct where necessary, our stormwater and wastewater network. The two systems both need to function optimally for us to meet the level of service that our community deserve. During severe wet weather events, our wastewater system is overwhelmed by stormwater entering the system, and in order to stop wastewater flowing onto private property, Council has to open the scours into our rivers to relief the pressure. From an environmental, health and cultural view, this is unacceptable to our residents.
If we want to establish ourselves as a top tourist destination, we need to address this issue sooner than later. Drainwise has identified where we need to put our focus first. The plan identify 3 high impact areas - We need to stop property flooding where water flow over into gully traps, we need to fix cracked and leaking gully traps, and we need to make sure no roof water is directed into our wastewater system via gully traps or lateral wastewater pipes on private property.
Several other moderate and lower impact options are discussed. The big question is – who should pay for this? Some issues are obviously the responsibility of the property owner, but some issues have a portion of public good, so we will need to strike a balance on how we pay for this and how we assist private property owners to pay for their portion.
Moving on to the Representation review - every six years, Council have to take a look at how we represent our community. It is strictly mathematics looking at a number of residents per Councillor. We have nine city Councillors and four rural Councillors (one per rural ward). There is a plus/minus variance of 10% allowed. Rurality and communities of interest are some of the considerations included. We did this in 2011, and as a result, two of our northern rural wards absorbed the third and we lost one rural Councillor. This time around, both northern rural wards have a more than 20% variance, so we will need to talk to our community on their preferences of representation. The final call sits with the Local Government Commission.
Last but not least, some good news. Every three years, all properties in our district are revaluated. In our region, values are up, and that will make property owners happy. Final statistical reports will be run in October, so there will likely be some changes to the movements as more sales analysis is completed. A quick summary of expected trends as of 1 July 2017 are – Commercial and Industrial as well as Forestry will see a possible 10% increase. Residential properties might receive a 20% valuation increase and Lifestyle blocks 15%. The strongest overall performers are Horticulture & Cropping as well as Pastoral property owners with an expected 30% increase.
26 August 2017
We had a marathon week at Council last week that ended in a 7-hour formal Council meeting with a 750 page agenda.
Debates were varied and sometimes heated and overall we had a very productive day. At this stage the most talked-about issue that we are dealing with is the Wastewater options that we will take out to our community for consultation. The details of where we are at have been covered extensively in the paper, so I won’t bore you with that. What I would like to bring to your attention is the process that we will follow to make a final decision.
A selected group of Councillors and Iwi representatives studied different Wastewater options for months. With the guidance from technical experts and experienced, knowledgeable staff they fine-tuned a raft of options down to three.
The scope of their investigation specified specifically that they identify options that will meet our resource consent conditions. Council voted on Thursday to take these options out to early public consultation. Staff also recommended two other options - one is the default condition that will come into play if we fail to show that we have considered all possible avenues to meet the consent conditions.
Council will start pre-consultation in a few months time, to gauge the community’s appetite for a specific option that will then be consulted on formally during the pre-Ten Year Plan consultation in April 2018. Options range from approximately $23M to $53M capital cost with operational cost ranging from $1.5M-$2M. Whichever way we go, it will be a substantial investment.
Obviously, we do not only have the Wastewater options to consider – think DrainWise, roading etc. and you realize that we need to look at all the projects as part of our bigger picture.
Roading is causing a lot of rural residents a major headache and needs urgent attention.
An issue of serious concern to many residents are the wet weather sewage overflows into our rivers. The costs associated with the DrainWise project – which will aim to stop these - are still unclear, but will be significant as well.
So where am I going with this? In order for us to make decisions that reflects the needs and values of our community, we need to listen to you. I hear a lot of feedback about people’s frustration with the feeling of not being heard by Council. Council follows the Local Government special consultative guidelines, and to complement this, we go above and beyond to start interacting with our communities earlier via pre-consultation.
This includes meetings throughout the district over the months of March and April before adopting the Ten Year Plan at the end of June, but these meetings are not always well attended. We receive heaps of good feedback via these channels, but there are still large numbers of residents that do not feel comfortable to engage in this way.
Council has in the past 5 years embarked on using Facebook and other social media channels and we interact with large groups of residents in this way. Another consultation avenue is via the Mayor and Councillors. We have regular phone, email or personal interactions with residents who raise concerns and float ideas with us. If you can think of ways how Council can interact better, please let us know.
We work for you and want to make sure everyone feels empowered and confident to raise an issue. Consultation means something different to each person, ... so please make sure you let us know on how you would like to be informed and consulted on these very important issues.
17 July 2017
I am sure that no will argue with me that Council agendas are usually on the boring side. Not this time around!
I can assure you that every single item on our Future Tairawhiti agenda for this Thursday is interesting, very important and possibly controversial. I will mention a few, but for more detail, download the agenda from the GDC website, or consult the hard copy in the GDC foyer.
We start off by looking at the Makauri Aquifer Recharge (MAR) trial currently happening. Staff is recommending future trials to answer all questions posed. Funding and governance options for a full Managed Aquifer Recharge are still being investigated.
As part of our preparation for our 2018-2028 Ten Year Plan, GDC is required to prepare a 30-year Infrastructure Strategy. We focus on the 3 waters (stormwater, wastewater and our drinking and irrigation water supplies), as well as on our flood protection (Waipaoa Flood Control, Ruatoria River Protection as well as Coastal Hazards Protection). Our Community Facilities are currently being reviewed and will be included at a later stage.
Questions in regards to our water supplies that we will ask are: Should we look into water metering and charging for residential properties? Should we look at our water storage capacity and plan to maybe enlarge the Sang Dam to its original capacity or should we consider building a new dam in future? This is also where the MAR comes in when we look at future irrigation security and protecting our water sources.
We will also ask if we should re-look at reticulation at Wainui and/or Makaraka and what that would mean for property owners as well as consider our ability to accommodate them in our current systems. We also ask questions about water and wastewater options for our townships. In regards to protection, several options are considered to protect our fertile agricultural soils, Ruatoria township as well as our coastal communities.
We are all aware of our city stormwater inundation and its effect on our ability to pipe our wastewater effectively to the treatment plant in very wet conditions. Our current DrainWise project, that will aim to address our stormwater issues, is still being updated and streamlined by staff, and will be included at a later stage. In this report we look at options to reduce/illuminate our dry weather overflows.
How we treat and dispose of our Wastewater will be workshopped by Councillors after our meeting and we will consider the 3 options put forward by the Wastewater Options Review Group (WORG). We have to decide what options we will take to our community for consultation. We have several health, cultural and consent issues to take into account and balance that with our community’s ability to pay for it. For a thorough history on how we got to where we are today in regards to our wastewater, read Sheridan Gundry’s book, A Splendid Isolation, page 51-58.
We will take a look at possible options presented by Locales for the Observatory on Kaiti Hill and last but not least, we will discuss with the Tairawhiti Roads team, possible options to change the way we rate for different road users.
Possible options include reviewing and possibly adjusting our rating differentials to realistically reflect the impact of forestry (and other road users) on our roads as well as investigating the feasibility of a supplementary forestry levy for all logs collected at the port.
We have our work cut out for us. Please let us know your thoughts on these very important issues as we work towards making these decisions together as a community.