Consultation

 

Address to HMLB on 21 July 2020 by Gary Osborne

Mr Chairman, Board members, ladies and gentlemen, if we are to have any faith in the consultation process being  a process  for ratepayers to have their say then that process must be meaningful and transparent, listened to and acted upon.

On February 22 this year pool owners were advised of the council’s proposal to move from service fees payable upon a 3-yearly inspection, to a targeted rate payable in advance. Councillors had discussed the matter in workshops on 27 November 2019. Prior to this, the 2018/28 Long Term Plan had been adopted on 27 June 2018. Section 23 (3)(a) of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 says “A local authority may set a rate that is not provided for in its long-term plan and funding impact statement only if –

the local authority is satisfied that the rate is required to meet an unforeseen and urgent need for revenue that cannot be met by any other means, having regard to the manner in which it has, in its long-term plan and funding impact statement allocated the costs of the activities or groups of activities to which the need for revenue relates.”

At a meeting with Linda Cooper, Waitakere Ward Councillor, and Andrew Duncan, Manager Financial Policy, on 29 June, I asked the question “What is the unforeseen and urgent need for revenue that council is claiming was not provided for in the Long Term Plan or its Funding Impact Statement?” Mr Duncan was dismissive and said Section 23 was irrelevant. It couldn’t have been Covid-19 because Government did not announce that as an emergency until March 25, whereas councillors were discussing targeted rates in workshops 4 months earlier.

On 21 May councillors voted to accept the targeted rate following information provided by council officers. “The council proposed to replace the $130 first inspection fee for pool fencing inspections with an annual targeted rate of $44 for all private pool owners. 36 per cent of feedback from consultation supported this proposal while 40 per cent did not.” Councillors were also advised that the 5 local boards that had provided feedback all supported targeted rates.

Pool owners who contacted me expressed concern over the process, the difficulty in lodging submissions and in getting feedback. The original letter dated 22 Feb directed pool owners to a link on the Council website “Have your say” but there was no specific provision for feedback on pool fencing. I read every single submission on pool fencing. My analysis was at considerable variance with that provided to councillors  —  55% against, 29% for.

On 2 June, when I offered to discuss the wide variation in analyses by taking one board as an example Mr Duncan said he was not prepared to waste a staff member’s time on it.

 

At our meeting on 29 June  I read out the submissions from 3 of the Local Boards that had provided feedback supporting the proposal and asked Mr Duncan, by way of example, to classify one submission as a “yes” or “no”. He refused.  I pointed out that in 4 out of the 5 Boards that had supported the proposal the majority of submitters were against it.  I asked Linda Cooper how many submissions she had actually read. She said “none” but said councillors relied on the precis presented by council officers.

 

Mr Chairman, at our meeting on 8 June I discussed with you how I had classified each Henderson-Massey submission. I expressed concern about the wide variation in analyses.

 

With the inception of the Super City, we were promised accountability, transparency and efficiency. To date I have yet to see delivery. Ladies and gentlemen, consultation in Auckland Council is a sham.

 

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Marae for Harbourview

On 18 June 2020 the Te Atatu Marae Coalition Trust Board presented a Marae project update to The Henderson Massey Local Board.

My comments during Public Forum follow.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a ratepayer I want to see my money spent wisely and I want to have input into what it’s spent on.

In the 1950’s private land on Te Atatu Peninsula was acquired by Auckland Harbour Board under the Public Works Act.

In 1989 approximately 115 ha was transferred from AHB to WCC.

In 1992 WCC ratepayers strongly opposed use of the land for housing or a marae.

In 1998 Bob Harvey proposed a Museum of Gardens and commercial development

In 1999 MP’s Neeson and Carter surveyed their constituents. More than 70% of respondents wanted the remaining land retained as a park, undeveloped.

In 2000 WCC said it would gazette 36 ha as the People’s Park.

In October 2000 Council voted against a proposal to set aside 2.5 ha of Harbourview land for a marae.

 

I wish to quote now from Waitakere City News June 2001.

“The  Council has voted unanimously to turn the 115 ha known as Harbourview into a park.”

“Last year the Council undertook a consultation exercise asking the community what it wanted on the land, and following that asked the Te Atatu Residents and Ratepayers group to develop a concept for a “People’s Park.”

“Mayor Bob Harvey says he was delighted that the concept was fully endorsed. “The people have told us loud and clear that they want no development on this land and we’ve listened.”

A levy of $45 was imposed on all ratepayers

“For the price of two hamburgers per year people are getting an absolutely magnificent waterfront park. This is another Cornwall Park which will be enjoyed for generations to come. It will (be) a legacy that all of us can be proud of “, says Mayor Harvey.

 

In mid-2003 there was a proposed plan change to allow a marae. The result of public consultation revealed in November from 91 submissions 74 were opposed.

 

Never the less here we are today in 2020 following various plan changes that culminated in the Unitary Plan allowing for a designated area on the Harbourview Park for a marae.

 

In 2010 $1,191,671 (the Harbourview Park fund) was transferred from WCC to AC.

Since 1 Dec 2012 Te Atatu Pony Club has paid a monthly rent to AC of $152.11.

A portion of the land used by the Causeway Alliance for a depot generated a significant monetary return, in excess of $2m.

  1. Why were these incomes not credited to the Harbourview Park fund?
  2. What is the current financial viability of the Marae Coalition?
  3. Is the HMLB satisfied with their viability?
  4. What assurances do ratepayers have that we will not be called upon for further funding?
  5. What is the proposed ownership title for the land for a marae?
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Pool Fencing Inspections

Twenty years ago, Waitakere City Council (WCC), following new interpretations of the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, embarked upon a campaign whereby prosecutions were threatened against owners of compliant pools for such things as having tables and chairs and BBQs in the immediate pool area. A number of pool owners banded together and in 2003 POAG (Pool Owners Action Group) was formed to take a class action against WCC in the District Court. Instead WCC, confident of its stance, wanted to seek a declaratory judgment in the High Court. Our lawyer advised us we were probably best to accept WCC’s suggestion, otherwise it was highly likely that if they lost in the District Court, they would appeal the case to the High Court and drain us of funds. In 2004 every aspect of WCC’s declaratory judgment was lost and POAG was awarded $20,000 costs. Our legal fees were $40,000. Judge Randerson pointed out that contradictions between the Building Act and the FOSPA (Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, 1987) were unhelpful.

In 2011 I was invited by Auckland Council (the new Supercity Council) to join an external working party charged with looking at workable solutions to eliminate contradictions between the Building Act and FOSPA. I served on that committee for 5 years without pay. I constantly emphasised the  need for three C’s  —consistency, certainty and common sense.

On 1/1/17 the Building (Pools) Amendment Act took effect. We were told one of the aims was to reduce compliance costs for pool owners. The new law provides for 3 yearly inspections of pool fencing.

On 9/5/19 my pool was inspected. The visit lasted 15 minutes but I noted it was billed as 80 minutes “duration”.  Upon questioning this I was told this was largely due to traffic on the North Shore. I complained to my two councillors, Linda Cooper and Penny Hulse, and a week later received an email from Julie Lardner (AC) saying the $128 covered costs such as wages, vehicles, fuel, IT equipment, uniforms, buildings etc. I was told this was a service which had to be “user pays”.

On 18/5/19 I put 9 questions to AC as a LGOIMA request.

On 1/6/19 my wife received an unsigned arrears notice from AC 19 dated 27 May.

On 11/6/19 AC advised me my request was denied. That same day an unsigned letter was sent to my wife by AC threatening her credit rating.

On 17/6/19 I complained to the Ombudsman.

On 8/9/19 my wife received another unsigned threatening letter from AC. “Final Notice.”

On 20/9/19 the Ombudsman advised me to lodge a formal complaint with S Town (CE, AC). I did so.

On 18/11/19 I received an email from S Town saying he had instructed staff to reactivate my invoice. Since then I have contacted the Ombudsman and received an assurance there will be no further action on my invoice until the Ombudsman has responded.

 

To date I have sought details of income and expenditure in council accounts relating to pool fencing inspections but they have not been very cooperative. I await a response from the Ombudsman.

 

 

 

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Harbourview Marae

Address to HMLB on 21 May 2019 by Gary Osborne
Mr Chairman, Board members, ladies and gentlemen.
I am concerned at the paucity of information regarding the proposed marae on the Harbourview land.
Unfortunately, too often ratepayers are treated as second-class citizens. We are useful for funding various programmes but are given limited information about them. We are invited to enter into consultations but too often our views are treated with dismissive contempt.
I was appalled at the attempt to stifle any discussion on the marae during the public submissions re the Harbourview Plan at the HMLB meeting on 4 December 2018. As I pointed out at the time, one third of the introduction was devoted to the marae. The speaker following me was shut down in a matter of seconds.
At a meeting of HMLB on 7 February 2017 it was claimed that Waitakere City Council had promised in 2003 to gift 2.5ha of land for a marae. I called for minutes to substantiate that, but no such minutes exist. Recently a pamphlet has been circulating advertising the planting of over 1000 trees as part of Matariki celebrations. The pamphlet claims, inter alia, “Supported by Auckland Council Parks and Reserves and Henderson/Massey Local Board.”
I am concerned that ratepayers, especially those who were levied $45 some years ago and are therefore stakeholders are being kept in the dark.
There are some pertinent questions that need asking and I put them to the Board today.
1. Is there a lease in place for the marae?
2. Has the Board approved a business plan for the marae?
3. Is there any intention of donating ratepayer money to the Marae Coalition?
4. What tangible funds does the Marae Coalition currently have?
5. Did the Board approve this tree planting as claimed in the pamphlet?
6. What impact will trees have on the view shaft?
7. What attempts has the Board made to advise ratepayers of what is going on?
8. Is the Board aware not one cent of the NZTA rental for the Works Depot has made it to the Harbourview account?
9. Is the Board aware not one cent of the pony club lease has made it to the Harbourview account?

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Harbourview Park Hearings

Recently members of the public were invited to make submissions to the Henderson-Massey Local Board on the ”Draft Harbourview-Orangihina Park Masterplan”.

There were 248 written submissions.

Yesterday at a Hearing commencing at 10 am here were 13 oral submissions.

Prior to submissions Board Chairman, Shane Henderson attempted to stifle any comments on the Marae.

The proposed Marae is inside the Harbourview Park.

Here is my submission.

I have called for a referendum.

 

“Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I wish to go back two decades to a time when 2 local MP’s, Chris Carter and Brian Neeson conducted surveys to see what the ratepayers of Te Atatu wanted done with the land handed to Waitakere City Council by Auckland Harbour Board. The overwhelming response was for a People’s Park devoid of buildings similar to Cornwall Park.

 

On 25 October 2000 WCC voted that the land become an open space park.

Following extensive public consultation and work put in by the Te Atatu Residents and Ratepayers Association the Open Space Management Plan was adopted by WCC in February 2003.

In relation to that I would like to express a special vote of thanks to the late Jeff Neilsen, Elizabeth Grimmer, Leo Nobilo, Bob Stannic and Anne Grace.  A levy of $9 per annum was imposed on all Waitakere ratepayers for 5 years for maintenance of the park.

 

Then in mid-2003 there was a proposed plan change to allow a marae. Further to public consultation it was revealed in November 2003 there were 91 submissions  — 74 against , 17 for.

 

At an HMLB meeting in February 2017 it was fallaciously claimed  “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover2.5 hectares of land to Te Atatu Coalition Marae.” That’s nonsense. There are no minutes to substantiate such a claim.

 

It is my wish that we honour the plan adopted in February 2003. There is nothing more frustrating for ratepayers who have invested time thought and money into the democratic process only to have agreed commitments subsequently thrown out or modified to such an extent that the original plan becomes unrecognisable. Many of the people wanting extensive changes to the accepted plan from 2003 won’t have even contributed one cent to the People’s Park.

 

Bearing in mind the considerable time and effort that went into the 2003 plan, with the proposed extensive changes, in fairness to all the original submitters and all ratepayers who were levied $9 per annum for 5 years I would like to call for a referendum on this matter.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHOULD A COMMISSIONER BE APPOINTED FOR AUCKLAND COUNCIL?

Below are comments from a fellow ratepayer that I think are most worthy of consideration.

The Government should appoint a Commissioner to oversee Auckland Council

Here is why they should, and how they should successfully implement the changes needed to remedy the council.

Auckland Council have released their 2017/2018 Annual Report.

This report shows the continuing pattern of growing debt, interest payments, operating expenses and staff numbers.

In every instance they have exceeded their budgets. Debt is now$12.66billion.

This negative information was excluded from the Report’s summaries.

Continuously setting budgets and then failing to meet them then excluding such vital and controversial evidence from their summaries is one just one example of council’s culture of denial, lack of transparency and accountability.

Unlike the private sector where poorly managed companies perish, council have an unlimited supply of money available and have developed more and more unpopular ways to access it. Even with these increases in taxation, services and fees and sale of public land, the figures are still worsening.

Auckland Council say they are operating “in a prudent and effective manner”.

I believe that they are not providing either good management or the public service that they should. I believe that Council’s senior management and councillors are either are out of their depth or cannot see their failure. Whatever the reason, it is clear that they are not capable of turning around an ever worsening situation without firm accountable outside help.

The Government must take action.

Government cannot continue to stand by as things worsen year by year.  The government set this up and are responsible to us to make it work. They must acknowledge that it is not working, is not what they promised and then provide a competent organization to run our city.

This is what Government must do.

The Minister will appoint a Commissioner. The task is to get council to be an effective, open, economic, user friendly organization in which all staff are accountable for and want to achieve and maintain these values.

The starting point. The Commissioner will call for an immediate stop on increasing costs and debt and appoint an overseer to both the Mayor and the CEO.  These overseers will obtain from each a firm plan, with regular targets, to achieving the goal. The Mayor and CEO will report on a daily basis. The targets must be achieved. This is a task regularly accomplished by senior management in the private sector so it is reasonable to expect this of the senior council management.

Achieving targets will necessitates big changes. These will be implemented by council with the help of private practice Cost Accountants, Quantity surveyors and others. The whole organisation and its appendages must be scrutinised. The validity of each part must be questioned. Revising legislation may be necessary to remove non-contributory parts and implement changes. New purchasing rules will be implemented.

Lazy practices, corruption and favouring will be stopped.

Good staff will stay because bad working conditions and bullies will be rooted out.

Senior staff, councillors and local boards often just “go with the flow”. We are told that council is “operating in a prudent and effective manner”. That their purchasing is economic and without corruption because they have (non-existent) “checks and balances”. They will stop ignoring or censoring people who question their practices. Accountability will stop evasive answers and excuses

Currently, Council staff control the CEO and elected members by monitoring and withholding information, censoring, limiting public access and feedback and with alternative truths.

Local boards are rendered impotent by council minders who will manipulate information and actively support members who favour the council’s wishes against those who do not.

Change must and certainly can made to happen. A commissioner working with council staff, and elected members can achieve this.

There are many people with information available to ensure success.

 

 

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Harbour View Park

Despite overwhelming support for a People’s Park devoid of buildings and adoption of an Open Space Management Plan by Waitakere City Council in 2003, numerous attempts have been made to give the green light for a marae.

Henderson-Massey Local Board is currently calling for submissions on yet another plan.

This opened on 13 August and closes on 9 September. I urge you to have your say.

Here is my own submission:

 

I wish to make a submission on the Harbourview-Orangihina draft masterplan.

I would like to see management of the park in accordance with the 144 page document on the Open Space Management Plan adopted by Waitakere City Council in February 2003.

 

People wanted a People’s Park akin to Cornwall Park for all people unfettered by buildings except for toilets and essential amenities.

On 25 Oct 2000 WCC voted that the land become an open space park.

This followed extensive public consultation.

I remember well the levy imposed on ratepayers  — $9 per annum per property for 5 years. I had more than one property.

 

In mid-2003 there was a proposed plan change to allow a marae.

In November 2003 it was revealed there were 91 submissions  –74 against, 17 for.

In February 2017 it was claimed “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 hectares of land to re Atatu Coalition Marae.”

Despite my request I have seen no minutes that support that claim.

 

I am opposed to any buildings on the park (including a marae) other than essential amenities.

 

I would also like to see the historic brick house retained in the Harbourview People’s Park.

 

Yours sincerely,

Gary Osborne

 

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Who Owns The Harbour Bridge?

Four years in the making, at a cost of $7.5million, Auckland’s Harbour Bridge was opened in 1959.

It quickly became evident it could not cope with the volume of traffic and 10 years later the “clip-ons” were added at a cost close to the entire cost of the original bridge. Initially a toll bridge, the bridge was paid for by government-backed loans. The clip-ons had an expected life span of 50 years.

In 1987 cracks in the clip-ons required major repairs.

In 2007 a $43m maintenance programme on the clip-ons was brought forward.

In 2009 a further $41m was committed to the upgrade.

On 4 July 2018 I wrote to both Auckland Council and New Zealand Transport Agency

“It is my understanding that the Harbour Bridge clip-ons had a 50-year life span and are due to be replaced within the next couple of years.

  1. What provisions have been made for their replacement?
  2. What is the estimated cost?
  3. How will this be funded?”

 

On 12 July NZTA advised me

“Thank you for getting in touch with questions related to the AHB clip-on. Your query was also received by the OIA office so we will be providing a formal response to you via the OIA response team in the next week.”

 

I will comment on the response when I get it as well as comment on ownership.

 

 

 

 

 

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Waitakere White Elephant up for Sale

Quietly slipping under the radar will be an Extraordinary meeting of the Henderson-Massey Local Board on Tuesday 3rd April to vote on the following remit.

“That the Henderson-Massey Local Board: endorses Corporate Property’s recommendation to the Finance and Performance Committee to dispose of 6 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson.”

In 2005, amidst howls of protest from ratepayers, Waitakere City Council (WCC) forged ahead with plans for a new Civic centre. The existing Civic Centre in Waipareira Ave had been architecturally designed to allow for expansion outwards and upwards and provided adequate car parks for ratepayers. It was sold to Unitech for an undisclosed sum but it is my understanding that Unitech bought it and on-sold it for a tidy profit in a delayed settlement that did not even require payment of a deposit.

On 28 November 2005 Waitakere City Council Chief Executive, Harry O’Rourke advised me the expenditure to date had been $20,286,566 and the net final cost would be $36,040,000.

On 19 July 2006 WCC issued a Press Release stating ”Customers to Waitakere City Council’s new headquarters can expect enhanced service when it opens its doors on Monday 24 July at 8am.”

On the opening day it was pandemonium. There was a total of 41 car parks allocated for ratepayers (including  6 handicapped). Parking for staff had been severely reduced from normal requirements and many staff parked in streets neighbouring Henderson High School. When parents dropped off and picked up their children from school the chaos was exacerbated.

I visited the Centre for the first time on 28 July and noted parking wardens issuing tickets to frustrated ratepayers.  — So much for enhanced service!

Recently, on 6 March 2018 it was reported in the Herald that the Service Centre was to be relocated, possibly to Albany. The Chairmen of both the Waitakere Ranges and Henderson-Massey Local Boards expressed surprise.

Recent figures have put the total cost of the Service Centre in 2007 at $46m. It has been reported that Council will decide on a proposal to sell on 17 April.

Important questions are:

  1. What is the anticipated sale price estimate?
  2. Where will the new Service Centre be?
  3. Will there be adequate parking for ratepayers?

The meeting will be held at 1.30 pm on 3 April in the Council Chambers at 6 Henderson Valley Rd.

 

 

 

 

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Communication Auckland Council Style

In February 2013 I became aware my emails to AC Councillors and Local Board members had been blocked for several months. I addressed a full council meeting on the issue and after initially denying anyone’s emails had been blocked or censored the Chief Executive acknowledged this had happened. He said that since the start of Auckland Council three people had been “case managed”. In an attempt to vindicate the action, Auckland Council spent $56,682.02 on a review by KPMG and Meredith Connell.                            www.accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/06/                               In the report under Section 30 it noted “council undertakes case management when it has been established that a customer would benefit from specific management to ensure a better service to the customer and the council.” Under Section 39 it noted “the council has an obligation to develop a policy to measure unreasonable complainant conduct and should do so in order to reduce legal risks.”

I was advised blocking of my emails had been discontinued.

Then in February 2015 my emails to elected representatives were blocked again. The initial reaction from the Manager, Democracy Services was

“Dear Gary,

Councillor Cooper has forwarded me a copy of the answer she sent to your 8.04am email yesterday, which proves that she received it. I wish to assure you that the Council is not blocking any of your emails. I consider this matter now closed.”

This was unacceptable to me as my eventual contact with Cr Cooper was via her private email. It was only after my insistence that if emails were not delivered to their intended recipients they had been “blocked”, that I was informed they had been “quarantined”.

 

Then on 22 September 2016, following being given the run-around by the Call Centre re a LGOIMA request, I lodged a complaint with Chief Executive, Stephen Town. Rather than address my complaint he launched a fusillade of generalised allegations against me accusing me of being abusive and causing council staff distress. On 23 September I refuted his allegations and asked him to substantiate them and provide me with a copy of threatening or abusive emails and a transcript of threatening or abusive phone calls. He refused.

 

On 7 October 2016 I complained to the Ombudsman.

 

On 4 November 2016 I received an email from Dayle Muru on behalf of the CE purporting to answer my letter to Mr Town of 23 September 2016. It was an evasive non-specific reply.

Re phone calls : “The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre. Therefore, we are unable to provide you transcripts in relation to the behaviour that led to Stephen’s letter to you.”

Re emails : “The behaviour complained of was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails.”

 

On 20 January 2017 it was revealed I was one of 31 ratepayers restricted from contacting AC.

 

On 24 March 2017 I enquired what was happening re my 6-monthly review. AC’s UCC (unreasonable customer complainant) policy provided for six-monthly reviews.

 

On 28 March Dayle Muru advised me “In regards to your query about the six month review in accordance with the UCC policy, this will be carried out by the legal team and the Chief Executive and will take about two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”

 

On 27 April I was invited to make a written submission on my review.

 

On 12 May Sally Woods, Customer Experience Manager, advised me “Your review is now with the legal team.”

 

On 16 June Sally Woods said they had referred the matter to Meredith Connell to make sure they were being fair to me. That cost AC $5908.

 

On 10 July Stephen Town wrote to me saying my ban had been extended for a further 12 months. I asked for a copy of the Meredith Connell report but my request was refused.

 

On 5 March 2018 Sally Woods advised me of my impending UCC review due on 22 March and asked for my feedback. I sent it.

 

On 23 March I received the following email from Sally Woods.

“Sorry for the delay in providing a final response to you.

Michael Quinn has completed his review and provided a recommendation to Stephen Town. You should expect a letter from Stephen early next week.”

To add insult to injury she invited me to have my say on the “10 year budget consultation.”

 

Horowhenua District Council has also had communication problems.

www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/570/Statement_on_Horowhenua_District_Council.pdf

 

On 27 March at 4.10 pm I received an email enclosing a letter from Mr Town advising my communication restrictions had been removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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