AC Are Councillors & Board Members worth their salt?

Every time there is a local body election we read about the poor voter turn-out and the apathy of the public.
I thought I’d take a little time to look at my own Local Board – the Henderson-Massey Local Board and run through some statistics.
Attendances at workshops & meetings: (Nov2013 – July2016)
Workshops held(2013) Mtgs(2013) Wksp(2014) Mtgs(2014) Wksp(2015) Mtgs(2015) Wksp(2016) Mtgs(2016)
6, 3, 49, 22, 48, 23, 32, 14
Attended
V Neeson 6, 3, 46, 20, 45, 22, 31, 13
S Henderson 6, 3, 47, 19, 42, 20, 26, 12
L Wilson 2, 3, 34, 14, 43, 15, 22, 8
W Flavell 5, 3, 29, 19, 31, 19, 6, 11
P Chan 6, 3, 45, 19, 45, 21, 46, 16
W Flaunty 6, 3, 37, 16, 46, 16, 23, 10
B Brady 6, 3, 44, 20, 42, 20, 21, 14
T Kirkley 6, 3, 49, 20, 43, 19, 19, 11

What salaries do Local Board members get?
2016/2017
Chair $91,100
Member $43,250
On top of this they get meeting allowances, communications allowances, travel allowances etc.
What salaries do Councillors get?
2016/17
Mayor $269,500
Deputy Mayor $151,850
Chair of committee of the whole $125,350
Councillor $105,800
A couple of weeks ago I put in a LGOIMA request asking for the total payments to Councillors and Local Board members, including allowances. There has been no reply yet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Public Works Act, Te Atatu Road Acquisitions

In September 2011, 109 property owners in Te Atatu Rd and Edmonton Road received notices from Auckland Transport(AT) saying that parts of their properties were required for road widening. In the pamphlet it was stated the project would improve traffic flow and provide for increase in general and heavy traffic flow. We were given a projected timeline of
2012-2013 — Land Acquisitions
2013-2014 — Construction
That was six years ago!!!
The following month Te Atatu Property Owners Group (TPOG) was formed to share information with affected property owners. In December 2011 a delegation of 20 TPOG members attended the Henderson-Massey Local Board meeting to express our concerns.
In January 2012 Auckland Council Property Limited (ACPL) advised they had been appointed as negotiators for land purchases by AT. Prior to that AT had written to landowners asking them to sign a document giving access to their properties over a period of 24 months for a consideration of 10 cents. (access to be given before purchases were paid for) I refused to sign.
I received four offers for my land –$20,000, $28,000, $45,000 and $47,000. I rejected the first three and accepted $47,000 in July 2013. It was another 4 months before I received payment. In early negotiations one of our members was offered $12,000 for her land. Pressure was put on her to sign an agreement and she was told land prices were likely to drop. She eventually settled for $40,000.
In November 2013 I produced a 35 page booklet entitled “The Public Works Act A Layman’s View”. If you would like a copy free to download either in PDF or Word format, please contact me at gary.osborne@vodafone.co.nz asking for a copy.
The Public Works Act is an anachronism. I have spoken to several valuers and lawyers who agree with me. I presented my local MP with a copy of the booklet and at a public meeting at which Simon Bridges was guest speaker, asked if he would be prepared to have a look at the Act. His reaction was that by and large it is working and they had to consider the overall public good.
It’s not only property owners who have suffered from this long drawn-out project but businesses and the travelling public as well. The anticipated completion date has now been put out to August 2017. Frankly, on past experience, I don’t see completion this side of Christmas 2017.
For details on a petition by Paul Richards, business owner, asking for an earlier completion date for the road works refer to http://www.clubphysical.co.nz/petition

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Repeal of FOSPA & Emotive Assertion

The Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 had as its aim “An Act to promote the safety of young children by requiring the fencing of certain swimming pools.” In 1999 the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued guidelines as to its interpretation. The following year some councils such as Waitakere City Council (WCC) embarked upon a rigid enforcement regime which in many cases lacked common sense. The Building Act (2004) allowed entrance to pools through doors from the house but in many cases pool owners were told this was “illegal.” Some water safety groups praised the actions of WCC and also pushed for isolation fencing (fencing on all sides). Many pool owners in Waitakere were upset, especially in cases where they had compliant pools that were overnight deemed non-compliant. Some were told it was “illegal” to have tables and chairs and BBQ’s in the “immediate pool area”. As complaints grew this led to a group of pool owners in Waitakere joining together in the latter part of 2003, to take a class action against WCC. WCC, confident of its rigid stance, sought a declaratory judgment in the High Court. Every aspect of the judgment sought by WCC was rejected by Judge Randerson and $20,000 costs awarded to the pool owners.

Time and time again pool owners have heard the phrase “It’s a tragedy if even one child drowns.” I am sure there is not one pool owner in NZ who would disagree. However, in pushing for more and more restrictions on the type of pool fencing accepted, water safety groups have not been beyond using emotive assertion rather than cold hard facts.
As an example of emotive assertion, in June 2004 WCC ran an advert that claimed 6 pre-schoolers drown in private NZ pools every year. For the years 1994-2003 the official figures from Water Safety NZ revealed 40 pre-schoolers drowned in private NZ pools. I challenged WCC on the 50% exaggeration but they were unrepentant. I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority but my complaint was not upheld as it was deemed “The social good imparted by the message overrode the inaccuracy of the figures.”

On another occasion, immediately after the Randerson judgment I emailed all Councillors to say this was a victory for common sense. Only one Councillor replied. He told me to have a “wee wee.”
The following year a journalist from the Aucklander approached me and asked if I would be prepared to provide her with some written comment about the large number of prosecutions and perhaps provide her with some names of people she could contact. I gladly did so but was unimpressed when I read in her article “The judge upheld the council approach for the most part, but also allowed for shades of grey over most aspects of the immediate pool area.” I rang her editor pointing out that Court figures revealed that out of 155 call-overs since the Randerson decision, 75 had been withdrawn, 17 were set down for Status hearings throughout May and 63 were set down for defended hearings on 17 June. I emailed him saying I also objected to her statement “Out of 117 properties due to face prosecution only four are compliant according to Judge Randerson’s October ruling. Despite this the editor stood by the journalist’s report so I complained to the Press Council. Three months later the Press Council advised me “The complaint is not upheld.”

In the years from 2005-14 there have been 21 pre-schooler drownings in private NZ pools (Water Safety NZ) yet most submitters claimed at the oral hearings in Auckland on 22 February 2016, there are still 3 drownings per annum. Some went even further and claimed this bill will lead to an increase in the number of deaths. Those same people were calling for the bill to be “science-based”. Indeed one submitter quoted in the Herald on February called the bill “reckless.”
Let’s hope the committee displays common sense in its judgment and we end up with a piece of legislation that is understandable and workable.

To contact the Pool Owners Action Group (POAG) ph Gary Osborne 09 834 4513
Our website is http://www.poag.org.nz

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Auckland Council Rating Valuations

Have you ever wondered about the reliability of valuations upon which your rates are based? In 15 years as a Real Estate consultant I always accepted valuations in blind faith and without question.
At the age of 69 I have never objected to a valuation until now. However, I will be looking at every future valuation punctiliously and insisting on accurate responses to my concerns raised. My involvement in this particular matter stems from 20 September 2011 when I was advised a portion of my road frontage in Te Atatu Rd was required for road widening. The following timeline was outlined:
Sep-Nov 2011 Affected Landowners and Community consulted on preliminary design
Feb 2012 Detailed design finalised
Mar-Aug 2012 Consenting
2012-13 Land Acquisitions
2013/14 Construction
Well it’s now 2016 and I’m told hopefully construction will be completed by February 2017.
The negotiation process for purchase of our land was not simple and I outlined the experience of TPOG (Te Atatu Property Owners Group) in a booklet I put out in Dec 2013. I have had numerous enquiries for a copy of this booklet so if you email me you can request a download copy for free.
gary.osborne@vodafone.co.nz
In my case I received 4 offers from ACPL (Auckland Council Property Limited), the negotiators for AT (Auckland Transport), the road wideners, for purchase by AC (Auckland Council). The offers were $20,000,$28,000,$45,000 following 3 valuations by ACPL’s valuers then $47,000 following a valuation from my own valuer. On 12 July 2013 I was offered $47,000 that I accepted. Some months, later (end of November) $47,000 was lodged in my lawyer’s Trust A/C.
In 2014 I received a Valuation Notice dated 10/11/14.
LV $400,000 CV $690,000 Land area 809m2
Then in 2015, just before Christmas on 10/12/15 I received a Valuation Notice dated 7/12/15 saying this notice superseded the previous one.
LV $400,000 CV $690,000 Land area 763m2
Hang on! This Land Valuation is identical to the previous one but there’s a chunk of land missing. How can that be? Well, it turns out there’s been a chapter of errors and delays – so many in fact, that I’ve decided to put out a booklet giving details in the hope that it may be found useful by property owners wishing to object to a rating valuation in future. In that booklet I will outline my experiences in detail.
To briefly examine my own current case, I objected to the new valuation on 2 January 2016 and received automatic confirmation saying I would be contacted via mail within five working days to advise when my objection would be completed.
Then on 9/1/16 I received a letter from Auckland Council dated 5/1/16 saying “there may be a delay in undertaking this review due to the significant number of properties involved in the Revaluation.”
Then on 13/1/16 Auckland Council advised me by email “QV have confirmed that there will be no delay in reviewing these assessments. They have indicated to Council this will be completed by 29 January 2016.” “There have been a total of two objections.”
In my case I have argued for the LV to be dropped by $47,000, the price paid for the piece purchased by AC. Naturally the higher my residual land value the more rates AC can extract from me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Auckland Council Working Days

I was recently motivated to ponder just what constitutes a “working day” for Auckland Council.

1.
On 7/12/15 I raised some questions with Auckland Council regarding drownings of toddlers in private swimming pools in Auckland since 1/11/10 (the date of inception of Auckland Council).
On 9/12/15 I was told my request would be treated as a “LOIMA request”. (I believe they meant LGOIMA request (Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, 1987)). I was told “I understand the requirement is for me to get back to you within 20 working days.”
Upon checking I found Section 2 of LGOIMA defines “working day” as “any day of the week other than-
(a) Saturday, Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, Labour Day, the Sovereign’s birthday, and Waitangi Day; and
(ab) if Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday; and
(b) a day in the period commencing with 25 December in any year and ending with 15 January in the following year.”

2.
Then on 10/12/15 I received a letter from Council dated 7/12/15 on another matter – a supplementary valuation on my property. It gave me until 12 January 2016 to object. But a large part of that period is covered by non-working days I thought. – Silly me! The definition of a “working day” for the Rating Valuations Act 1988 is governed by Section 29 of the Interpretation Act 1999 and is defined as
“a day of the week other than-
(a) a Saturday, a Sunday, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, the Sovereign’s birthday, and Labour Day; and
(b) a day in the period commencing with 25 December in a year and ending with 2 January in the following year; and
(c) if 1 January falls on a Friday, the following Monday; and
(d) if 1 January falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, the following Monday and Tuesday; and
(e) if Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday”

With these inconsistencies I wondered what was the point of the Interpretation Act –largely regarded as the Bible for statutory Legislation and definitions?
Under Section 2 it states
“the purposes of this Act are –
(a) to state principles and rules for the interpretation of legislation; and
(b) to shorten legislation; and
(c) to promote consistency in the language and form of legislation”
YEAH RIGHT!
3.
However my concerns didn’t end there.
On 24 December I rang 3010101 and asked to speak to a Council Officer.
“Oh, no” I was told “this is Christmas Eve, all Departments closed yesterday.”
I pointed out this was a working day and asked if Council staff were being paid for not working on a “working day.” I was told that was none of my business but I pointed out that, as a ratepayer, I regarded it very much as my business. Eventually I contacted the Deputy Mayor who contacted the Deputy CEO who has informed me “I will follow through and someone will be in touch in the new year.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revaluations

Last week a number of property owners in the Te Atatu Rd corridor received Revaluation Notices superseding previous Valuation Notices.
We were given until 12 January 2016 to object.
At first glance there seems little change but the feedback I’ve had from affected ratepayers, to date, is that despite land being acquired by the Council for road widening, under the Public Works Act, the original valuation is the same as the new one with the value for the residual land being the same as the value for the total land before the loss of the portion acquired by Council.
To illustrate by way of example
Property X
LV 1/7/14 $400,000
IV 1/7/14 $300,000
CV 1/7/14 $700,000
Land Area 800 m2
New Valuation (backdated to be effective from 1/7/14)
LV $400,000
IV $300,000
CV $700,000
Lan d Area 750m2
With 50m2 of land now belonging to Council, the property owner has lost 6.25% of his/her land. One would expect a rates decrease, but by backdating the new valuations to be effective from 1/7/14 the Council will get the same rates revenue as it did before acquiring its portion, even though the property owner now has less usage. Effectively, Council’s back-dated land valuation of 50m2 is $0 as at 1/7/14. That’s a rort!
To add insult to injury ratepayers wishing to do so are required to object to the new valuation by 12 January 2016. Yet if a ratepayer requests information from Council they will be told 25 December 2015 until 15 January 2016 do not count as working days.
The double standards abound!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Swimming Pool Legislation

The Building (Pools) Amendment Bill has had its first reading in Parliament.
On Wednesday 30 September. I, as Chairman of POAG and 3 members of the Pool Industry had a meeting with Hon Dr Nick Smith to discuss our concerns.

Here are the points raised by me:

Sep 30 2015 Meeting with Hon Dr Nick Smith
Gary Osborne, Chairman (POAG Pool Owners Action Group)

1987 FOSPA working major problem supervision
1999 Ministry of Internal Affairs Guidelines. Led to nit-picking. WCC
2001 Table & chairs, BBQ’s “illegal”. Must have “isolation fencing”.
2003 Formation of POAG. 3 C’s-certainty, consistency, common-sense
2004 Randerson judgment. $20,000 costs to POAG.
2005-2010 WCC 814 prosecutions, 348 exemptions
2011 AC External Working Party. Code of Practice Aug 2011
Feb 2013 Submissions to Parliament.
Nov 2013 EGI certain assurances.
2015 AC decides to work on a new Code of Practice
Sep 2015 First reading of Building (Pool) Amendment Act

CURRENT PROBLEMS
The 3 C’s
Existing exemptions and compliances not being honoured.
Abuse of law. Section 11.
Arguments over “immediate pool area”
Arguments over “thoroughfares”
Arguments over “landscaping”
Pool officers turning up without appointments.
Councils acting “ultra vires”. End justifies the means.
Emotive assertion
Recent cases

CONCERNS OVER PROPOSED LAW
In Nov 2013 EGI promised to remove under 4.2.3 and 4.2.5
The term “immediate pool area”
The power of council to require upgrades due to changes of law
Unrestricted access to private property
Ability of Council officers to levy spot fines.

POAG REQUESTS
The 3 C’s
Honour existing compliances and exemptions
Restricted access to properties

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment