Waitakere Grey Power

MY COMMENTS ON MEETING 29 March 2017

RATES

My concern is that rates have grown at a rapid rate in recent years. For me, I have no mortgage on my own home, but there are a number of superannuitants who do have mortgages, have lived in the same home most of their lives, have contributed to their local community and are faced with rapidly increasing valuations that consequently affect their rates. On 1 April National Superannuation will increase by 1.5%. That should help! Of even more concern should be the growing debt which one day must be repaid. At 30 June 2016 AC’s official debt was $7.6b. Forecast is $11.6b for 2024/25. That’s a faster growth rate than the projected population growth rate. If you intend being on this planet for the next 20 years you should be gravely concerned. Too often we hear the cry “Oh well if you can’t afford to live here you should sell up and go and live in a place you can afford.” —Totally unacceptable. It’s high time to revisit the suggestion put forward by Grey Power many years ago and often espoused by Don Chapman. Scrap rates as the major source of income for Councils, increase the GST, and out of that force Central Government to allocate adequate funding to Councils to cover both operating costs and infrastructure.

TE ATATU RD

This project has been a shambles. Initially planned to commence in 2013 and be completed in 2014, we’re now told hopefully mid-2017. Again elderly people have been taken for granted and disadvantaged. In one case an elderly couple received an offer of $3000 for their land. They were pressured to accept. Meanwhile for a piece of land of comparable size shared by 6 people they were offered $3000 each. One of them contested this and was offered an extra $500 for their share. Consequently the other 5 were offered an extra $500 each. This brought the total to $21000 (seven times that accepted by the elderly couple under duress.) Vehicle access to properties has been an ongoing problem with driveways often blocked for days without prior notice. Also there has been inaccurate advice re road closures. Under the Public Works Act there is no provision for loss of earnings or inconvenience. In December 2013 I put out a paper on the Public Works Act copies of which were submitted to my two local MPs Phil Twyford and Alfred Ngaro. The Act is an anachronism in urgent need of revision.

SPEAKING RIGHTS

In 2012, unbeknown to me or elected representatives, the Chief Executive of Auckland Council gave a directive blocking all my emails to elected representatives. This lasted until I discovered it quite by chance 10 months later. After initial denial by the CE that anyone’s emails had been blocked, he said 3 people were being “case managed.” Council commissioned a report by Ernst and Young at a cost of $55000 that talked about unreasonable customer conduct. In March 2013 my emails were reinstated. Then in 2016 I put in a LGOIMA request re salaries of elected members. Concerned I was being mucked around every time I rang the Call Centre I complained to the Chief Executive, Stephen Town. Rather than address the complaint he made a number of allegations against me that he has since refused to retract or substantiate. On the basis of those allegations he deemed me to be a UCC and told me all future calls and emails were to go to one person. I have put complaints into the Ombudsman in Oct 2016 and then to the Privacy Commissioner. Last week the Privacy Commissioner’s office rang and said they were not satisfied with Council’s response and have sought further information. I rang the Ombudsman’s office and was told I would have to be patient. Council’s UCC Policy calls for six monthly reviews. On Friday I emailed my sole Council contact to find out what had happened re the six-monthly review. Yesterday she rang me to say their legal team is handling it and will be another couple of weeks. Is it any wonder our rates are so high? In November last year I applied to speak at the Council meeting on 15 December. Phil Goff denied me that right on the basis of the “nature tone and volume of your historical communications to Auckland Council.” What a great way to start a new term.

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Harbour View Land

Today a presentation was made to the HMLB claiming “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 Hectares of land to Te Atatu Coalition Marae.” That is not the case and is a matter for consideration by a full Council. Here is my speech presented in Public Forum.

Mr Chairman, Board members, Ladies & Gentlemen
The Harbourview land was originally private land acquired by Auckland Harbour Board under the Public Works Act. Eventually ownership passed to Waitakere City Council.
In 1999 Chris Carter, MP for Te Atatu canvassed constituents for their views on the land’s future. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of preserving the land as a park similar to Cornwall Park available for all citizens, with no buildings other than toilets and essential amenities.
On 25 October 2000 Waitakere City Council voted that the land become an open space park.
In 2002 there were calls for a ferry terminal.
In February 2003 a 144 page document on the Open Space Management Plan was adopted. Ratepayers were levied $9 per annum for 5 years to sustain management of the park. In mid- 2003 a proposed plan change was advertised. (PC2) This included Reidentification of 2.5ha of Harbourview South Special Area to Marae Special Area. In November it was revealed there were 91 submissions –74 against, 17 for. Meetings went ahead with the public excluded.
In 2013 at a public meeting it was revealed there were plans for a $16m marae and associated commercial ventures. A number of resolutions were passed at that meeting but did not reach Auckland city Councillors.
It has been claimed this afternoon “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 Hectares of land to Te Atatu Coalition Marae.” I have seen no Council minutes that substantiate that claim.
If a marae and associated commercial activities are to be established, then Council should lease the land to the Te Atatu Coalition Marae at a commercial rental. If the land is gifted, ratepayers will lose control and ownership of land in which they currently have a 100% stake.
Mr Chairman, I am quite happy to answer any questions you or your fellow board members may wish to put to me on this matter.
Gary Osborne

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A FAMILIAR STORY?

A couple of years ago a well-known Government Department (won’t mention any names – they might check on my tax situation) entered a crew into the Dragon Boat Races in Auckland. The first race was against a Japanese crew and despite months and months of training on Lake Pupuke, they lost to the Japanese crew by the proverbial mile.

Discouraged by the huge loss, and with morale in tatters, senior government officials decided that the reason for the crushing defeat must be found and rectified. A project team was set up to investigate the problem and to recommend appropriate action.

Several months later the project team conjured up a conclusion from the muddy waters of despair. The problem was – they said – obvious. The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering. The government crew had one person rowing – and eight people steering.

So they hired consultants to do a study of the crew structure.

Two million dollars and six months later they released their report. In essence, the report said too many people were steering and not enough were paddling.

So, to prevent another embarrassing loss the next year, the crew was restructured …… to one Chief Executive Steering Officer, three Senior Management Steering Officers, and four Steering Managers. A new quality performance system was set up for the paddler and an incentive programme put into place to make him a part of the team, and a key performer.

The next year the Japanese team won by two proverbial miles.

This time the senior government officials took decisive action.

The paddler was made redundant due to his ineffectual performance – the consultants received awards for excellence in restructuring, and all assets were sold with the proceeds being split between the senior government officials.

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AC LGOIMA Requests

Just under a month ago, on 9 September I put in a LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act) request for information re Councillor and Local Board member salaries and allowances. The information required was fairly basic.
Section 13 of LGOIMA requires that a local authority shall respond “as soon as reasonably practicable, and in no case later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received by that local authority.”
Here is the unsigned receipt for my request received on 12 September.
Dear Mr Osborne

Thank you for your request for information about elected members’ salaries and allowances for the 2015/16 financial year.

I have attached an information sheet on our processes and requirements under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

We will respond to your request within 20 working days of receipt of your request.

If you have further questions please feel free to contact the Privacy and Official Information Team on officialinformation@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz or 09 301 0101, quoting reference 8140000434.

Kind regards

Privacy & LGOIMA Team
On 16 September I rang to find out what stage my request had reached. I spoke to Manoj Ragupathy, Manager Privacy and Official Information, and upon asking him who was in charge of my request, was told “We have 20 working days to respond.” Upon asking him what progress had been made so far I was told “We are working on it.” I was then told to put any questions I had in writing.
On 19 September I emailed the following 2 questions:
1. Who is processing my request?
2. What stage has it reached?
On 21 September I was advised Philip Jones, Call Centre Manager, had instructed Call Centre staff not to put forward any of my calls to the Call Centre.
On 22 September, having received no response I complained to Stephen Town, Chief Executive. Rather than address the complaint he made a number of allegations against me.
On 23 September I wrote to him calling for substantiation or retraction.
On 27 September Dayle Muru, Auckland Council, rang me to say any correspondence with Council was to go through her. I said Mr Town had made the allegations. I expected him to respond to my letter to him. I have since instructed my lawyer to write to him directly.
At this stage I have still not received a reply to my email of 19 September and tomorrow will be the 20th working day.
Ironically I have already obtained much of the information I sought without the help of Council. It is available on Council’s own website.
http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/electedrepresentatives/Documents/mileage-reimbursementsjan-june2016.pdf
However this only covers 6 months of the period I sought.
Perhaps LGOIMA staff could be trained in use of Council’s website as a starting base for information sought.

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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.

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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

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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

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