Mayor Kempthorne confirmed that there would be no vote for the ratepayers on the Waimea Dam in the Council meeting 24.5.18. Not once, but twice, he used his casting vote to ensure that there would be no referendum on the dam. This despite assuring people around the district at the last Annual Plan consultations that they would get a Yes/No vote on the dam.
Councillor Greening moved that we hold a binding referendum on the receipt of an accepted tender price.
Councillor Bryant seemed to be confused at to what an accepted tender price meant which is a little concerning given that he is Chair of Engineering.
Councillor Brown said the community couldn’t be expected to be well enough informed to make a decision on whether or not we should proceed with the dam.
The vote came in 7 for 7 against. The Mayor voted again to bury the motion.
I had foreshadowed that I would move, that we hold a non-binding referendum on the receipt of a successful tender price, in the event the first motion failed.
Again, we got to hear how disappointed some councillors are that there is a need to waste $80,000 on hearing from the ratepayers (the same councillors that I believe voted to spend $80,000 on temporary seating for a rugby game).
Councillor Greening asked why they were afraid to consult the district if they believed that there was genuine widespread support.
Again, when the motion was put to the vote it was tied 7 for 7 against, and again the Mayor voted twice to kill the motion.
We will now be in a position where we have to vote on the project without a mandate from the district. The Long Term Plan feedback that we received was a majority (around 80% of the 1,300 plus submissions received) against the dam. We were encouraged to ignore these submissions because they are such a small representation of the population in the district. But the Mayor will not allow us to poll the whole district.
This is in my opinion a poor display of leadership. The same poor leadership that refused to allow a referendum to be held in conjunction with the next Council elections over whether or not we switch to the STV style ballot (the same as the health board use) for future elections. This was rejected despite the fact that the Mayor knew there was a petition circulating that would force a referendum on the topic if they achieved the appropriate number of signatures.
We are now in a situation where the petition is likely to have the signatures required and if they present that petition then Council will be forced to go to the polls within 3 months (at the cost of $80,000). The petition holders could be forced to present their petition sooner than 3 months prior to the next election or it could be invalidated. This whole debacle could have been easily resolved by council agreeing to hold the referendum anyway – this option is no longer available to council because of electoral act regulations.
Win/win solutions are not our strong point. As the bulldozers line up against the Golden Bay Grandstand we can mourn another lost opportunity to find an amical solution. Had this been the Richmond Grandstand I am sure we would have worked harder to solve the problem before we were left with a divided community and a pile of rubble. There were no winners in today’s vote.
The adoption of the Long Term Plan by the majority of the Council signalled the continued willingness by the majority to spend money on a dam project that has taken on Lotto-like odds of achieving successful completion. The risks surrounding the project are growing by the day. The proposed governance structure has little if any benefit for the ratepayers footing the majority of the expense both in construction and in ongoing maintenance.
While only a relatively small portion of our overall expenditure in the 10 year plan as the Deputy Mayor repeatedly points out, the dam is the project that carries the most risk, consumes the most discretionary budget (such as the income from forestry), and rates people the hardest (especially those within the zone of benefit and those connected to the already expensive-by-national-standards urban water club).
What started out as a good idea has become an endless pit into which we are prepared pour money. I questioned months ago how we could continue with a project that the irrigators claimed they couldn’t afford their share, the urban water club couldn’t afford their share, and we had general ratepayers telling us they couldn’t afford their share.
Our LTP clearly states that debt, rate affordability, and a financially prudent strategy are our goals. Our actions do not deliver that in my opinion, hence my futile vote in protest against adopting the LTP.