Hello again. Sorry I have been quiet this past year. There is a reason for it, but I am not allowed to tell you. At least not until the dam debt blows out another $50 million, at which point all bets are off.
I have decided to stand again in the up-coming election. This was by no means a forgone conclusion for a number of reasons. One, I am not a career politician so retiring in the job is not the plan. Two, it is soul destroying watching agendas triumph over common sense and logical argument. Three, we can’t talk about as mentioned above.
So why did I decide to stand again?
I have seen the staff agenda for the next trimester and the resulting rate increases will make your eyes water (to be polite). The absurdity of what is proposed will leave plenty of housing available – it will not be affordable for the average person not on a Council staff payroll (fortunately the current growth trajectory of staff should maintain house prices for those being driven off the land).
More of the same is simply not sustainable and that is why I decided to stand in the Nelson Lakes – Murchison ward. If we are going to see a repeat of the more-of-the-same voting then I do not want to be back in Council. I will need to get a real job for a start to pay the resulting rate increases. But also, I do not want to sit around and hear the collective wisdom that believed a pandemic crashing global stock markets and forcing countries into lock down was going to have minimal effect in NZ, or that global inflation of levels not seen since the 1980’s was going to result in a 2% interest rate for the next ten years. Never mind the belief in a P95 $76 million dam estimate or a $104 million “good as fixed price” quote that Councillor Mailing stood up in the Richmond Town Hall and told everyone how disappointing it was but it was “his job to make sure it was delivered on time and on budget.” You be the judge on how well he has performed given that it is almost $200 million and some 18 months behind schedule at 70% complete.
Looking forward to the next term we will see further blowouts on the dam. Hence why we are not objecting more than a minor murmur to the Three Waters impending debacle. Although it proposed that the debt will transfer to a new entity, it is also highly probable that the debt will stay tagged to the Tasman region. In other words, although you will be billed by a new entity you will not escape the responsibility (or some might say irresponsibility) of the Waimea Irrigation Dam debt. Plus all the other costs of three tiers of Governance and all the wonderful works proposed by the new entities.
Another point to note, is that all this “free money” (not a plug for mayoral candidate Richard Osmaston) that we receive from the Government to make sure we are “no worse off” is to be spent on things with strings that are not allowed to include Three Waters projects. Surprise! All this free money debt is also likely to be tagged to the new entities. But don’t worry it will make water more affordable than the current model.
This is also the environment that our staff are planing to embark on build of new offices for themselves. I am not sure that there has been a worse time in history (with the possible exception of the middle of World War 2) to embark on a building project. Supply chains are broken, but inflation is working very well.
You will also be relieved to hear that this will not be a minimalist build. It will be to the latest Government rated 5 star building standard, and it will be large enough to house not only the staff left after the Three Water grab, but big enough for any potential amalgamation that drops out of the Local Government reform currently being undertaken (at the very least). Of course none of this expense was put into the current Ten Year Plan because we didn’t want to scare you too much.
But wait, there is more! Staff also informed us that they continue to work on the proposed Mapua to Rabbit Island cycle bridge. Something on a scale not dissimilar to the Auckland Harbour cycle bridge when you take into account the size of both the bridge and the rating base. This is not a flash in the pan idea, it is one that more resembles whack-a-mole with the persistence with which it keeps coming back.
Just because our staff are working on pet projects like these do not think they do not have time to dream up more ways to bankrupt the district. The latest brain fart fell out of the recent Joint Future Development Strategy is that the two Council’s could work together to buy up inner city blocks to give to a developer. The thinking being that if you really want intensification in the central city you have to do it in one hit – which is obvious. However, the reason that the Council’s have to buy up the land (before handing it to a developer because we are not property developers) is because Council can be more patient. That is to say we can invest over a longer term without expecting a return on our money. And by “our money” I mean mine and your money! And no prizes for guessing which direction prices will head as soon as Council embarks on a buying spree!
“Out of control” are some words that spring to mind. “Out of touch” are other words that could be applied. If more-of-the-same are elected again I can assure that these out-of-the-box ideas will be your future. Fortunately, the interest rates will only be 2% according to the deputy Mayor so no worries!
If you look at the debt that Tasman District Council had 25 years ago when the current Mayor and Deputy Mayor were first elected to the council it was a fraction of what it is now and the Council was one of the most financially viable councils in the country thanks to our forefathers investment in commercial enterprise. We are now bogged down with debt and are continuing our exponential debt growth spend. Standard and Poor’s have already warned us of future credit rating down grades as we continue to load up with debt.
So yeah. Up to you. More of the same or time for a change?
Incidentally, as I publish this I am waiting for the publication of Stuff hit piece along the lines just published on Nelson City candidates and others around the country. I will respond to that once it goes live.