Archive | Councils

Ratepayers get small court victory in scrap over Mangawhai sewer scheme levies

High Court judge Ailsa Duffy has brought to an end an episode in the scrap over the secretively funded & heavily over cost Mangawhai Ecocare sewerage scheme.

The Mangawhai Ratepayers’ & Residents’ Association & its chair, Bruce Rogan, fought the imposition of rates to pay for the sewerage system after its cost blowout was exposed – the district council secretly borrowed $58 million for its capital cost – resulting in a Validation Act being passed as the association was heading to court for a judicial review.

In 2014, Justice Paul Heath found the Validation Act passed to make those rates lawful did just that – made them lawful.

Some ratepayers, led by Mr Rogan, refused to pay Kaipara District Council rates, and refused to pay Northland Regional Council rates when they discovered the regional council had no authority to hire the district council to collect them.

Justice Duffy found in an interim judgment that these regional council rates were unlawful. In a second judgment on that case yesterday, she quashed the regional council’s rates for the rating years 2011-12 to 2015-16 and also set aside the penalties imposed for non-payment.

However, she said the ratepayers’ association & Mr Rogan hadn’t sought reimbursement in their claim and she made no order directing the regional council to refund the relevant rates & penalties.

Attribution: Judgment.

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Governance framework review a leading topic for local boards

In this round of local board meetings, all boards will consider the governance framework review (links taken from the Orakei Local Board agenda for its meeting on Thursday):

12, Governance framework review recommendations  
Summary table of report recommendations    
Regional decision-making and policy processes    
Allocations and delegations    
Reserve Act land exchanges    
Local boards and Auckland Transport    
Confirmation of draft transport recommendations    
Waiheke Local Board pilot project cover paper    
Waiheke pilot project outline    
Funding and finance workstream paper 1    
Funding and finance cover paper July    
Funding finance description of 2 models    
Number of local boards    
Representation options    
Naming conventions

Who gets the name Wesley?

The Puketapapa Local Board will return this week to the topic of where in Auckland the suburb name Wesley should be used:

12, Notice of motion, official naming of Wesley suburb
Notice of motion, official naming of Wesley suburb    
Wesley boundary map 

Airport access

The Puketapapa board also has airport access – light or heavy rail, and the route – on its agenda this week:

17, Airport access
Benefits of LRT and heavy rail to Aucklanders    
Auckland Transport board resolution    
Progression pathway

Three Kings plan change

And the Puketapapa board has a request for its view on whether a plan change request from Fletcher Residential Ltd to amend the Three Kings precinct, and to rezone some land within the precinct, should be accepted as a private plan change or adopted as a council plan change.

The council’s planning committee will make the council decision on how the plan change request will be treated.

21, Plan change proposal for Three Kings precinct 

Sediment discharge

After a submission from the Friends of Okura Group, the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board has received a report on sediment discharges from the Envirofill cleanfill site at 1627 East Coast Rd at Redvale, and the Weiti village development nearby, which has concluded the developments meet their consent conditions.

12, Envirofill & Weiti developments, sediment discharge inquiry

Attribution: Local board agendas.

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Transparency campaign gathers some ears

Transparency campaigner Penny Bright took her message to Auckland Council yet again yesterday.

Yet again, in a campaign that she’s fought for 2 decades, resulting in multiple arrests for her (some of those arrests spitefully contrived but not, subsequently, resulting in convictions), but over the years not too much improvement in transparency.

But it was notable at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s finance & performance committee that fewer ears were deaf to her message, and this time Ms Bright actually had some positive words to say about the opening up of council information.

The need for a change in attitude was reinforced in February with the sentencing on corruption charges of former Rodney District Council & Auckland Transport senior manager Murray Noone to 5 years’ jail, and engineering firm Projenz Holdings Ltd director Stephen Borlase to 5½ years’ jail over roading contracts.

Mr Borlase was found guilty on 8 corruption & bribery charges and Mr Noone was found guilty on 6 charges of accepting the bribes. Projenz also paid for overseas travel for Mr Noone and another senior roading engineer, Barrie George, who was sentenced last September to 10 months’ home detention.

Ms Bright told the committee she wanted to see all council-controlled organisations providing the same details of contracts as Auckland Transport now does, and she wanted subcontracts included.

She told the committee: “The court case proved you have 2 levels of corruption, public to private and private to private where back-end subcontracts are placed.

“The court showed the collaborative model was not working. That must also be reviewed because the proven corruption risk – we have the evidence for that.”

Ms Bright said the Public Records Act had been law since 2005 – created, according to the Government summary, “to support the effective management of records in the public sector… to promote government accountability through reliable recordkeeping, enhance public confidence in the integrity of government records…”

She said more recent guidelines from the Office of the Auditor-general on transparency were very clear and added: “I believe those guidelines have not been enforced.”

She also asked when the council would look at council officers holding private consultancies that dealt with the council.

Council chief financial controller Sue Tindal said the committee would have an opportunity to raise questions about these issues at its second meeting of the week, on Friday, when the quarterly reports of council-controlled organisations are presented.

However, that’s an unnecessarily tortuous process. The council could simply revert to the practice used at the former Waitakere City Council of presenting all details from tenders online when a tender was approved, which wasn’t followed at other councils around the region and wasn’t the practice put in place when Auckland Council was formed in 2010.

Office of the Auditor-general guidelines

Attribution: Council committee meeting, public forum presentation.

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Council signs off on new-style maintenance contracts

Auckland Council has taken its facilities, tree & ecological maintenance contracts through 2 committees in the last 10 days, finalising a process that began last July, and will sign new contracts this month. The contracts will take effect on 1 July.

The process, called Project 17, will replace procurement agreements signed in 2012 and, community facilities general manager Rod Sheridan said, would bring improvements & savings worth $30 million to the council.

Mr Sheridan & procurement general manager Jazz Singh told the council’s finance & performance committee in a report on Thursday the council had 26 contracts for the supply of these services around the region. Service delivery was duplicated under 20 of them.

They said inconsistencies in facilities maintenance service delivery – due to both internal (different ways of doing things between teams/departments) & external (contract scope/contractor delivery) factors – had long been identified.

“These issues & challenges, under the contracts entered into by council in 2012 following the last major procurement of the facilities maintenance contracts (Project Genesis), included:

  • Duplication in the delivery of services under 20 existing contracts
  • Prescriptive contracts that were not delivering added value
  • Unco-ordinated approach to the management & delivery of services, with multiple contractors delivering across multiple service lines in the same geographic areas
  • Lack of co-ordination in the delivery of services across the council family
  • Inefficient procurement & delivery of minor capital expenditure renewals, and
  • Lack of good quality asset information in a centralised register together with an associated asset condition assessment.”

Local boards & other stakeholders told the Project 17 team that issues for them included:

  • Lack of consultation & engagement with local boards regarding the outcomes from the service delivery
  • Lack of accountability, and
  • Service levels weren’t aligned with local boards’ objectives & requirements.

Service areas align with board boundaries

The new contracts will cover the whole Auckland region, but are structured in service areas aligned with local board boundaries.

The council’s strategic procurement committee (as it’s been renamed) approved supplier recommendations on 24 March and sent them to the finance committee on Thursday for the final tick.

The council will release costs & a full list of successful suppliers at the end of April, once all contacts have been signed.

Mr Sheridan said the procurement process wasn’t about doing the same thing with different suppliers: “Instead, it was about doing something bold & different that would move Auckland closer to being the best performing city in the world.

“The involvement & support of our local boards has been integral to the procurement process, and we sought boards’ input in deciding service levels, the proposed geographical areas & smart procurement outcomes. We need to ensure that everything we do is locally driven & customer-centric.

“We are excited about the innovation this opportunity offers, and using technology to take us into the future. We will be able to empty bins before they overflow by installing sensors and will install counters on public toilet doors to monitor use & schedule cleaning.

“This procurement process has been about ensuring the suppliers who will maintain Auckland’s assets over the next 5 years or more will deliver value for money for ratepayers.

“This is an example of Auckland Council making our size work and, in addition to that, better managed & maintained assets will ultimately lead to further cost savings. We have added $30 million worth of value to the organisation.”

Streamlined service

Finance committee chair Ross Clow said: “From 1 July, Aucklanders can expect to see more responsive, streamlined local maintenance services. One supplier will now manage the cleaning of a public toilet and, while they’re at the site, will ensure bins are emptied, lights fixed, and gates & doors locked or unlocked. Until now, this has been done by different suppliers under different contractual arrangements.

“The procurement process included provisions on standardising service levels across Auckland, introduced key performance indicators to ensure consistent, high quality delivery, and asked suppliers to commit to their communities by using local staff, offices & depots wherever possible.”

The council will continue to manage local suppliers on Waiheke & Great Barrier Islands through its community facilities department.

Project 17, Auckland Council maintenance contracts

Earlier story:
13 March 2017: Council maintenance contract decision process enters final stages, Panuku report, home fires bylaw

Attribution: Council agendas, release.

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Council maintenance contract decision process enters final stages, Panuku report, home fires bylaw

Auckland Council is nearing the end of a long process to reorganise its maintenance contracts for parks, council buildings & open space, called Project 17.

Preferred suppliers were identified last Friday and the council’s community facilities department is taking its proposals to local boards over the next fortnight, starting with a session at the local board chairs’ forum today.

The material before local boards is extensive, set out in 8 documents:

Attachment 1, political engagement timeline
Attachment 2, local board resolutions (September 2016)
Attachment 3, standard & enhanced assets
Attachment 4, full facilities contract service specifications
Attachment 5, supplier-specific information (in confidential agendas)
Attachment 6, contractor performance balanced scorecard
Attachment 7, tupuna maunga values specification
Attachment 8, contract information (in confidential agendas).

According to the schedule outlined for local boards, the council’s strategic procurement committee is set to make its recommendations on supplier contracts at the end of next week, so the finance & performance committee can agree suppliers, pricing & baseline service levels the following week.

In April, as part of the council annual plan process, local board workshops will be held to discuss locally driven initiative funding priorities, which may include recommendations to enhance maintenance service levels.

In another round of workshops at the end of April & early May, local boards are scheduled to agree local service level priorities.

Public submissions on the council’s annual plan close on Monday 27 March.

The council governing body will meet on 31 May-1 June to finalise its 2017-18 budgets, and new maintenance contracts will start on the first day of the new financial year, 1 July.

In other material before local boards over the next fortnight:

Panuku reports on Wynyard, waterfront strategy & own lease

The first tenants have moved into the Mason Brothers building in the Wynyard Quarter. The building is part of stage 1 of Precinct Properties NZ Ltd’s programme of developing commercial sites in the quarter.

Council organisation Ateed (Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development Ltd) has taken the head lease on the neighbouring new development of 12 Madden St for the establishment of Grid AKL, the coworking space for innovative business & startups. It’s scheduled for completion in July.

Panuku Development Auckland’s lease on its Westhaven office expires mid-year, and the organisation says it’s likely that it will be more cost effective for Panuku to move to a modest-quality building in the cbd rather than remain in its current building.

Panuku is working on a refresh of the waterfront strategy, which will frame future development within the cbd waterfront area. It will be report to the council on the strategy this month, and draft framework plans will be reported in May.

Home fires bylaw

The council publicly notified the draft air quality bylaw for indoor domestic fires on 27 February, and public submissions close on Monday 27 March.

Local boards have been given until Monday 3 April to send in written submissions, and can give oral submissions at a local board hearings session scheduled for Wednesday 19 April.

Project 17, Auckland Council maintenance contracts
Grid AKL
Draft air quality bylaw & statement of proposal

Attribution: Council agendas.

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A weighty 3 days for Auckland councillors

Auckland Council’s politicians enter day 2 today of 3 days of weighty issues to start the third term of the council.

The planning committee met yesterday, the finance & performance committee gives its first consideration today to mayor Phil Goff’s proposal on the annual budget, and tomorrow the regulatory committee has a number of issues to consider.

I’ll run more extensive reports later in the week on all 3 meetings. For the moment, below are some of the questions resolved at the planning committee meeting:

The committee agreed to lodge an appeal in the High Court against conditions in a KiwiRail designation concerning crossings on the long-proposed Avondale-Southdown railway line.

The committee agreed the council should make a submission on the NZ Transport Agency’s proposals for the East-West link between State highway 1 at Mt Wellington & State highway 20 at Onehunga, set up a political reference group to deal with urgent issues during the hearing, then expanded the reference group because a number of other councillors wanted to be on it.

A political reference group was also set up on the northern corridor improvements project, which is the final piece of the Western ring route jigsaw.

The committee debated whether the housing accord should be extended to allow for the last special housing areas to remain covered by it, instead of falling under the regulations of the new unitary plan, but eventually went with an extension.

Attribution: Committee meetings.

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Winder to stay on at Kaipara council as Crown manager

Peter Winder.

Peter Winder.

One of the 3 commissioners who’ve been in charge of the Kaipara District Council since 2012, Peter Winder, will stay on as Crown manager after the local body elections on 8 October.

The Government appointed 4 commissioners to replace the elected council in August 2012 – John Robertson (chair), Richard Booth, Colin Dale & Peter Winder. Mr Dale, former chief executive of the Manukau City Council, left his Kaipara role in February 2014 to become acting chief executive of the Far North District Council.

The primary cause of the decision to appoint commissioners was the blowout in cost of the new Mangawhai sewage scheme.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said yesterday Mr Winder would bring with him his extensive experience & in-depth knowledge: “Mr Winder will support council members by taking responsibility for legal actions relating to past issues on their behalf. This will allow council members to focus on the district’s future.”

The Crown manager role is for 3 years.

Mr Winder was chief executive of the Auckland Regional Council for the 5 years until it became part of the new Auckland Council, and set up a private firm, McGredy Winder & Co Ltd, in 2010 to work on advice & strategies for public organisations.

He was previously the regional council’s transport director for a year, chief executive of Local Government NZ for 2 years and spent 5 years at Tourism NZ as industry strategy general manager. He’s chaired the Manukau Institute of Technology since December 2013.

Earlier stories:
6 June 2016: Kaipara to get elected council in October
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016
30 August 2012: 
Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Kaipara to get elected council in October

The Kaipara District will return to having a fully elected council at this year’s local body elections, supported by a Crown manager & a Crown observer. The previous elected council resigned in 2012 and was replaced by commissioners.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said last week: “The Kaipara commissioners have made significant progress in getting the council into a stable financial position. It is time the council returns to a fully elected council. I have called an election of the council to coincide with the local body elections in October.”

Ms Upston said she would also appoint a Crown manager and a Crown observer to support the newly elected council as it settles in: “I will appoint a Crown manager to take responsibility for certain outstanding legal actions on behalf of the newly elected council. Newly elected council members will then be able to focus on providing effective governance and on the district’s future, rather than being distracted by past issues.

“It is important that newly elected council members have the right support to be successful in their demanding & complex role. With this in mind, I will also appoint a Crown observer to help ensure newly elected council members are well supported. The Crown observer will not be involved in decision-making and will only offer advice or guidance.

“It is crucial that the Kaipara District is able to look to the future. The return to a fully elected council, together with a Crown Manager and Crown Observer supporting the Council, will provide the District with a fresh start.”

Crown Manager and Crown Observer appointees will be announced in the coming months.

Earlier stories:
27 April 2016: Kaipara commissioners seek input on annual plan
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016
30 August 2012: Minister names 4 commissioners to run Kaipara council

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Law passed for ECan’s transition to elected council

Legislation for a 2-stage transition of Environment Canterbury (ECan) back to being an elected council passed its third reading in Parliament last week.

The Government appointed commissioners to replace ECan members in 2010 after a critical external review of its performance. Legislation empowering the governance arrangements said their term was to end at the local body elections in 2013.

7 councillors will be elected this October to work alongside 6 appointed councillors, before moving to a fully elected council in 2019.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said: “The commissioners have done an outstanding job of progressing the plans required to properly manage freshwater, rebuilding the organisation, strengthening its relationships with the 10 councils across Canterbury and supporting the earthquake recovery.

“This transition is important in maintaining continuity and the momentum of ECan in areas such as the earthquake recovery, the completion of catchment water plans and its work in regional economic development.”

Dr Smith said the transition was particularly important in respect of freshwater management: “Canterbury had no operative regional plan in 2010, nor any limits on intensification & nutrients. It was a huge step forward when the commission completed the regional water plan. The key to its success is in completing zone plans in each of Canterbury’s 10 catchments. This task is do-able with the transitional mixed governance model & special streamlined planning process provided for in this bill.

“This pragmatic transition for ECan is about supporting Canterbury’s move from earthquake recovery to regeneration, and getting the foundations right for the long-term management of the region’s freshwater resources.”

Earlier stories:
10 July 2015: Full ECan elections to come in 2019
23 March 2015: 
Government thinks semi-democratic for Environment Canterbury
7 September 2012: 
Ministers rate efficiency above democracy as they extend Environment Canterbury commissioners’ role
18 November 2009: 
2 teams named to investigate Environment Canterbury performance

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Kaipara commissioners seek input on annual plan

Kaipara District Council, still run by commissioners, is seeking feedback on its annual plan, which includes a $10.1 million reduction in debt.

Commissioner John Robertson, who chairs the council, said yesterday there were no significant changes from the long-term plan but the commissioners wanted feedback because the council had a number of projects actively involving members of the community.

“One project which is of great interest in Dargaville is the library redesign. The concept plans for this will be on display for comment. In Mangawhai, the early work on the town plan is also progressing, as are the ‘placemaking’ concepts for Kaiwaka & Dargaville.”

Mr Robertson said the round-table consultation sessions would also provide opportunities to discuss roading, water & wastewater – the last of these, in the form of the blowout in debt on the former council’s Mangawhai Ecocare scheme, resulted in the replacement of councillors & mayor by commissioners in 2012.

The commissioners will conduct “Let’s Connect” sessions from 2-10 May in Maungaturoto, Dargaville, Mangawhai, Kaiwaka & Paparoa.

The Government reappointed the commissioners in April last year until the local body elections this October.

Kaipara District Council

Earlier story:
26 April 2015: Kaipara commissioners reappointed until 2016

Attribution: Council release.

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