Cycling in Portland

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I was happy to contribute some of the NZ$470m in cycle tourism income to the state of Oregon recently. I was there to check out their world famous cycling infrastructure and was not disappointed.

Regularly winning the award for most cycle-friendly city in the United States, Portland recorded a 3.3 percent growth in cycle trips last year, maintaining an upward trend over the last two decades. They still have a long way to go in a nation obsessed with private vehicle use, but have transformed the city in a relatively short time thanks to strong public support, innovative engineering and proactive political leadership.

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I visited the team at Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a local advocacy group committed to raising cycle trips to 25 percent of all travel in the city. BTA provides publicly funded cycle education services for schools and community groups, helped develop the city’s ‘Blueprint for Better Biking’ and supports local Bicycle Advisory Committees, similar to the Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group working with Council, NZTA and other stakeholders to improve transport infrastructure and policies. It’s not just about cycle lanes, but about how intersections are planned, bridge-crossings connected with roads and ensuring roads are shared with courtesy by both cyclists and motorists.  

Elemental, a Portland technology company with 90 staff, is saving over $170,000 a year in parking costs alone by encouraging employees to use bicycles and public transport. CEO Sam Blackman said bike benefits are becoming essential to local tech companies as they scramble for talent. For his business, which recruits world-class engineers so they can compete effectively on a global stage, ‘the cycling city’ is a hugely powerful recruiting and retention tool. They move people from all over the country to Elemental and the fact that they can show them the great bike culture is “very, very valuable” in their willingness to uproot their family and move to Portland.

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So the cycling infrastructure projects we are seeing around Gisborne shouldn’t be viewed simply as tourism opportunities or just for existing residents, but as an investment in making Gisborne a more liveable and attractive place for talent to reside – particularly as fuel and health costs continue trending upwards while technology allows entrepreneurs to work from anywhere.

Instead of fatalistically designing roads for cars and trucks, we need to be designing roads that meet our shared goals, things like walkability, encouraging local businesses and sustainable energy use. In other words, we could plan for what we want to happen, not what we think is going to happen whether we like it or not.

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Portland hasn’t always been cycle-centric. In the 1970s there was a strong emphasis in the city on distributing power away from the old model with City Hall and a few business interests having the control of development and democracy moved into the neighbourhoods. Residents groups were given responsibility for local planning and some public services and while into the 1980s there were still very little cycling infrastructure, this empowerment of public participation though citizen committees (and a cycling Mayor) resulted in plans by 1990 for a new network of cycleways. There is a great animation showing the city with hardly any cycle ways in 1980 to the massive network today.

Over the past 15 years, a 400 percent increase in cycle traffic has been recorded on the main commuter routes. This has a resulted in an estimated 700 jobs in the cycling ‘industry’ and as a local newspaper reported while I was there, with $1.2m daily spend on cycling-related travel in the state, “Cycling’s not just hip and healthy; it’s becoming big business in Oregon.”

Budget 2013: Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

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Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said the 2013 budget has robbed Peter to pay Paul.

“It is great to see new funding for mentoring in schools, a Warrant of Fitness requirement for rental properties and more money for budgeting services. But it seems that is at the expense of gutting the Ministry for the Environment budget by one third, evicting 3,000 state housing tenants regardless of whether anyone else needs their house and slashing school bus subsidies.”

Mr Caddie said many state housing tenants in Gisborne had already been moved on so there now more than 90 empty homes, the new policy would mean even more would be forced into private rentals while it seems income-related rent will apply only to selected social housing providers. “These are some of Housing New Zealand’s best tenants, they have lived in our community for decades and it causes significant disruption to neighbourhoods resulting in a higher rate of transience.”

“It is interesting to see a National government subsidising private business with $80 million for irrigation, $19 million for charter schools and more land for developers while the current account deficit is 5% of GDP and growing. New Zealand’s total net debt will hit $200 billion in 2017, I’m not sure low interest loans for beneficiaries and extra funding for budgeting services will address the issue.” 

Mr Caddie said he would have liked to see more emphasis on sustainable employment creation, including greater support for getting the long-term unemployed into the workforce and incentives for new industry in provincial New Zealand. “Focusing on Auckland is a self-perpetuating cycle, why don’t they put the same amount of effort into making it easier for people to live and work in the regions instead of building bigger roads and letting the metropolis sprawl between Warkworth and Hamilton?”

Tree Huggers

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I didn’t vote on the off-the-cuff motion to remove or retain the tree for a couple of reasons.

Most importantly, I don’t believe it is a decision for the councillors to make at this time. We have an approved policy on street trees and reserves management – staff have the delegated authority to make most decisions under existing policies and plans. If they choose to not exercise that authority then the decision would come back to Council with an explanation and possibly a recommendation. Councillors received no such communication from staff other than what was in the contracted project manager’s report. The distinct roles of governance and management/operations are important to keep clear and adhere to.

I also did not want to vote on the matter without more information on the options. There was no real urgency to the tree issue as far as I could tell and allowing some time to present the case for removal, for simply trimming back and for retaining as it is, seems like a more useful approach but the haste of the motion and decision unfortunately meant that was not an option.

There is ample provision in existing policies and plans for staff to argue for the retention of any tree, for example: “In considering applications for street tree removal for development purposes, Council will consider the following factors:

– The interests of the public in the maintenance of an aesthetically pleasing environment;

– The desirability of protecting publicly owned trees;

– The value of the tree as a public amenity;

– The historical, cultural or scientific significance (if any) of the trees; and

– The likely effect (if any) of the removal or trimming of the tree on ground stability, the water table, or run-off.

– The alternatives available if the street tree was to remain.”

and:

“Small pockets of native development should be encouraged in areas which have high amenity value to the public and can act as refuge and habitat areas for native wildlife including indigenous bird and insect species. Areas in which such practices have been commenced include the riverbank area of the Botanical Gardens, Kelvin Park, the Marina Reserve and the Riverbank Walkway.”

If this tree falls under reserves policy, there are similar considerations that staff will take into account.

As it stands, the Mayor only needs one third of councillors to sign a notice of motion to test the decision made in haste and with some proper staff advice on the matter and enough public outcry, it may go his way the second time.

I find interesting some of the issues our citizens and councillors get most passionate about and look forward to seeing how this one plays out. I hope similar levels of enthusiasm and energy will be dedicated to some other pressing matters as well.

Are we all Placemakers?

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While the Cycle and Walkways have consistently been the most popular of the Major Projects in the Council’s Ten Year Plan, the Navigations Project has been one of the least popular and most controversial. Both projects are arguably about ‘placemaking’ and economic development – cycleways focus on making the city a more attractive, healthy and liveable city, the Navigations Project is more about telling local history stories to locals and visitors.

Research recently published by an initiative called the Project for Public Spaces and promoted by the Institute of Public Governance at the University of California Berkeley has explored the links between placemaking and economic growth in communities.

The research suggests creation of great public spaces is good for the economy, but only when it’s truly community-driven, open and inclusive. The more attached to a place local people are, the higher a city or region’s economic activity: “Placemaking, in other words, is a vital part of economic development.” True placemaking involves an open process that welcomes everyone who wants in, which provides the opportunity for residents — who may or may not know each other — to share ideas and be heard.

“The end result should be a space that’s flexible enough to make room for many different communities, and encourage connections between them.” Or, the flip side:  “If Placemaking is project-led, development-led, design-led or artist-led, then it does likely lead to… a more limited set of community outcomes.”

The success of the cycle ways and inner-harbour development will depend on the level of ownership we all have in the planning and implementation of both projects.

The study also argues that communities can change governance for the better “by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog, making room both physically and philosophically by re-framing citizenship as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors. The result is not merely vibrancy, but equity.”

Gisborne District Council has not had a great history of fostering public participation in planning and decision-making, usually opting for the minimum required. In fact the Consultation Policy adopted in 2008 specifically excluded citizen empowerment from the continuum of public involvement.

“Place Governance” on the other hand is a process by which decisions about places are made not from the top down, but by a collaborative process involving everyone. The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group is a move toward this approach as it involves a wide cross-section of the community. However the FWAG falls short of real Place Governance because it is an exclusive group of organisations, meetings are not open to the public and the process is still controlled by Council.

The key actors in a Place Governance structure are not official agencies that deal with a few prescribed issues, but the people who use the area in question and are most intimately acquainted with its challenges. Officials who strive to implement this type of governance structure do so because they understand that the best solutions don’t come from within narrow disciplines, but from the points where people of different backgrounds come together.

I know some residents along the Taraheru River are concerned about how a boardwalk from Campion College to Grey Street may impact on the views, river access, tranquility and largely unspoiled riverfront they currently enjoy. While this project is on hold for the time being it will be essential for the residents, river users, iwi representatives, walkers and cyclists to work through how we can best utilise the public spaces along the river as this project proceeds. And I’m confident Council will ensure that happens.

Call for investigation into alleged human rights abuses

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Opening of the Tongan language immersion unit at Kaiti School, 2012

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie is calling for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Immigration New Zealand in Gisborne. Mr Caddie is very concerned about reports that two Tongan men being held at Gisborne Police Station have been denied access to lawyers and interpreters.

“Apparently the men are accused of being in New Zealand unlawfully and their lawyer says immigrants in Gisborne are being ‘actively discouraged’ from accessing legal counsel and interpreters.”

“These are serious accusations of human rights violations in our community by a government agency, we need an urgent and full investigation of the situation before anything happens to the men who should not be languishing in Police cells any longer than is necessary.”

Gisborne has a growing population of new immigrants, some who stay longer than their visa allows.

“My few experiences with Immigration New Zealand has suggested the agency often operates with impunity and forces people in similar circumstances to be deported so they cannot apply for the right to return for at least five years. These are hardworking people who contribute to the local economy, who have children in local schools and are often church leaders and positive, contributing members of our community.”

“The Tongan community is a vibrant part of the Gisborne population and it is important they have access to the support required. The Pacific island Community Trust does a good job of providing information to our Pasifika community but have very few resources to serve the rapidly expanding multicultural communities.”

Mr Caddie, who is of Tongan descent himself, says he understands there are approximately 2,500 Tongans now living in Gisborne, many work in low paid employment such as forestry and seasonal field work.

“I have just returned from the United States where undocumented workers is a massive issue across the country but the US government is finding constructive ways to address the challenges rather than use the dawn raids and deportation that still seem popular here. New Zealand needs to mature in the way we deal with new and ‘illegal’ immigrants as these families usually bring a work ethic and civic pride that seems to be missing in many Kiwis.”

ENDS

Radio Australia article: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/nz-immigration-accused-of-denying-rights-to-overstayers/1128512

Regional Economic Development

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A Gisborne District Councillor says the government is picking winners and industries other than oil and gas would grow the regional economy if similar public funds were committed to other parts of the economy.

Manu Caddie would prefer to see government support for developing industries on the East Coast such as renewable biofuels and biochemicals, internet-based small businesses, high tech food production with the associated intellectual property and what he terms ‘lifestyle relocators’.

“We could wait for a new mill to be built and employ a few hundred on minimum wage or we could get on with attracting a hundred innovative, high earning business owners that want to live in places that are vibrant and well connected but out of the rat race of the sprawling metropolitan areas. Compared to the larger centres we have very cheap commercial and residential property prices, a compact city, relaxed lifestyles and relatively unspoiled environment.”

Mr Caddie says the Government has a fundamentally flawed policy of prioritising petroleum development without any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions let alone transition the country away from fossil fuels.

“There may well be some short-term economic gain for some members of the community if a significant amount of hydrocarbons can be extracted, but the evidence from overseas is that in mining boomtowns the economic benefits accrue to a certain part of the population while others are worse off and inequalities increase.”

“The region has not had a properly informed debate on the costs and benefits of mining here. There has been no independent analysis and advice on our situation and what the alternatives could be that would deliver more sustainable employment and environmental benefits. If the Government wants to pick winners then at least make it evidence-based instead of ideological. Environmentally sustainable mining is an oxymoron and given the scientific evidence on the impacts of fossil fuel consumption, the issue really is a moral question more than anything else.”

Mr Caddie says he agrees with Steven Joyce and Meng Foon that education needs even more attention.

“This is as much about families and students getting the support they need and taking responsibility as it is about the quality of teaching and approaches to formal learning. More sophiscated understanding of and flexibility around the relationships between schooling, family dynamics, employment and lifestyle choices is critical.”

“Only one in four Gisborne school leavers have NCEA Level 3 or above, nearly ten percent lower than the national average. Between half and three quarters of young people say they do not plan to continue with any form tertiary training after leaving school. A higher proportion of Gisborne young people work in agriculture, fishing, forestry and manufacturing than the national average.”

Gisborne has about 150 young offenders under 17 years. Based on 2001 estimates from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, each year offences committed by young people in Gisborne cost around $2.5 million in Police, court and sentencing costs.

“There is a significant underclass emerging that are extremely disconnected from mainstream society, community leaders, public institutions, employers and community organisations need to get a whole lot smarter about how we think about this part of the population and just focusing on economic development will not be sufficient.”

Walking For Jonathan

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I expect we are all inspired and impressed with the feat Robert Hunter accomplished last week. Walking all the way from Hicks Bay to Gisborne demonstrated how passionate he is to ensure people who use marijuana know they risk mental illness as a result.

Robert says all along the way he heard numerous stories of heartbreak from family and friends of those affected by their use of marijuana. Robert’s son Jonathan was introduced to marijuana by friends and was one of many who develop psychotic symptoms when they use the drug a lot. It is marijuana use that his parents hold mostly responsible for Jonathan’s tragic suicide and it is the link between marijuana and psychosis they are campaigning about.

While Tairawhiti District Health Board and other local organisations no doubt receive thousands of taxpayer dollars for public health promotion every year, this simple act of love, Robert walking the length of our district in memory of his son, has generated more discussion on the issues in one week than anything else in recent memory.

We have to wonder where the community leaders are who will also speak out about the culture of acceptance. Is it the Tairawhiti District Health Board members and health professionals who are paid to promote wellbeing that are leading real change? Is it youth workers, counsellors, educators, police officers, probation officers and social workers that see the results of drugs in families and the effects on children? Is it local iwi leaders, sports stars, business people or other respected locals who have taken up the cause and helped communities rethink our addictions to marijuana, alcohol and other drugs?

Significant parts of our district accept drug abuse as part of the local culture, recognising its contribution to the local economy and passing on the habits from one generation to another. Few members of these communities are brave enough to challenge the dominant drug culture as it can literally result in attacks, ridicule or exclusion from the people and place they belong to.

For other parts of our community marijuana is an unfamiliar addiction, something that has only been picked up by a younger generation. But for this reason it can affect a family even more so and the inexplicable pain of having a child or grandchild take their own life is something no one should have to experience.

Research on the links between marijuana use and mental illness will benefit from this campaign, what we also need are decent support and treatment services appropriate for the range of individuals and families affected in our community. Next week there is a free two day training workshop for people interested in using a simple tool called ‘Smashed and Stoned’ that helps young people reflect on how and why they use drugs including marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol. I have found it very effective with teenagers and encourage others willing to be part of the solution to use it. Contact Bev Thomas at Turanga Health or Tim Marshall at Family Works to find out more.

It really was great to see so much support for his simple message as Robert passed through each settlement and a good turn out for the last leg into town. As Robert and Coralie have said, if the walk is able to spare just one family the pain of losing a family member, then the effort will have been worthwhile. Let’s hope it is the catalyst for sustained positive change in our community that will help many families.

Read more at: www.facebook.com/WalkingForJonathan

Sabre or Pen Rattling?

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The quality of journalism in our national news media never ceases to amaze me.

No reminding us of how untrustworthy US military ‘intelligence’ is after US-led invasions of Iraq in 1991 and especially 2003.

No suggestion that while North Korea may be ‘rattling sabres’, it is the US that is pretending to drop nuclear weapons on them just over the border.

And no pointing to the blatant hypocrisy in John Kerry’s claim that North Korea is using “provocative… dangerous, reckless” rhetoric.

In fact, on the same day Kim Jong-Un visited his soldiers on Mu Island, there were 80,000 US and South Korean troops participating in a joint annual training exercise. For the first time in its history, this war exercise included a simulation of a pre-emptive attack by South Korean artillery units in an all-out war scenario against North Korea.

Kim is probably not the mad man that mainstream news tries to portray him as, rather a young man trying to prove himself while suffering an inevitable sense of threat that he will be perceived as weak and inadequate by others within the regime.

I’m pleased Meng Foon is sending a request to our Sister City in Palm Desert to call on their nation’s leader to pursue peace rather than war. The mad men sitting on over 5,000 nuclear warheads and spending more than a million dollars every minute of every day on the military industry should raise at least as much concern as their avowed enemy in North Korea.

Dealing with Our Crap

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Thanks so much to Tami Gooch and Sam Tamanui for organising the Kopututea beach clean-up. Thanks also to the businesses that generously donated equipment, food and time.

Special thanks to the more than 200 Gisborne people, especially the young people, who spent a few hours of Good Friday cleaning up the mess caused by some irresponsible individuals.

Illegal dumping suggests some of us are not prepared to deal properly with stuff after we have finished with it. I don’t accept the excuse that transfer station fees are too expensive; if we can afford to buy or use something, we need to take responsibility for the whole life cycle of the item.

The bulk of the crap we picked up (and there was quite a few bags of dog poo as well as a whole dog) were small deposits of household waste that would easily fit in a black rubbish bag to be collected from the curb with the orange stickers provided by council.

In addition to the two over-filled skip bins, we delivered a trailer and carload of recycling to the transfer station — this is, of course, free to dispose of every week as the recycling truck drives past every home.

There was a fair amount of biodegradable waste, including garden waste (could make compost or drop to the green waste facility) and a number of animal parts (use the offal pit on the farm the animal came from).

It’s a beautiful stretch of coastline, let’s all respect it and keep it clean!

Rushed RMA Reforms Revisited

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A Government presentation in Gisborne yesterday on planned changes to the Resource Management Act and freshwater management provided only one side of the story according to a Gisborne District councillor.

“Of course it is the job of the Minister for the Environment and her officials to paint the proposed changes in the best light possible and they did a good job of that” said Manu Caddie. “But there are a lot of concerns about these changes in different parts of the community and the two week timeframe for providing feedback is incredibly tight.”

Mr Caddie has organised another workshop for people interested in discussing the changes in more depth at Gisborne District Council starting 6.30pm next Thursday 21 March.

“The Minister was quite upfront about trying to push these changes through quickly and while the topic may not be as sexy as the Marriage Equality Bill or Asset Sales, the long-term ramifications for the natural environment, habitat protection and community involvement in decision-making are huge.”

Mr Caddie said he is particularly concerned about planned changes to decision-making that will give central government greater powers and reduce opportunities for local control of environmental regulation.

“The RMA was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world in terms of participatory democracy and local control of local issues. Limiting the opportunities for public submissions and the right to appeal a decision will reduce the diversity of information available to decision makers and the quality of decisions.”

Mr Caddie said increasing the influence of commercial interests in decision-making and reducing the level of consideration given to environmental protection may reduce ‘red tape’ for big business and property developers but also impacts on habitat protection and the health of local ecologies.

“There are a few good things in the changes that would bring some more consistency and speed up minor resource consents but there are many aspects to the proposals that will further erode the few protections currently in place for the natural environment.”

Local Māori who spoke at the meeting yesterday expressed a desire to see more co-governance arrangements for resource management, particularly decisions about waterways. Proposed changes allow Māori a range of consultation opportunities in water management processes but stop short of sharing final decision-making with iwi or hapū.

Mr Caddie said he is also available to meet with any group or individual interested in discussing the proposed changes.

ENDS

Resources:

MfE Discussion Paper: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/improving-our-resource-management-system.html

Overdue petroleum study slated by councillors

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An overdue government report on the “benefits, impacts and risks” of petroleum development across the East Coast is a sloppy marketing campaign for the industry paid for by taxes and council rates, according to some councillors from Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said the $130,000 report released today was originally due in November and the lack of a good news story must be embarrassing for the Government. “The study is riddled with errors, clearly biased and provides less than half of the information promised in the Terms of Reference” said Mr Caddie.

The East Coast Oil and Gas Development Study was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment with support from local authorities on the East Coast from Tararua to Gisborne.

“The study makes some optimistic claims about benefits but glosses over the risks and has almost no worthwhile analysis of the economic impacts let alone social and cultural impacts of this industry should it come to dominate the region” said Mr Caddie.

“One of the few redeeming features of the report is that, based on geological analysis and economic modelling, it suggests commercial petroleum development in the region is highly unlikely” said Mr Caddie. “The study provides a good case for the government to support industries that will produce more sustainable, long-term employment with much lower risk to the environment and existing primary industries.”

One of the bitter ironies of the report is that it relies on production scenarios supplied by Apache Corporation, a company that has since pulled out of exploration in the region. While the report tries to reassure the public and decision makers that well integrity is not a risk, just last week Apache Corporation had a blowout at an exploratory well being drilled only 330m below the surface near New Orleans.

Similarly the study suggests a subsurface safety valve eliminates the risk of hydrocarbon or chemical leaks should a well be compromised, yet according to the US Minerals Management Service such valves have a ‘high failure rate’.

Hawkes Bay Regional Councillor Liz Remmerswaal said the study is inconsistent and selectively quotes from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report on fracking.

“The PCE report identified seven key concerns about any petroleum exploration or production on the East Coast and while the MoBIE study says it will not make recommendations it then suggests the questions raised by the PCE do not need to be addressed before exploration starts” said Ms Remmerswaal.

The PCE report also provides evidence on how reinjection processes used in fracking operations overseas have caused significant earthquakes. The MoBIE report is not only silent on these concerns, it recommends the reinjection of waste products from the drilling process.

Both councillors believe the government and councils should commit similar funds to a study on sustainable energy opportunities for the region.

Last month a government-funded trade delegation visited DLR, one of the world’s leading energy market analysts, the same organisation that was recently commissioned by Greenpeace to produce a plan for 100 percent renewable energy use by 2050 for New Zealand.

The Greenpeace report reveals that 250 companies in New Zealand are already researching and commercialising clean technology with Investment NZ suggesting at least 60 of these are world-class enterprises. These companies have potential revenues of $7.5-22billion, significantly higher than the total revenue for even the most optimistic East Coast petroleum development scenarios. The Greenpeace report also provides evidence that clean energy jobs are more secure, safer, often pay better and are created at 3-4 times the number of fossil fuel jobs for the same investment.

“The MoBIE study has some generous claims about how many local people will be employed but why they assume at least half will be local residents is unclear, especially as Apache Corporation representatives speaking at public presentations very clearly refused to promise any direct local employment in the industry” said Mr Caddie.

The report identifies known aquifers in the region and discusses their protection and exclusion from exploration zones though some confusion exists about how the Napier MP and Minister for Local Government Chris Tremain claimed credit for excluding aquifer areas in Hawkes Bay but no where else in country.

“The Minister acknowledges the significant risk to aquifers during drilling and production phases but has only focused on protecting his home patch” said Mr Caddie. The study suggests excluded areas should be identified through changes to regional and district plans.

“It’s a bit fresh that this study is launched the same week as Hawkes Bay Regional Council is asking for a drought to be declared and the study says fracking requires ‘large volumes of water’” said Ms Remmerswaal. “But other than implying a massive new dam will solve the problem, little assessment is made of the existing competition for scarce water resources let alone the impacts of a new industry requiring large volumes to be used and contaminated in the process.”

The councillors are also concerned that the report relies heavily on the few examples of fracking in Taranaki which has very different geology and the regulatory history of the Taranaki Regional Council which the PCE report revealed had been operating outside the law in relation to fracking according to their own lawyers assessment.

Apache Corporation announced the withdrawal from a joint venture on the East Coast in January leaving Canadian company TAG Oil with responsibility for an exploration operation in a complex area both in terms of the geological and cultural landscape. Marauder Resources which holds other permits for exploration in Hawkes Bay received a warning from auditor KPMG last year that the company may not be able to ‘continue as a going concern’.

CONTACTS:

Liz Remmerswaal 027 333 1066 (will be outside HBRC from 11am-12pm)

Manu Caddie 0274 202 957

Download the MoBIE study and government comments here:

http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/natural-resources/oil-and-gas/petroleum-expert-reports/east-coast-oil-and-gas-development-study

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Gisborne to lead on sustainable dairying?

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What is the price of milk? In New Zealand the cost of dairy is that two thirds of our native fish are classified as either at risk or threatened.

After decades of polluting land and water, the dairy industry has finally published a voluntary code in an effort to at least make some effort to clean up their act. My first impression of the new ‘Sustainable Dairying Water Accord‘ is positive as it covers all regions including Gisborne and all dairy companies and farmers supplying them.

Stock exclusion from waterways, riparian planting, nutrient management systems and other good things are all going to be considered industry best practice and will now apply to all dairy farmers.

Gisborne only has a few dairy farms and our Council is understandably taking a low key approach to the new Accord. There is however a big opportunity for us here.

The Council is the local regulator and represents the wider public interest in protecting water quality. Ten years of a previous Accord showed that councils have to be vigilant to ensure that farmers meet their responsibilities under their resource consents to discharge dairy shed effluent.

The small numbers of dairy farms here mean it should be easy for us to get it right. Council recently took a dairy farmer to court for breaching the consent conditions, but we will be able to work closely with farmers to ensure the new Sustainable Dairy Farming Accord is adhered to and avoid the need for future enforcement action.

Let’s hope that our farms are the best in the country and that we can show the rest of New Zealand how to live up to the 100% PURE brand we all aspire to make a reality.

Regional study ‘must not be a white-wash’

East Coast rail supporters say a regional economic study with a focus on transport infrastructure will need to have its scope set by the communities affected to avoid being a contrived tool for Government to justify closure of the line.

District Councillor Manu Caddie said he will table a paper at the Gisborne Regional Transport Committee next week recommending a Terms of Reference be drafted by the local authorities, have proper opportunity for public feedback and be signed off only with the support all the councils affected.

“The announcement yesterday was intended to deflect criticism from the sorry situation the Government have found themselves in” said Mr Caddie.

In a Select Committee meeting yesterday KiwiRail admitted a lack of maintenance led to the washout that closed the Gisborne line and blamed the lack of funding for basic maintenance on government policy under the ‘Turn Around Plan’.

Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the joint local and central investigation to be funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment after a meeting with regional mayors in Wellington.

Dr Ganesh Nana, the senior economist for BERL who provided a review of KiwiRail estimates for the line has offered to assist with setting the Terms of Reference for the much deeper study the BERL report recommended and opposition parties have called for.

“BERL’s expertise will be invaluable to ensure the whole story is told so we don’t arrive at a predetermined outcome or ignore essential considerations” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie said it was vital that the regions involved had control of the process to avoid a central government whitewash of the investigation.

“Basing their decision on the KiwiRail business case – which BERL has shown is a lot better than KiwiRail or the Government claimed – is a bit like asking a local freight company if they want some remote roads in the district to remain open.” said Richard Burke, General Manager at Leaderbrand.

“Local business owners have shown there has been a negative impact on business and local jobs as a result of this decision that the Government is responsible for” said Mr Burke. Leaderbrand is a major horticultural exporter from the region. Clyde Lumber in Wairoa has stopped processing timber since the line was mothballed in December with 15 to 20 staff now out of work. “Products from this region will be less competitive without the rail and that will mean more job losses that our communities cannot afford” said Mr Burke.

“The evidence is clear, from the Government’s own projections we are going to see another 80-90 logging trucks every day on the highway.”

Maintenance costs on State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Napier have increased significantly in the last 10 years – from an average of $7.6 million per year between 2002 and 2005, to nearly $15 million per year between 2008 and 2012. Based on MAF forestry data, BERL conservatively expects over 80 more trucks each day on the highway if rail is unavailable.

“We currently have rail freight income for 75% of the break-even cost of the line, and that doesn’t include any of these externalities like improved road safety, significantly reduced road maintenance costs and a number of important environmental benefits. With some small investment, it won’t take much to get to 100% in a few years and within ten years the line will be quite profitable. But that is still a false economy, we need to include the other benefits and this study has the opportunity to show the real costs and benefits of a secure rail link complimenting other transport infrastructure” said Mr Caddie.

Still No Meeting With Minister

Patience is wearing thin amongst regional leaders and rail supporters as the Minister of Transport refuses to set a date to meet with Mayors and business owners from Hawkes Bay and Gisborne.
 
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule yesterday said he was still waiting to hear from Gerry Brownlee’s office on a date for the Minister to meet with East Coast leaders. 
 
Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said he had received an email from the Minister’s office saying Mr Brownlee was too busy to meet. 
 
“I never asked to meet with the Minister, I was simply asking them to hurry up and find a day that suited Mr Brownlee as the original request was lodged back in November and they’re still fluffing around.”
 
Mr Caddie said while doesn’t hold out much hope that the Minister will offer a sympathetic ear, the meeting was required to discuss the findings of the BERL report and ask the Government to at least fund a regional impact study if they decided not to support reopening the rail link.
 
“Basing their decision on the KiwiRail business case – which BERL has shown is a lot better than KiwiRail or the Government claimed – is a bit like asking a local freight company if they want some remote roads in the district to remain open.” said Richard Burke, General Manager at Leaderbrand, a major horticultural exporter in Gisborne. “Many other local business owners have shown there has been a negative impact on local companies and local jobs as a result of this decision that the Government is responsible for” said Mr Burke. “The process and the information informing the decision is deeply flawed.” 
 
Mr Caddie said of twelve sections of the railway network mothballed since 1991, KiwiRail has only reopened one six kilometre stretch near Whanganui. 
 
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MOTHBALLED LINES:
  • Waitoa (10km) – mothballed 1991, reopened 2004 by Toll.
  • Onehunga-Onehunga Wharf (1km) – mothballed 1992, closed & lifted 2007 by Ontrack.
  • TePapapa-Onehunga (1.5km), mothballed 2007, reopened 2010 for Auckland Transport.
  • Makaraka Branch (3km) – mothballed 1995, not reopened.
  • Otiria-Moerewa (2km) – mothballed 1995, closed & lifted 2008-2010 by KiwiRail.
  • Waitara Branch (7km) – mothballed 1999, leased/sold to heritage operator.
  • Taneatua (26km) – mothballed 2001, not reopened.
  • Rotorua (48km) – mothballed 2001, not reopened.
  • Gracefield (3km) – mothballed 2002, not reopened.
  • Nightcaps-Ohai (7km) – mothballed 2009, not reopened.
  • SOL (143km) – mothballed 2009, leased to FWA 2012.
  • NGL (210km) – mothballed 2012, not reopened.
  • Castlecliff (6km) – mothballed 2001, first 3.5km reopened 2011.
 
– – – 
 
CONTACT: 
Richard Burke – 021444439
Manu Caddie – 0274202957

Community Appeal for the family of Amandeep Singh

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People wishing to help the family of Amandeep Singh are able to make donations through a special appeal on behalf of Gisborne residents.

“We understand his family are not wealthy and want to show them that the Gisborne community is upset with what has happened” said organiser Manu Caddie.

“Gisborne people are very disturbed by this situation and I’m sure many residents will want to show their love and concern to his family in India.”

Ka Pai Kaiti Trust has agreed to administer the donations and pass them on to the family.

Contributions can, from Tuesday, be dropped into the front counter at Gisborne District Council in Fitzherbert Street, can be deposited into the Kiwibank account of Ka Pai Kaiti Trust (reference: SINGH) or may be posted to Ka Pai Kaiti Trust, PO Box 698, Gisborne 4010 with a note that it is for the family of Mr Singh. Donations can also be deposited into the Ka Pai Kaiti Trust bank account: 38-9001-0219689-00 (Kiwibank). Reference: SINGH.

Labour announces rail retention policy at public meeting

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A Gisborne public meeting hosted by Mayor Meng Foon was the platform for Labour Party MP Moana Mackey to announce her party’s intention to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line if they are in power after next year’s election and the current Government abandons it.
“Having read the BERL report the Labour Party can now see the economic opportunity the rail provides and we are convinced it makes sense to retain the line, keep the extra trucks off the road and keep East Coast products competitive” said Ms Mackey.
“The National Party received a real bollocking at the meeting” said organiser and District Councillor Manu Caddie.
A member of the public moved a vote of no confidence in Anne Tolley and Chris Tremain that was almost unanimously supported by the more than 100 residents present and speakers suggested while the provinces have been loyal to National, the party leadership seem to have forgotten about rural New Zealanders.
Forest owner Roger Dickie said he had 18 million tonnes of trees to be harvested in the region and he wants to send at least 7.5 million tonnes south by rail. Mr Dickie also criticised Juken Nisho who own a mill in Gisborne and Eastland Port for lobbying the Government against retention of the line in an effort to bolster their own businesses at the expense of others in the region.
Mr Dickie responded to KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn’s claims that short haul railways are uneconomic by pointing out a number of similar and shorter lines carting logs profitably for KiwiRail.
Green MP Julie Genter said the $500,000 for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis was small change compared to the $100 million of taxpayers funds the Government has spent on consultants for a $3-5 billion motorway in Wellington.
“If the Government wants to take this public asset away from the region then they need to be able to justify the decision with accurate figures” said Mr Caddie. “BERL have shown the numbers are much closer than KiwiRail suggested and that doesn’t even take into account the massive extra cost to road maintenance, road safety issues, environmental benefits and the cost to regional jobs if Gisborne products are less competitive.”
“$4 million is the cheapest the repair is ever going to be, so fix it now” said Ms Mackey.
“Many of the regional roads in our district would not exist if Council applied the same economic rationale to them as KiwiRail has to” said Mayor Foon. Gisborne deserves to have services and infrastructure similar to every other part of the country. We deserve good schools, good hospitals, good roads and a good railway line.”

Another Oil Giant Pulls Out

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East Coast residents concerned about the impacts of mining in the region are celebrating news that a Canadian oil giant has withdrawn its support for exploration in New Zealand.

A statement on the website of Canadian company TAG Oil this week announced the withdrawal of exploration partner Apache Corporation from any work beyond the first phase of onshore prospecting in the East Coast Basin. Apache Corporation (Canada) had committed up to $110m in the project but this was subject to a decision to continue after initial exploration.

“Obviously the 2D seismic data Apache collected suggested the resource is marginal at best and given the high level of concern expressed by farmers, horticulturalists, wine growers, Maori land owners and the general public, they have decided it is not worth pursuing” said Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie.

Mr Caddie is not sure what this development means for a Resource Consent from Apache to drill an exploratory well near the township of Te Karaka, or how it will impact on a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment study that uses Apache production scenarios to quantify economic benefits of petroleum production in the region.

“The MBIE study was promised before Christmas and still hasn’t been released. I hope now they will go back to the drawing board and spend another $100,000 on a study looking at realistic and sustainable economic development options for the region. Developing energy from forestry and seaweed biomass, solar power stations and offshore wind should all be getting serious research funding to benefit the East Coast and the whole country.”

“Following hard on the heels of the Petrobras withdrawal, I’m sure there will be many people happy to see Government plans for exploration here coming undone.”

“It is of concern that TAG are saying they still have longterm plans for the East Coast as their original announcement of the Apache joint venture noted unconventional drilling is high risk and that Apache was bringing experience and expertise that we can only assume TAG doesn’t have.”

Both companies have seen their share prices fall in the days since the announcement of the Apache exit.

The news follows the indictment last week of a TAG employee in New Plymouth accused of industrial espionage by stealing information from the company prior to starting with another Canadian company holding East Coast exploration permits.

LINKS:

Deepening Democracy

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‘The Death of Socrates’

The controversial decision of the Local Government Commission on the GDC Representation Review has provided another opportunity to look at local democracy in more depth. The status quo was preferred by a slim majority of councillors but like in 1998 the Commission took into account the law and the views of submitters and ultimately required changes in the structure of elected members.

It is great to see my rural colleagues committed to ensuring all voices in the district are heard and the ‘quiet’ residents “have their needs listened to and met.” I agree we need to ensure those groups that traditionally have not had a strong voice around the Council table are better represented and contribute to decision-making.

To this end perhaps we should be reviewing the current content and effectiveness of the GDC Consultation Policy passed by the previous Council?

That policy commits Council to “partner with the public in each aspect of a decision, including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution.” The policy says “We will look to you (citizens) for direct advice in formulating solutions and incorporate your advice into the decisions to the maximum extent possible.” My short time on Council has suggested there is much room for improvement in this regard.

The last Council specifically excluded ’empowerment’ and putting ‘decision-making in the hands of the public’ from the spectrum of public engagement in the Consultation Policy. I guess it may come down to a philosophy of governance. Some people believe elected representatives are put into office to make decisions on behalf of the public who wish to have little input in decisions that affect them. Others of us believe our role is to encourage as much public participation in local decision-making as possible. Maybe I’ve packaged the proposals in unhelpful ways, but most of my efforts in this regard haven’t been very successful to date.

Community Boards were one example and something we could have included in the Representation Review if there was greater willingness to look at ways to improve our democratic processes locally. 42 submitters (including a number living in rural areas) argued for Community Boards through their Representation Review submissions compared to only 11 submitters who said they did not support Community Boards.

Wainui/Okitu Residents and Ratepayers Association submission specifically requested a Community Board for their community as they argued Wainui/Okitu is a community of interest as defined in the legislation. They also suggested other rural communities may benefit from community boards.

While highly effective in the overwhelming majority of districts that have Community Boards, the request for community boards was rejected by the majority of councilors.

It is encouraging to see that the majority of councilors support special treatment for some parts of the population, in this case depending on where you live or own property. As Turanga iwi have successfully demonstrated through their Treaty settlements, indigenous peoples are also entitled to special treatment in local government arrangements and it will be interesting to see how this works out under the new statutory committee to be established between Council and iwi.

Consultation Policy goals we can and will do better on include: promoting a sense of ownership of its decisions by the people of the district; providing an opportunity for meaningful input into decisions; creating an awareness of the diversity of opinion within the community; and showing leadership.

15 years after the last changes were made in representation arrangements some will say we are closer to fair representation and others will say we are not, but hopefully we can keep taking important steps toward empowered participation.