A paper I presented at the Oil & Gas Symposium, Hastings District Council, 11 October 2013.
The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce asked candidates five questions, these are my responses…
– – –
I have enjoyed first term on Council, part of that was on the Chamber Executive and I’d like to see those links strengthened a little more as I think Brian Wilson and myself acted as a useful conduit between the Council and Chamber on a number of issues.
I think I’ve been able to make intelligent, sensible and considered contributions to Council and I’ve helped raise the quality of discussion, debate and decision-making.
I’ve had a focus on increasing public involvement in planning and decisions and been a strong advocate for the city and the district as a whole.
I have listened to residents and ratepayers (even after being elected!), worked well with others (who don’t always share the same values and views) and helped make good decisions in the best interest of the region as a whole.
– – –
1. What do you see as the GDC’s role in contributing to economic development and growth in this region?
Council has a key role in a number of areas contributing to economic development:
Some of functions within these areas, particulatly information gathering and sharing, advocacy and relationship brokerage could be devolved to an Economic Development Agency run separate to Council. But the Mayor and Council have a critical leadership role in advocating on behalf of the region – especially on things like roading, new costs being imposed by central government legislation, etc. And political leadership can help broker mutually beneficial relationships with industry, iwi, land owners, research institutions, entrepreneurs, etc.
Council can also have procurement and banking policies that benefit the local community in different ways.
– – –
2. What is your view of the core role of council? Do you consider there are any current council activities that do not fit this role?
Under new legislation the purpose of local government is now to provide quality infrastructure, regulation & essential services. Opposition parties have pledged to revert the purpose back to promoting sustainable development and local cultural, environmental, social and economic wellbeing.
I’m not completely wedded to Council providing social housing. I have argued it could be sold to a Charitable Trust, housing cooperative or something like ECT but wouldn’t want to see them go to private ownership. I’m also open to Council not owning any or all of its commercial assets (WOF station, holiday park, farms) if there are compelling financial reasons to divest from these enterprises. We need an urgent review of Council asset ownership to identify options and the benefits of retaining or releasing these enterprises.
Tauwhareparae Farms are being well run but I’m not convinced we need to retain them. They were acquired to supplement port income and will always provide low value compared to capital committed, as the trees appreciate so will the capital value. There is no legal risk in selling them and my preference would be as Margaret Thorpe suggests to land-bank them via OTS as they are subject to Treaty claims. This will ensure we get a premium price, they are retained in local ownership and we demonstrate goodwill to the traditional owners.
– – –
3. Businesses have to live within their means, or face the consequences. What is your view with regard to GDC achieving the same discipline around keeping rates increases in check?
Significant savings have been made by previous and current CEO to trim as much as possible. More ‘savings’ could be found but that depends on what we want to give up and what quality of life we can tolerate.
I campaigned on rates rises at or below inflation and we have achieved that. The ‘razor gang’ didn’t make any significant savings. I also campaigned on getting more predictable rates system with smaller variations year on year and we are making good progress on this through the participatory rates review process.
Council league tables suggest we are now one of the most financially sustainable and we rank 26 out of 73 councils for cost of rates.
Councillors are financially conservative and understand the limits of affordability for residents, but the WMT suggests this is not the case. That massive blowout and the need to address some basic first suggest some of the fancy projects need to be reviewed while we attend to the basics first.
If the community has things they think we should stop doing or not start they have the opportunity every year and we listen to that feedback.
– – –
4. What is your position with respect to the re-opening of the Gisborne to Napier rail line?
The railway line a billion dollar public asset that is lying idle while Gisborne and Wairoa businesses scream out for it to make our products more competitive. Some people say logs will never go South on it but there are massive forests between Napier and Gisborne that will provide the anchor business for the line so that containerised seasonal produce and timber coming out and fertiliser going to Gisborne can be transported by rail instead of trucks. Coastal shipping is unlikely to ever be viable if the rail is operating.
More trucks on the road means more cost in maintenance, more congestion and more danger for other motorists – it also means more cost for local businesses and more competition from other places that have lower freight costs.
With the support of 10,000 signatures and $20,000 given by local businesses and residents, we commissioned a study that demonstrated the lack of rigor in the government’s position and the potential for a realistic business case if roads and rail were considered on a level playing field by central government.
A different government next year will reinstate the line if the local business consortium is unable to raise the funds required. Some candidates say they don’t don’t support ratepayers funding the line operation – that has never been a realistic option – but Council could be a stronger advocate for the line.
– – –
5. If you were elected to the council, what activities or actions would you take to ensure Gisborne becomes an even better place to work, live and play?
I will keep doing what I have been:
– all of the above, plus…
– working with the IT sector to establish local computer hubs for young people and families with few opportunities to access IT, career pathways via the Techxpo and partnership with major NZ telcos
– advocating for more central government support for our district (transport, rail, imposed costs, renewable energy, forestry carbon credits, aquaculture, etc.) and working with iwi and other stakeholders on these issues
– leading a gang transformation project focused on employment and working with employers and support services
– review commercial assets
– keep rates at or below inflation
– continue support for better commuter cycling and walking infrastructure
– more emphasis on local housing issues – affordable, healthy housing for everyone, not provided by Council but Council facilitating government, community and private sectors working together
– continue emphasising the importance of opportunities for public input on issues like forestry harvest rules, petroleum exploration applications, legislative submissions, etc.
– continue work on Māori land issues – Council working with landowners to look at how to make the land more productive and/or revert to indigenous forest
– continue supporting illegal dumping prevention and removal, and more ambitious waste minimisation targets.
– continue bringing diverse parts of the community together to address complex issues
– continue voluntary involvement in a wide range of community groups and local issues.
When it comes to mining, Australia has many lessons for us. A 2009 report from the Queensland Government and Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at University of Queensland showed that housing affordability often declines for people in mining towns who aren’t working in the industry.
Stats from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) show a close correlation between Queensland resources and property booms — median house prices in one suburb soared 65 percent in a year. Great if you’re a property investor, but if you just want an affordable home for your family you might be out of luck.
CSRM studies have documented the “two-speed economy” that follows mining “boom towns”, where people who aren’t working in the industry get a sharp shock when they realise that normal life is suddenly a lot more expensive.
A US Department of Agriculture study published last year found that in three states experiencing petroleum booms, a large increase in production caused only modest increases in local jobs and median household income and employment rose 1.5 percent on pre-boom levels.
There is a range of other peer-reviewed empirical studies on the subject (a few listed below), and I’m happy to look at evidence to the contrary.
So while some incomes will rise during an oil boom, the cost of living for everyone is likely to increase as well — meaning those on a fixed income are in fact worse off. We know that most of the high-paying jobs that go with the territory go to specialists who are brought in.
While this may not on its own be reason enough to say “no” to oil and gas exploration here, it’s important to understand the real opportunities and risks before rolling out the red carpet.
And communities aren’t the only ones thinking hard about the pros and cons. Two months ago Rabobank Group said it would no longer provide finance to anyone involved in extracting unconventional fossil fuels such as oil shales through fracking (see their Oil & Gas policy).
One of the world’s largest lenders, Rabobank is worried about the impact oil and gas production is having on people, productive agricultural land, wildlife and the climate — as well as the release of greenhouse gases and their warming of the planet.
As we are seeing in Taranaki now, there is increasing conflict in the communities affected by the expansion of oil and gas there and a perceived risk to the rural sector from residents near new developments.
A letter to Tiniroto resident John Brodie from the FMG Service Centre says:
“Our Underwriters have confirmed we exclude cover of Fracking and anything related to this activity. Fracking is outside of FMG’s preferred risk profile and is not something we would be willing to cover as we do not insure any risks relating to the mining industry.”
I agree that Gisborne refusing to welcome fossil fuels production here won’t make a serious dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. But global agreements don’t happen out of thin air — they tend to come from grassroots movements that influence local government, national legislation and eventually international diplomacy.
The people of Gisborne taking a stand would help the industry and government to think twice and take notice. But that’s a decision for our community to make, and soon. Last year 2000 locals asked for public notification of any mining resource consent yet Gisborne District Council has chosen not to do so. I think now more than ever we need a forum for the community, our government, iwi and industry to sit down and talk about what the pros and cons really mean for Tairawhiti.
– – –
Weber, J. G. (2012). The effects of a natural gas boom on employment and income in Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming. Energy Economics, 34(5), 1580-1588. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eneco.2011.11.013
Jacquet, J. 2009. Energy Boomtowns & Natural Gas: Implications for Marcellus Shale Local Governments & Rural Communities, NERCD Rural Development Paper No. 43, January 2009, 63 pp., University Park, Pennsylvania: The Northeast Regional Centre for Rural Development, The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421512006702
The possible sale of the Tauwhareparae farms should be part of a review of all council owned property says City Ward district councillor Manu Caddie who is making it part of his election policy for the October local government elections.
While he is not committed to a sale at present he feels the financial returns from the farms do not justify the capital investment they represent. One possible solution would be to have the Office of Treaty Settlements buy them on behalf of the traditional Maori owners.
Mr Caddie is frustrated that a promised review of the council’s business units has not yet happened, mostly because of staffing issues following the departure of the chief financial officer and the delay in finding a replacement until after the rest of the staffing restructure was completed.
“Philosophically I have no problem with the council owning commercial entities provided they have either a strong income earning capacity or provide some other significant social, cultural or environmental benefit,” he said..
“I have complete confidence in the governance, management and operations of the farms, they are in the top ten performing units in the district and I believe those responsible for maximising profits from them are doing a good job of getting the best out of them. I also agree with Hilton Collier that there are opportunities for innovation and value-adding along the supply chain that the directors could focus more resources on.
“However, the financial returns provided by the farms do not justify the capital investment they represent.
“I disagree with the assessment that the return on investment has been over 15 percent for the last ten years. Including the land value in the ROI is dishonest accounting as it is not realised until the asset is actually sold and land values can go down as easily as they go up, though admittedly it is less fickle than some other investment options.
“If we took the actual dividends paid, and perhaps even a portion of the capital reinvestment retained, it seems term deposits and even conservative options like Government bonds would have delivered millions more to offset income that the council otherwise derives from our rates.
“Some sectors of the community have a strong emotional attachment – our rural councillors have tended to favour retention of the farms no matter what, though I have heard a number of farmers are keen to see council ownership reviewed as soon as possible.
“The farm directors and managers over the years have been responsible stewards of the land by committing significant Overlay 3A areas to reforestation, though I would like to know more about the biodiversity offsetting proposed that would allow them to clear a substantial Protected Management Area of indigenous vegetation that will take some time to replicate elsewhere.
“The farms have significance for local Māori and competing Treaty claims on the land meant that they were left out of settlements to date. So there is an option here that would take the risk out of the valuation price not being realised if the property went to market as the Office of Treaty Settlements would be obliged to purchase for no less than the latest registered valuation.
“That option would guarantee that the farms will be retained in local ownership rather than being snapped up by an absentee owner. It would also provide a significant gesture of goodwill from the people of Gisborne to the traditional ‘owners’ of the area and combined with other investment capital from Treaty settlements could pursue some of the innovation potential.
“So, at this stage I’m not saying I am committed to the sale but I am very motivated to have a thorough and independent review of council retaining ownership.
“We should not let politicians get in the way of the facts! I think we need to have a good long look at the likely scenarios should we decide to sell or retain the farms and what protections can be put in place to ensure councillors don’t just squander any proceeds on popular projects that could diminish rather than enhance the overall financial position of council,” said Mr Caddie.
A decision by Gisborne District Council to give the green light to Canadian company TAG Oil for an exploratory well to be drilled west of Gisborne city has been condemned by an RMA Commissioner.
Manu Caddie, who is also a Gisborne District Councillor, says he is supporting an application for a judicial review of the decision based on the public interest test, cumulative effects and the way potential cultural impacts have been handled in the assessment phase.
“Two thousand local residents signed a petition last year requesting any application to drill in the district be publicly notified. All they want is a chance to look into the application and make submissions if they have concerns.”
The Council’s Regional Policy Statement and Combined Regional and District Plan are largely silent on drilling activities and the Council has agreed to review the plan once the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issues her report on fracking later this year.
“The PCE in her interim report on fracking raised a number of real concerns about drilling on the East Coast and the lack of regulation in the petroleum industry as a whole” said Mr Caddie. “Until those concerns are addressed the public should have the right to examine applications and comment on them.”
“An industry representative said just last week that they have nothing to hide, so why are they afraid to give our community the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process.”
Mr Caddie said he understood the company had threatened to leave the district if the application was publicly notified and comments from vested interests meant staff felt pressure to let the application go through non-notified. “I’m sure everyone will deny that is the case, but this is what staff have told me.”
Mr Caddie said it was a sad day for the district and democracy. “The petition of 2,000 citizens must be the largest set of submissions Council has received on a single issue and it is bitterly disappointing that a simple request to have the opportunity to make comments at a public hearing – for or against the proposal – has been seen as less important than the desire of the company to rush into drilling.
Mr Caddie said he believed Council had good grounds to notify the application – while the risk of significant immediate pollution may be limited to a well explosion like the one that happened in the United States last month or limited contamination of land and streams, the cumulative effects of the activity should be taken into account at each stage and the RMA allows for public notification when the risk may be small but the potential effects significant if something goes wrong.
“There is scant information in the application on the process for rehabilitating the site while industry publications suggest at least half of all wells corrode within 30 years allowing fugitive emissions of gas and oil, long after they have ceased production. The area is around known fault lines and aquifers, who knows what impact drilling into those could have.”
The documentation provided with the Council decision suggests one or two individuals within local iwi had signed off on behalf of the tribe with no evidence of hui-a-iwi to provide a mandate or majority of iwi members’ endorsement.
“Iwi and hapū have a right under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand law and international agreements to make free, prior and informed decisions on activities that impact on their traditional lands, waterways and air space. From the information supplied I can’t see evidence of that happening in this situation and a number of iwi members have expressed extreme frustration with the process used by the company to consult with iwi.“
Mr Caddie said central government should provide much more support and resources to iwi and hapū that are faced with extractive industries moving into their area.
“Around the world we have seen indigenous peoples welcome industries that make grand promises then leave after ruining the environment local peoples have depended on for generations. It is a familiar story we are seeing played out in our own backyard.”
– – –
Gisborne District Council: Decision Documents
– – –
CONTACT: Manu Caddie – Tel. 0274202957 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.”